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[Travelogue] In Search of the Turk……

Posted by intellisg on April 3, 2007

turkLong before IBM’s “Deep Blue,” and “HAL 9000” in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 Space Odyssey. There was the world’s first mechanical chess computer called, “The Turk.” Invented in the mid 18th Century by the Hungarian aristocrat Wolfgang von Kempelen – the chess playing automaton amazed all who saw it. It consisted of a wooden box with whirring gears and an elaborate set of pulleys and a mannequin complete with a turban, whose hand deftly moved pieces across the board, beating most of its human opponents.

Although some people suspected it involved a trick, nobody could quite figure it out, and the automaton attracted crowds wherever Kempelen took it. With his pedigree, for the right fee, the Turk would even command numerous royal performances through out Europe. Legend has it even Napoleon sought the wisdom of the Turk to further his campaigns into Egypt by playing a game which mirrored his military strategy in the real world. After losing three rounds, he placed a 10 carat ruby on the mantle as a fee with the words,

“I see now that which I was blind too.”

There you have it. If you don’t can pay, you simply couldn’t play with the Turk. In it’s time – the Turk was very much like one of our ministers, in the words of HAL, the super computer. He was:

“By any practical definition – foolproof and incapable of error.”

It’s a subject that continues to fascinate most of us today.

And raises question, “How much are we prepared to pay for the right man to do the job?”

Let’s leave that question aside for the time being. I have to find the Turk somewhere in Istanbul. That’s how the game is played with one foot in reality and the other in the virtual. The Turk holds a vital clue to the next stage of my game. He is supposed to give me a code that allows me to go to the next stage and as I discussed the prospects of entering another yellowed lime washed building, I was beginning to lose my patience with my guide Kassim, who had promised me a game with the only surviving Turk.

Legend had it only three models of the Turk were ever made, one in France, the other in Hungary and the last one found its way to Istanbul only to be lost forever. I had to play the Turk. I had to find him.

As I entered the seventh building that morning, I was ushered into a low ceiling room, and there for the first time it greeted me, the Turk. My guide Kassim exclaiming proudly,

“I told you we will find him.”

I simply nodded my head and assume my position as an adversary. Looking at its vacant eyes it hardly looked alive, then it all started the whirl followed by the mechanic clicks, the game had begun. Some sweet tea was served. I hardly noticed. I lit a cigarette and shifted my weight to find a comfortable spot on the rickety chair. Half an hour into the game I conceded defeat, the Turk had won and I for my part had solved my mystery to move on to the next stage of the game. It was all there in the seventh move, when knight takes bishop. Why didn’t I see it earlier?

As I slipped past the man who began to cover the mannequin with a heavy velvet cloth, I knocked on the chest, “tock, ta ta tock tock.” Turning back and walking towards the door, I didn’t expect a reply, that’s the way it is with illusions. It was a long shot, but nevertheless worth the effort, besides the hidden hand never reveals itself. Somewhere between finishing my sweet tea and entering the codes into my Nokia communicator – a faint sound emanated from the wooden chess, “tock, tock.”

I smiled turned to my host and walked out.” That afternoon as I stepped into the side street the light spewed out like honey being emptied staining everything a golden splendor. As I mounted my BMW rented motorbike and prepared myself to travel over 600 miles that night, I said to myself, how man likes to tell himself sweet lies. Even  ones that always seems to tell the same lies, that is if you pay more you actually get a better man to do the job. I knew better.

As I strapped my helmet on I said to myself it would be a long journey to Troy and I don’t really have time for such nonsense, not even in a place where there are spaceships and distant planets which somehow makes more sense that the world we live in right now. A world that even believes to get talent you really need to pay through your nose, with these words I chewed on a few peanuts, but as the machine roared to life, I hardly felt like a monkey – I laughed and in a while the wind snatched it all away.

[Authors Note about the Workings of the Turk:

The interior also contained a pegboard chess board connected to a pantograph-style series of levers which controlled the model’s left arm. The metal pointer on the pantograph moved over the interior chess board, and would simultaneously move the arm of the Turk over the chess board on the cabinet. The range of motion allowed the director to move the Turk’s arm up and down, and turning the lever would open and close the Turk’s hand, allowing it to grasp the pieces on the board. All of this was made visible to the director by using a simple candle, which had a ventilation system through the model. Other parts of the machinery allowed for a clockwork-type sound to be played when the Turk made a move, further adding to the machinery illusion, and for the Turk to make various facial expressions. A voice box was added following the Turk’s acquisition by Mälzel, allowing the machine to say “Échec!” (French for “check”) during matches.

All this was made possible by a human operator secreted inside the machine – the Turk was a hoax.]

