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The Mechanical Turk Automaton

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Author Topic: The Mechanical Turk Automaton  (Read 540 times)
Orheim
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« on: December 30, 2010, 02:44:54 am »

The interior of the machine was very complicated and designed to mislead those who observed it.[3] When opened on the left, the front doors of the cabinet exposed a number of gears and cogs similar to clockwork. The section was designed so that if the back doors of the cabinet were open at the same time one could see through the machine. The other side of the cabinet did not house machinery; instead it contained a red cushion and some removable parts, as well as brass structures. This area was also designed to provide a clear line of vision through the machine. Underneath the robes of the Turkish model, two other doors were hidden. These also exposed clockwork machinery and provided a similarly unobstructed view through the machine. The design allowed the presenter of the machine to open every available door to the public, to maintain the illusion.[11]

Neither the clockwork visible to the left side of the machine nor the drawer that housed the chess set extended fully to the rear of the cabinet; they instead went only one third of the way. A sliding seat was also installed, allowing the director inside to slide from place to place and thus evade observation as the presenter opened various doors. The sliding of the seat caused dummy machinery to slide into its place to further conceal the person inside the cabinet.[12]

The chessboard on the top of the cabinet was thin enough to allow for a magnetic linkage. Each piece in the chess set had a small, strong magnet attached to its base, and when they were placed on the board the pieces would attract a magnet attached to a string under their specific places on the board. This allowed the director inside the machine to see which pieces moved where on the chess board.[13] The bottom of the chessboard had corresponding numbers, 1–64, allowing the director to see which places on the board were affected by a player's move.[14] The internal magnets were positioned in a way that outside magnetic forces did not influence them, and Kempelen would often allow a large magnet to sit at the side of the board in an attempt to show that the machine was not influenced by magnetism.[15]

As a further means of misdirection, the Turk came with a small wooden coffin-like box that the presenter would place on the top of the cabinet.[3] While Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, a later owner of the machine, did not use the box,[16] Kempelen often peered into the box during play, suggesting that the box controlled some aspect of the machine.[3] The box was believed by some to have supernatural power, with Karl Gottlieb von Windisch writing in his 1784 book Inanimate Reason that "
  • ne old lady, in particular, who had not forgotten the tales she had been told in her youth … went and hid herself in a window seat, as distant as she could from the evil spirit, which she firmly believed possessed the machine."[5]
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