A computer beat Ben Franklin?



On a cool Paris evening in 1783, Ben Franklin sat down to play a pleasant game of chess against the world's first "chess computer." This "computer" wasn't made of metal and silicone. No, this computer was wood, gears, and (of course) dressed as a Turkish intellectual -- and thus, the machine was appropriately called "The Turk."


After only a few minutes of puffing away and pawn pushing, Ben Franklin fell victim to a nasty checkmate by the so-called computer. To which he uttered the famous words which have been passed down through the ages, "Dude, this computer has pwned my n00b face!"

I might be exaggerating. I mean, the part about the wooden "chess computer" is true, but I'm sure he didn't really say anything about pwnage. He probably just acted like the rest of us: he swore loudly and then rage quit the game.


As I much as I have loved the game of chess over the years, I somehow missed this incredible piece of chess history: "The Turk."


"The Turk" was the creation of a Hungarian inventor named Wolfgang Von Kempelen -- known in the hip hop community as "Wolfy V-K." (Again, I exaggerate)

Ole Wolfy created this machine in 1770 as a clever entertainment for the societal elites. It was basically, as the picture shows, a giant box with a chessboard and a wooden manikin dressed in Turkish garb of the time.



Wolfy V-K traveled around Europe with his "machine" and dominated the Pogchamp circuit of the day. It was clearly a hoax, of course. People all over Europe speculated how it could possibly work. There had to be something in the wooden box; but what? Theories included a chess-playing monkey and a legless war veteran. Of course, there was someone inside... there had to be. Right?



While traveling in Europe, it is reported to have beaten many famous people. Aside from Ben Franklin, it also beat Napoleon -- who incidentally tried to cheat by playing an illegal move to which the chess-playing monkey (?) replied by wiping all the pieces of the board. Onlookers swear they heard a chimpanzee shout "Monkey don't play!" (Exaggeration)

So "The Turk" was high entertainment during its day. It prompted books to be written about it speculating as to its design and function. Ultimately, "The Turk" was destroyed in a fire in 1854. Since that time, it has been recreated by John Gaughan, an American who manufactures equipment for magicians.



If you'd like to learn more about "The Turk," there are some interesting documentaries on YouTube: "The Turk" Documentary

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