Automaton story on

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Joe M. Turner
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Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

Automaton story on

Postby Joe M. Turner » May 30th, 2002, 6:55 pm

FYI... ... index.html

The computer wore a turban and played chess
An 18th century marvel is described in 'The Turk'
May 30, 2002 Posted: 10:37 AM EDT (1437 GMT)

The Turk appeared to be all machine, but skeptics thought there was more to its workings than metal and wood.

By Todd Leopold

(CNN) -- It was the chess computer Deep Blue of its time, a turban-wearing automaton that defeated all comers.

Contemporaries in 18th- and 19th-century Europe were baffled. They examined the intricate gears and precisely wrought machinery of "The Turk" -- as they called the strange machine -- and many concluded that it was, indeed, an incredible achievement, a machine that could think.

It was an incredible achievement. It was also a hoax.

But it was an incredibly influential hoax.

Charles Babbage, the godfather of the computer, played two games against the Turk. Edgar Allan Poe, the creator of the modern detective story, wrote an notable essay about it. Magicians based illusions on it. And it provoked questions about what we now call "artificial intelligence."

So, even after someone finally figured out how the Turk worked -- that, yes, there was a man inside this contraption -- its place in history was secure.

Except that, aside from books about oddities and curiosities, the Turk has been mostly forgotten by history. Tom Standage seeks to correct that oversight with his new biography of the machine, "The Turk" (Walker & Co.).

"I loved the idea that this machine prompted a debate, in the late 18th century, about whether a machine could think or not," says the British author, 32, in an e-mail interview.

"We like to think that the 'artificial intelligence' debate is a modern phenomenon, but it's not."

article continues on the site...


Michael Edwards
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Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Washington, DC

Re: Automaton story on

Postby Michael Edwards » May 31st, 2002, 2:52 am

Tom Standage's The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth Century Chess-Palying Machine is indeed an interesting (albiet still incomplete) look at this remarable machine. It includes a section on John Gaughan's reconstruction of the apparatus. While the book is available in most major bookshops, you may have to hunt around a bit for it. It is often shelved in the hobbies, games or chess section rather than new nonfiction etc.

Jon Racherbaumer
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Joined: January 22nd, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: New Orleans

Re: Automaton story on

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » May 31st, 2002, 10:13 pm

While recently revisiting Harry Anderson's magic-curiosity shop in the French Quarter, I told him about the book, THE TURK. He told me that he had written a film script about revolved around this chess-playing automaton. Furthermore, the one-of-a-kind illusion made by Johnny Gaughn was made for Harry.

I will be commenting on THE TURK in Genii.


David Moore
Posts: 57
Joined: January 24th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: Automaton story on

Postby David Moore » June 3rd, 2002, 7:32 pm

A great review of the Standage book in the NY Times Book Review. ... 2TERE.html

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"...Kreskin had called, announcing that he would play chess with a grandmaster -- blindfolded!...I did not attend the exhibition because I now knew the trick, and because Randi had thoughts of attending, and I make it a point not to occupy the same space with two Amazings."

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