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The Mechanical Turk Automaton

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Author Topic: The Mechanical Turk Automaton  (Read 542 times)
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« on: December 30, 2010, 02:48:42 am »

Popular culture


Owing to the Turk's popularity and mystery, its construction inspired a number of inventions and imitations,[3] including Ajeeb, or "The Egyptian," an American imitation built by Charles Hopper that President Grover Cleveland played in 1885, and Mephisto, the self-described "most famous" machine, of which little is known.[72]

El Ajedrecista was built in 1912 by Leonardo Torres y Quevedo as a chess-playing automaton and made its public debut during Paris World Fair of 1914. Capable of playing endgames using electromagnets, it was the first true chess-playing automaton, and a precursor of sorts to Deep Blue.[73]
[edit] Automated machines

The Turk was visited in London by Rev. Edmund Cartwright in 1784. He was so intrigued by the Turk that he would later question whether "it is more difficult to construct a machine that shall weave than one which shall make all the variety of moves required in that complicated game." Cartwright would patent the prototype for a power loom within the year.[74] Sir Charles Wheatstone, an inventor, saw a later appearance of the Turk while it was owned by Mälzel. He also saw some of Mälzel's speaking machines, and Mälzel later presented a demonstration of speaking machines to a researcher and his teenage son. Alexander Graham Bell obtained a copy of a book by Kempelen on speaking machines after being inspired by seeing a similar machine built by Wheatstone; Bell went on to file the first successful patent for the telephone.[3]
[edit] Stage

A play, The Automaton Chess Player, was presented in New York City in 1845. The advertising, as well as an article that appeared in The Illustrated London News, claimed that the play featured Kempelen's Turk, but was in fact a copy of the Turk created by J. Walker, who had earlier presented the Walker Chess-player.[75]
[edit] Film and television

Raymond Bernard's silent feature film Le joueur d'échecs (The Chess Player, France 1927) weaves elements from the real story of the Turk into an adventure tale set in the aftermath of the first of the Partitions of Poland in 1772. The film's "Baron von Kempelen" is a nobleman from Vilnius who builds automata as a hobby. He helps a dashing young Polish nationalist on the run from the occupying Russians, who also happens to be an expert chess player, by hiding him inside a chess playing automaton called the Turk, closely based on the real Kempelen's model. Just as they are about to escape over the border, the Baron is summoned to Saint Petersburg to present the Turk to the empress Catherine II. In an echo of the Napoleon incident, Catherine attempts to cheat the Turk, who wipes all the pieces from the board in response.[76]

The Turk was the inspiration for the clockwork robots featured in the 2006 Doctor Who episode The Girl in the Fireplace, written by Steven Moffatt.[77]

The machine is also referenced in the third episode of the 2008 television drama Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, where a character constructs a chess-playing computer named "The Turk", a possible ancestor or sibling of the sentient computer system Skynet.[78]
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