Recent Magic Newswire podcast guest and a man that is simply amazing, John Gaughan finds himself as the subject of a new article on the Tech News aggregation blog Boing Boing. In the interview with Joshuah Bearman, they begin by discussing the chess playing "automaton" known as The Turk and move on to the story of how an illusion inspired Charles Babbage to create one of the first "thinking magchines."
JB:: And I read that Charles Babbage, who invented the first computer, had seen the Turk and that was part of what inspired him.
JG :: Yup. People then didn’t know it was an illusion. They thought it was a thinking machine. And Babbage thought: “My god, if they can build a machine that plays chess, I should be able to make a machine that that can execute various rational functions.”
So it was later that he built the analytical engine.
JG :: Which was programmed with punch cards. And Jaquard, whose looms were programmed that way, may have also seen the Turk. And that was how computing began.
JB:: It’s crazy that the first thinking machine was inspired by a fake parlor trick version of a thinking machine.
JG :: The Turk seemed like modernity but turned out to be old magic. But in a way magic was modernity. Magic and machines were all bound up together. Most of the master magicians of the nineteenth century were also watch makers. Both require meticulous planning and mechanical ingenuity to build intricate, tiny, things. They would take the latest engineering and apply it to magic. And vice-versa: developing a certain illusion would lead to engineering breakthroughs.
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