[SIGCIS-Members] Claude Shannon: The Bit Player

Brian Berg brianberg at gmail.com
Sat Aug 3 08:45:27 PDT 2019


I saw a screening last night of *The Bit Player* at the Computer History
Museum (CHM) in Mtn. View, CA USA.  It was quite an impressive film.
Interviews with Shannon, including an extensive one in the early 1980s at
his home, formed the basis of much of the film by way of a key one being
reproduced using actors.  John Hutton played Shannon - he has extensive
acting chops on stage (including as King Lear; some info here
<https://cupresents.org/2016/02/24/john-hutton-returns-csf/>) and on film
(various, including a small part in Spielberg's *Lincoln* as Massachusetts
Senator Charles Sumner).  It was a brilliant way to tell Shannon's story as
it portrayed his in-person eccentricities - and there is no significant
actual footage of this aspect of Shannon.  This was accompanied by
interesting animations and discussion of his seminal paper and famous
Master's thesis in order to convey the gravity of his importance, along
with portions of the 1952 “Theseus” Maze-Solving Mouse film
The film was concluded with just-discovered brief footage of Shannon
juggling on a unicycle - that was fantastic to see!

More info, presented in an excellent and sophisticated fashion, is at
www.TheBitPlayer.com <http://www.thebitplayer.com/>  The panel who
discussed the film after the screening (including Writer/Producer/Director
Mark Levinson) noted that there would be a screening of the film in San
Francisco in September.  I do not know where else it will be shown in the
future.  The website shows the CHM screening as the film's third.  It's the
quality of film that I could easily and eagerly watch a second time even as
soon as next month.  Do study the website as it is brilliantly executed.

This was the first documentary film funded by the IEEE Foundation, and it
was done in conjunction with the IEEE Information Theory Society (ITS).
BTW, the ITS is the only IEEE society whose "basis" has a definitive
starting date - the 1948 publication of Shannon's *A Mathematical Theory of

Brian A. Berg / bberg at StanfordAlumni.org
Berg Software Design
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<http://www.CaliforniaConsultants.org> Board Director
IEEE Silicon Valley Tech History Committee
<http://www.SiliconValleyHistory.com/> Chair
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