From the archive

How Nature reported improved decision-making rules for betting in 1969, and an experiment in international wireless telephony from 1919.

50 Years Ago

A two-armed bandit is two one-armed bandits. Suppose that you are playing a two-armed bandit and that at each play you are only interested in whether you win or lose. If the probabilities of winning are constant for a particular machine from one play to another, but are different between the machines and in any case are unknown to you and if, moreover, you can only remember what happened for the last r plays, what strategy should you adopt if your aim is to maximize your number of wins? … Sequential decision problems of essentially this sort occur quite frequently … Smith and Pyke … have developed what appear to be the best decision rules and now S. M. Samuels, in a paper called “Randomized rules for the two-armed bandit with finite memory” … shows that, by a very simple addition to these rules, startlingly better results may be obtained.

From Nature 29 March 1969

100 Years Ago

The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. is to be congratulated on having established experimental wireless telephonic communication between Clifden … in Ireland, and Cape Grace, in Canada … The improvements which have been made in thermionic valves — for instance, the reduction of the air-pressure in the valve to the one-hundred-millionth of a millimetre of mercury — have increased their sensitivity enormously. In addition, by connecting them “in cascade” there appears also to be no limit to the sensitivity that can be attained … Wireless telephone transmission is specially interesting, as it is free from many of the defects of ordinary telephony … There seems no reason to doubt that in a short time wireless telephony will be established between every country on the globe.

From Nature 27 March 1919

Nature 567, 469 (2019)

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