A computer program or portion of a program that analyzes a string of characters in order to recognize grammatical units. Joseph Weizenbaum's Eliza (1966) and Terry Winograd's SHRDLU (c.1970) are two of the best-known early interactive programs that had parsers.
Early IF, including the original Adventure, used a two-word parser that only looked at the first few characters of each word. More recent IF parsers can understand longer words and more complex commands, but the genre is still a long way from using natural language processing to achieve complete understanding of all English inputs.
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LeeAnnKorecky - 20 Nov 2002 Added "in" in front of "early." Changed "advent" to a small "a."
VivDunstan - 08 Dec 2002 Mentioned that parsers are included in authoring systems. Tweaked a few things elsewhere (recapitalised + italicised Advent; removed unneeded extra word + double quotes). Also rearranged the last few sentences so they read more easily.