Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Brief History about CAT Tools

Although Petr Trojanski invented "a machine for selecting and typing words when translating one language into another or several others simultaneously" in the thirties (this definition can be found in the patent granted to him in 1933), the history of CAT Tools actually begins in the Cold War years, when the information collected by the intelligence services had to be translated without delay. For this reason, considerable funds were allocated, for the first time, to translation technology. 

The first attempts with machine translation were made in specialized research centers and financed mainly by the USA and the USSR. The term Machine Translation (MT), was coined in 1947 by Warren Weaver who, in his famous memoranda, defended the feasibility of developing an automatic translation program. Systran (Acronym for System Translation) was established in those years and is still used by the European Commission. The American researcher Toma is the inventor of this system, which was used by the U.S. Air Force for gisting reports and documents written in Russian. Despite the initial enthusiasm and the belief that translators could be replaced by machines in the near future, the results did not meet the expectations, and the funds soon stopped flowing. It was at this time, between the late 60s and early 70s that a novel approach was suggested. The machine to be invented should not translate automatically, but rather facilitate the work of the human translator.

The first attempts consisted of terminology databases; the idea of translation memories, i.e., of a mechanism that forms the basis of today's computer-aided translation software, began to gain acceptance in the late 70s. TSS (Translation Support System), the first CAT tool developed by the U.S. company Alpnet, debuted in the mid-80s. However, the acceptance of this system was limited because of its high cost, which made it affordable only to large companies doing massive amounts of translation. IBM was one of the first purchasers of this system.

In the second half of the 80s, the Dutch company INK developed a system named "TextTools," inspired by TSS; Trados, a company established in 1984 in Stuttgart, became its official dealer in Germany.
When you are ready to spend time, money, and patience to familiarize yourself with the world of CAT tools, you'll wonder how you were able to live without them.

The 90s witnessed the expansion of the CAT market by making the software affordable to small businesses and freelance translators, but both the prices and the system requirements for use were still too high. The introduction of the Internet and the possibility for translators to exchange data worldwide required adaptation and the introduction of generally acceptable standards. Translation memories represented such a standard, and their adoption was soon followed by an exponential growth of the market for computer-aided translation software.

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