Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trickery ... In Four Moves

The Turk has already been mentioned, but here's another fun bit of faux-technology:


Ajeeb was a chess-playing "automaton", created by Charles Hooper (a cabinet maker), first presented at the Royal Polytechnical Institute in 1868. A particularly intriguing piece of faux mechanical technology (while presented as entirely automated, it in fact concealed a strong human chess player inside), it drew scores of thousands of spectators to its games, the opponents for which included Harry Houdini, Theodore Roosevelt, and O. Henry.

The genius behind "Ajeeb" were players such as Harry Nelson Pillsbury and Albert Beauregard Hodges.

In the history of such devices, it succeeded "The Turk" and preceded "Mephisto".

After several spectacular demonstrations at Coney Island, New York, Ajeeb was destroyed in a fire in 1929.

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