Optical Telegraph – 1792 A.D.

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Optical Telegraph

Claude Chappe (1763–1805)

“People had used signal fires, torches, and smoke signals since ancient times to send messages rapidly over long distances. The ancient Athenians used flashes of sunlight from their shields to send messages from ship to shore. The Romans coded flags to send messages over a distance—a practice that the British Navy also employed as early as the 14th century.

In 1790, an out-of-work French engineer named Claude Chappe started a project with his brothers to develop a practical system for sending messages quickly over the French countryside. The idea was to set up a series of towers constructed on hills, with each tower in view of the next. Each tower would be equipped with a device that had big, movable arms and a telescope, so that the position of the arms could be determined and then relayed to the next tower. An operator in the first tower would move the arms into different positions, each position signaling a letter, and the operator in the second tower would write it down—essentially sending letters over distance (tele-graph) with light. A second telescope would allow for messages to be conveyed in the opposite direction.

After successfully sending a message nearly 9 miles (14 kilometers) on March 2, 1791, Claude and his younger brothers, Pierre François (1765–1834), René (1769–1854), and Abraham (1773–1849), moved to Paris to continue the experiments and drum up support from the new government. Their older brother, Ignace Chappe (1760–1829), was a member of the revolutionary Legislative Assembly, which probably helped somewhat. Soon the brothers were authorized by the Assembly to construct three stations as a test. That test went well, and in 1793 the Assembly decided to replace its system of couriers with optical telegraph lines. Claude Chappe was appointed lieutenant of engineering for the construction of a telegraph line between Paris and Lille, under the control of the Ministry of War.

The first practical demonstration of the telegraph came on August 30, 1794, when the Assembly learned that its army in Condé-sur-l’Escaut had been victorious. That message was transmitted in about half an hour. In the following years, telegraph lines were built across France, connecting all of the major cities. At its height, the system had 534 stations covering more than 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers). Not surprisingly, Napoléon Bonaparte made heavy use of the technology during his conquest of Europe.”

SEE ALSO Fax Machine Patented (1843)

An artist’s impression of Claude Chappe, demonstrating his aerial telegraph semaphore system, from the Paris newspaper Le Petit Journal, 1901.”

Fair Use Source: B07C2NQSPV

Artificial Intelligence History

The “Mechanical Turk” – 1770 A.D.

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The “Mechanical Turk”

Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734–1804)

“After seeing an illusionist perform at Austria’s Schönbrunn Palace in 1770, Hungarian inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen told the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria that he could create something even better. The empress gave Kempelen six months to top the illusionist’s act.

The Industrial Revolution was well underway in 1770, and it was in this environment that Kempelen created an elaborate hoax that alleged to be a “thinking” machine. With expertise in hydraulics, physics, and mechanics, Kempelen returned to the court with an automaton that he claimed could best human chess masters and complete a complex puzzle called the Knights Tour.

Kempelen’s “Mechanical Turk,” as it came to be known, was a life-size model of a man’s upper half. Dressed in Ottoman robes with a turban and black beard, a smoking pipe in its left hand, the Turk sat at a cabinet with three doors and a chessboard on top. The doors opened to show an intricate set of gears and levers designed to give the audience the illusion of an advanced contraption worthy of the owner’s claims. What remained hidden was a sliding seat behind the gears that enabled a small human chess player to move around as Kempelen showed suspicious spectators the cabinet’s inside, and then to manipulate the contraption once the game began.

The Turk beat almost everyone it played against, including Benjamin Franklin, who was the US ambassador to France at the time. It also beat the novelist Edgar Allan Poe, as well as Napoléon Bonaparte, whose strategy to beat the Turk was to make a series of deliberately illegal moves. The Turk replaced Napoléon’s piece after the first two moves, and then, after the third, swept its arm across the chessboard, knocking over all of the pieces and ending the game. Napoléon reportedly was amused.

Real or not, the Turk started new dialogue among those who had never considered the potential of mechanized intelligence. Among those was Charles Babbage, whom the Turk beat twice, and who, despite correctly concluding the device was a hoax, drew inspiration from the experience and went on to build the difference engine, the first mechanical computer. The Turk was destroyed in a fire in Philadelphia on July 5, 1854.”

SEE ALSO The Difference Engine (1822), Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold-Bug” (1843), Computer Is World Chess Champion (1997)

Instead of a machine, a small chess master hid inside the cabinet that held the “Mechanical Turk.” To conceal his presence, the person moved from side to side as the different panel doors were opened.”

Fair Use Source: B07C2NQSPV