Convolutional Nets and SVMs were developed within a few years of each other (between 1988 and 1992) in the Adaptive Systems Research Department at Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ. Larry Jackel was the head of the department whose research staff included Vladmir Vapnik and me, along with Bernhardt Boser, Léon Bottou, John Denker, Hans-Peter Graf, Isabelle Guyon, Patrice Simard, and Sara Solla, 

In 1995, Vladimir Vapnik and Larry Jackel made two bets (I was the witness, though admittedly not and entirely impartial one).

In the first bet, Larry claimed that by 2000 we will have a theoretical understanding of why big neural nets work well (in the form of a bound similar to what we have for SVMs). He lost.

In the second bet, Vladimir Vapnik claimed that by 2000 no one in their right mind would use neural nets of the type we had in 1995 (he claimed that everyone would be using SVM). Not only Vladimir lost that one in 2000, but recent deployments of neural nets by Google and Microsoft are proving him wrong in 2012.   
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