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The Bit Player (2018)

2:15 | Trailer
The Bit Player tells the story of an overlooked genius, Claude Shannon (the "Father of Information Theory"), who revolutionized the world, but never lost his childlike curiosity.


Mark Levinson


Mark Levinson





Cast overview, first billed only:
John Hutton John Hutton ... Claude Shannon
Judith Ivey ... Betty Shannon
Kaliswa Brewster ... Michelle
Andrew Pastides ... Claude Shannon (young man)
Olivia Gilliatt ... Norma Levor
V.J. Scarpaci V.J. Scarpaci ... Claude Shannon (boy)
Toleeya Napolitano Toleeya Napolitano ... Young girl neighbor
Adam Heller ... Psychoanalyst
Maura Grady Maura Grady ... Norma's girlfriend
Cleve Asbury Cleve Asbury ... Bell Labs Engineer
Mark Lyons ... Bell Labs Engineer
Randall McNeal ... Bell Labs Engineer
Andrew Patrick Nelson Andrew Patrick Nelson ... Bell Labs Engineer
Michael Rose ... Bell Labs Engineer
Remi Sandri Remi Sandri ... Bell Labs Engineer


The Bit Player tells the story of an overlooked genius, Claude Shannon (the "Father of Information Theory"), who revolutionized the world, but never lost his childlike curiosity.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Who would think of a flaming trumpet?


Did You Know?


The Bit Player was commissioned by the IEEE Information Theory Society, a community of over three thousand academic and industrial researchers and engineers working to further understand the role of information and its impact on modern science and technology. See more »


References The Music Man (1962) See more »

User Reviews

Claude Shannon: Inventor of Information Theory
27 June 2020 | by jvstone-48379See all my reviews

Utterly charming. Ok, I am extremely biased (see below). Even so, this film portrays a man who was not only extraordinarily clever, but also incredibly curious. This happy coincidence of talents gave Claude Shannon an almost super-human ability to play, invent, and discover new 'toys' (which we would now call artificial intelligence), and new mathematical theorems (which we now call information theory).

The film is mainly a re-enactment of a series of insightful interviews at Shannon's home during the 1980s. The acting is very fine, especially John Hutton who gives a genuine flavour of how Shannon would have been in his later years. We know this because the interview is inter-cut with snippets of home movies of Shannon riding his many unicycles (whilst juggling), and demonstrating his artificial mouse as it learns to navigate a maze. Background material is supplied by his son and daughter, who clearly loved the intellectual playfulness of their child-father. The technical commentary is finely balanced, giving just enough detail to let the audience know how relevant Shannon's work is to modern information systems.

With regard to the importance of Shannon's work, even though he was not alone in trying to solve one of the key scientific problems of his time (i.e. how to define and measure information), he was alone in being able to produce a complete mathematical theory of information: a theory that might otherwise have taken decades to construct. In effect, Shannon single-handedly accelerated the rate of scientific progress, and it is entirely possible that, without his contribution, we would still be treating information as if it were some ill-defined vital fluid.

A question repeated throughout the film is: Who is Claude Shannon? We should all know who Claude Shannon is. Sadly, because his work did not shorten a war (as far as we know), or involve any other dramatic world events, we are unlikely to see his life made into a movie like The Imitation Game (about Alan Turing). This is a monumental pity. As one commentator said, science fiction books sometimes quote the current year, not as BC, or BP, but AS (After Shannon, who died in 2001). That is how important he should be.

Finally (and this is why I am biased), I think Shannon's theory of information (1948) is simply beautiful.

James V Stone, 27th June, 19 (AS).

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26 June 2020 (USA) See more »

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The Bit Player See more »

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