I fell in love with Aaron almost immediately. He wasn't big and he drew in black and white. He may not have impressed most visitors to the American pavilion, but Aaron did something special. He didn't simply reproduce images fed from a computer. The real Aaron was a computer program that controlled the plotter using algorithms to create images—each one unique. Aaron could draw faces and crude figures and rocks and leaves. Aaron liked to put heads with crudely indicated facial features in rocky landscapes. Aaron knew that objects in the foreground seem to overlap picture elements behind them and further away. Aaron had a rudimentary sense of depth and a distinctive, angular, linear style. Aaron was an early—perhaps, the earliest—example of truly creative artificial intelligence. He was about 13 years old when I met him. His creator, Dr. Harold Cohen, later gave Aaron the ability to color his drawings, but, in 1985, Aaron had not yet discovered color.
I coveted one of Aaron's drawings, and I came home with one. Mike secured one for me signed by both Aaron and Dr. Cohen (above). It's dated March 13, 1985, four days before the Expo officially opened, on March 17. At this remove, I can't remember if Mike said Cohen had pre-signed paper sheets fed into Aaron or whether he signed the program's output later. I visited Tsukuba in August 1985, so the example I received had been produced a few months before my visit. I hadn't seen the drawing in many years when I came upon it today in the course of reorganizing my studio. Perhaps it's time to get Aaron's handiwork framed?
I will review Aaron's Code once I've read it*. In the meantime, here are author McCorduck's own words about her book, which, although out of print, is available used online. I found a copy on Amazon for a few dollars.
I've come across this piece about Cohen written following his recent death (in April 2016). He was 87. I had been wondering whether he was still alive. There is much more by and about Dr. Cohen and his work at "Aaron's Home."
*[Update: I have read it now and reviewed it. See the review.]