The Quote Garden

 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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This Monkey Sits Down at a Typewriter...

Welcome to my page of quotations about the infinite monkey theorem. You know, the idea that if lots of cute little monkeys sat down at a bunch of QWERTYs, we'd someday end up with something a lot like this website. LOL.  —ღ Terri

We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually produce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true. ~Robert Wilensky (1951–2013), Computer Science Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, 1996 speech

I heard someone tried the monkeys-on-typewriters bit trying for the plays of William Shakespeare, but all they got was the collected works of Francis Bacon. ~Bill Hoest (1926–1988)

I heard that if you locked William Shakespeare in a room with a typewriter for long enough he'd eventually write all the songs by The Monkees. ~Anonymous joke found on the internet, 2007

If you're trying to write great literature with monkeys, it breaks down like this:  One million monkeys typing for eternity will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare. Ten thousand monkeys typing for 10,000 years will give you a Hemingway, but you gotta get 'em drunk first. And ten monkeys typing over, say, Columbus Day weekend, will give you a Dan Brown. Actually, no typewriters are needed, they'll just smear it on the wall. ~The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert, "Don't Mess with Jesus," 2006 June 21st,

A thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters will eventually write "Hamlet." A thousand cats at a thousand typewriters will tell you to go write your own damn "Hamlet." ~Doug Savage, Savage Chickens, cartoon, 2014,

In a number of mathematics books, they made reference to something that either proves infinity or the law of probability. They claim that if you take an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of typewriters and you set them down and they just type away, that eventually given enough time they would type all the great books. Now, they're gonna type a lot of gibberish, but eventually they will type all the great books. If they ever tried this, they would have to hire guys to check the monkeys to see if they were turning out anything worthwhile... "Harry, hold on, Post 15 here has something!... 'To be or not to be, that is the gazornaanplatt.'" ~Bob Newhart, "An Infinite Number of Monkeys," The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!, 1960  [Supposedly Steve Allen did a monkeys typing "to be or not to be, that is the {gibberish}" skit on television in the 1950s, but I can't find it. Anyone have details for this? –tg]

"It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?" You stupid monkey!  ~The Simpsons, "Last Exit to Springfield," 1993, written by Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky  [S4, E17, Mr Burns]

If I let my fingers wander idly over the keys of a typewriter it might happen that my screed made an intelligible sentence. If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters they might write all the books in the British Museum. ~A. S. Eddington, "The Running-Down of the Universe," 1927

Huxley says that a half-dozen monkeys provided with typewriters would, in a few eternities, produce all the books in the British Museum. Strictly speaking, one immortal monkey would be sufficient. ~Jorge Luis Borges, "La Biblioteca Total," 1939  [According to Eliot Weinberger, this essay was inspired by Borges' "dreary job at the municipal library" and later became the 1941 story "The Library of Babel." Borges traces the broad idea for the infinite monkey theorem all the way back to the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus. –tg]

They say that a monkey in the right frame of mind
Given enough paper and given enough time
Is bound to type Shakespeare eventually
Oh baby, don't give up on me...
~Timbuk3, "Don't Give Up On Me," Edge of Allegiance, 1989, written by Pat MacDonald and Barbara K. MacDonald  ♫

If Shakespeare Were a Writer Today...
Hollywood exec:  Willie, baby! We're likin' your "Hamlet" screenplay… love it! Looove it! However, we have some concerns… we're finding it a bit dark. And it didn't test well with our focus group. What if it was a comedy? And what if instead of Horatio, he has a wacky neighbor named Larry?
Bob from Legal:  It appears a group of monkeys who hit random keys on a typewriter claim they have already written "Hamlet" so… can we change the name to "Piglet"?
~Dave Whamond, Reality Check, panel comic, 2016 April 3rd,

Ford, there's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they've worked out. ~Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1978  [radio, episode 2 –tg]

Rob:  Ever hear of the theory that if you give an infinite amount of monkeys typewriters, they will eventually type the works of Shakespeare?
Bucky:  Pff. Filthy plagiarists... I bet they'd chimp it all up, too. I, for one, don't want to read Bonobo and Juliet. Oranguthello? I don't think so... King Lemur? Now there's a tragedy...
Satchel:  I bet they'd start with the works of Joan Collins or something easy first.
~Darby Conley, Get Fuzzy, comic strip, 2007 December 23rd,

I've been thinkin' about the whole infinite monkey thing lately... Well, the whole theory is flawed. "Infinite" is too many monkeys. Over 8 monkeys and you're running into discipline and hygiene issues. And who's gonna read infinite monkey scripts? Some chimp could have written the next Da Vinci Code, but newsflash:  He's eating that script before you ever see it. Here's what you do:  You buy a $2 bag of nuts. You go trap yourself some squirrels. You put them on word processors — with spellcheck — and you shoot for a "Two and a Half Men" script... ~Darby Conley, Get Fuzzy, comic strip, 2009 September 13th,  [Bucky —tg]

Sign at exhibit of apes using electronic tablets:  PLEASE DON'T GIVE APES THE ZOO'S WI-FI PASSWORD
One zoo visitor to another:  No, I don't think that's how Twitter got started, but I wouldn't doubt it, either.
~Wiley Miller, Non Sequitur, comic strip, 2020 February 6th,

Come to think of it, there are already a million monkeys on a million typewriters, and Usenet is NOTHING like Shakespeare. ~Blair Houghton  [quoted from "Assorted Nifty .Sigs Found In Usenet Newsgroups, Collected by Paul Wake," last updated 1996 –tg]

Monkey at typewriter:  "But how can I credibly delay Hamlet's revenge until Act V?" ~Ruben Bolling, "A Million Monkeys at a Million Typewriters," Tom the Dancing Bug's Super-Fun-Pak Comix, Tom the Dancing Bug, comic strip, 2008 July 12th,

An infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters will eventually define all that is Canada. ~MacLaren McCann advertising agency, Toronto, "I Am Canadian," Molson Canadian television commercial, 1998

Welcome to the six o'clock news, I'm your anchor, Wolverine St. Jack John. Our top story:  an infinite amount of monkeys came up with the FOX fall lineup. ~Colin Mochrie, in Whose Line Is It Anyway?, "Weird Newscasters," episode no. 108, 1998

Monkey Typewriter Theory:  An immortal monkey pounding on a typewriter will eventually reproduce the text of 'Hamlet.'
Baby Keyboard Theory:  Left alone, a baby pounding on a computer keyboard will eventually order 32 cases of bathroom caulk from an online retailer.
~Paul Trap, Thatababy, comic strip, 2014 February 13th,

We remember more, that language is not static, but that neologisms continually mark our progress not only in general ideas but in science. We use to-day scores of scientific terms that men who lived as recently as Priestley, Lavoisier, and Darwin would not understand. It is not enough, therefore, to build a machine that could use words (if that were possible), it would have to be able to create concepts and to find for itself suitable words in which to express additions to knowledge that it brought about. Otherwise it would be no more than a cleverer parrot, an improvement on the typewriting monkeys which would accidentally in the course of centuries write Hamlet. ~Geoffrey Jefferson, "The Mind of Mechanical Man," 1949

If I had a monkey for every time some penny-ante crook tried to pen their criminal malfeasance on Pegnose Pete, I'd have enough monkeys to work out a reasonable sequel to Hamlet by now! ~Inspector Canard, Escape from Monkey Island, LucasArts, by Sean Clark and Michael Stemmle, 2000

Suppose we have a very large number of monkeys, each banging away randomly on his or her own word processor... If we let them type indefinitely, would one of them at some point randomly type out Shakespeare's entire Hamlet? The answer is yes... Why? Because if we perform a random event enough times, we would expect to see any possible outcome, no matter how unlikely it may be. This result is known as the Infinite Monkey Theorem, or as we like to refer to it, Hamlet Happens. ~Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird, The Heart of Mathematics: An Invitation to Effective Thinking, 2005  [Side note in that section of the textbook: "Don't be shocked if the improbable occurs from time to time." –tg]

I read in a newspaper that a certain Mrs. Winifred Venton, with the help of the Enfield College of Technology computer, has at last cracked the cipher of the Sonnets. The Message:  Shakespeare was really King Edward VI, who did not die, as the history books say, when he was sixteen, but at the age of 125. In addition to writing "Shakespeare," he wrote not only all of the Ben Jonson and Bacon, but Don Quixote as well. ~W. H. Auden, "Shakespeare and the Computers," A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, 1970

For a Tragedy and a Comedy are both composed of the same alphabet. ~Aristotle (384–322 BCE), On Generation and Corruption, Book I, Part II

Must I not here express my wonder that any one should exist who persuades himself that there are certain solid and indivisible particles carried along by their own impulse and weight, and that a universe so beautiful and so admirably arrayed is formed from the accidental concourse of those particles? I do not understand why the man who supposes that to have been possible should not also think that if a countless number of the forms of the one and twenty letters, whether in gold or any other material, were to be thrown somewhere, it would be possible, when they had been shaken out upon the ground, for the annals of Ennius to result from them so as to be able to be read consecutively, — a miracle of chance which I incline to think would be impossible even in the case of a single verse. ~Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BCE), On the Nature of the Gods, Book II, Chapter XXXVII, translated by Francis Brooks

How often might a man, after he had jumbled a set of letters in a bag, fling them out upon the ground before they would fall into an exact poem, yea or so much as make a good discourse in prose?... How long might a man sprinkle colours upon canvas with a careless hand before they would make the exact picture of a man... How long might twenty thousand blind men, which should be sent out from the remote parts of England, wander up and down before they would all meet upon Salisbury plains, and fall into rank and file in the exact order of an army? And yet this is much more easy to be imagined than how the innumerable blind parts of matter should rendezvous themselves into a world. ~Thomas Reid, "First Principles of Necessary Truths," Essays on the Intellectual Powers of the Human Mind, 1785  [pretty sure this is how Scrabble® was invented –tg]

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published 2006 Dec 27
revised 2019 Aug 12
last saved 2023 Dec 22