(By Harphoon / Travelogue – Istanbul – Turkey – EP 9939383 -2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)


44 Responses to “[Travelogue] In Search of the Turk……”

  1. olive said

    “All this was made possible by a human operator secreted inside the machine – the Turk was a hoax.”

    Ha! nearly knocked me off with that punchline. Good show. So what did the turk tell you and why are you off to Troy? BTW is Troy in Turkey? What is your mission this time?

  2. longlegs said

    diabolically and devilishly intelligent…..slight trace of sarcasm on the first report….full bodied barbed repartee in the middle ….finishing off with a nutty flavor conjuring images of monkeys paying too much and getting not enuff. hahahaha. 🙂 Pls keep it up

  3. caleb said

    LOL Yes, I agree it even borders on the satirical. Ha ha. Just like the way how it starts off as really matter of fact. Then very slowly every thing thats to go down the chute. Very creative. thanks.

  4. sumiko said

    Delightful, we shall all have to wait and see what happens when you reach Troy. Do stop along the way and tell us about the scenery. I heard it just takes one’s breathe away like Raki?

    btw is there any case of getting raki locally in Singapore? Does anyone know?

  5. kwokheng said


    Methinks (that is, NOT Harphoon thinks), the scenery might look a little like Uluru.


  6. green rover said

    Harphoon is always nice and sweet. I like motorbikes as well, so nice.

  7. jan teo said

    Hi all

    There is nothing in Troy, just alot of rocks and its not even near the beach eother. However, the way to Troy is fun that should be exciting.

    Why motorcycle? Is it faster? What about the risk? Is it worth it?

    OK you best not eat any gummy bears and drink alot of Turkish coffee alright.

  8. Dear Valued Readers said

    Dear Valued Readers,

    The brotherhood press will stop publication for a period of two weeks due to a serious need to up grade our facilities.

    The stability of the system will be affected and you may even experience problems with the post.

    During this period, we will be running our very popular travelogue series.

    I wish you all happy reading.

    The Chronicler

  9. Tan.B.L said

    am I still allowed to post?

  10. Tan.B.L said

    To darkness et al

    For the whole morning the system keeps kicking back my post. I just want to say last night I read Harpoons apology at a site that we can no longer visit!

    The brotherhood is just isolating itself further from the rest of blogosphere. This will not be good in the long run.It just means they will stay there and you will stay here. It will also mean you will take a position and so will they. As time passes it will be like two neighbors who dont even see the need to talk to each other. Who is right? Who is wrong? Each has their story to tell. Only the wall will exist.

    Many years ago the brotherhood used to have the great hall debate series -where people like darkness or someone his equal will stand on a spot a be challenged by anyone on social, political or any subject.

    In those live forum sessions where he fielded questions in real time / all of us were always surprised by his wit and intelligence. He was adept a making us all laugh and regularly pulling out rabbits. For me it was a very serious lesson of how to think and more importantly underlined how it can even be pleasurable and enjoyable.

    This was also the time when the brotherhood was most tolerant and less reactive as it is today, so it attracted a large number of professionals into its readership. For me during those live debates my eyes were open to a world of possibilities, a world that spoke of how far a clear thinking mind can really see and we were all there once upon a time.

    I really hope someone reads this. I just feel the doors are suddenly all closing.

  11. anongal said

    When is the travelogue coming out? I cannot keep logging i n leh.

  12. anongal said

    tan.b.l, I cannot vouch for characters like bambi, he is really a special case. But based on my years I can assure you ppl like harphy boy, atomic monkey, nacramanga etc. The ones at the decision making level r all very level headed. They would not be able to reach those levels without being absolutely dependable and reliable. I really believe whatever concerns you have was most certainly factored into their calculation. I cannot imagine them deciding on this matter blindly or emotionally, that may be bambi’s nature but can you say the same for the likes of harphy boy?

    I think we should just let them be and not tell them what they can or cannot do any more.

  13. green rover said

    We have “critical mass” Miss Tan, why can’t you support our home boys for once? I have notice you seem to cari pasal with them no end.

    blogosphere after all is so big. Are you saying I have to invite every single person in my estate to my birthday bash to be considered normal?

    Please give me a break!

  14. koalabear said


    From day one they have been going after those boys with pick axes. It’s just a case of envy, cannot write just say so lah, no need to come up with all sorts of excuses. Cannot tahan just say so lah. IMHO, those boys should just stay here and not go any where else. The world out there isnt safe. I have to makan now

  15. LWL said

    Why does my post keep getting erased automatically???????? Can someone pls look into it.

    Bambi and the boys should focus on just writing. By this I mean they should beef up on their research skills and sharpen their critical thinking skills.What needs to be understood is if you are going to engage someone on a cerebral level, it is not how you come across as a personality. It is a basic level of reader and writer, full spot

    People are really quite matter of fact when it comes to evaluating competence in the net, you will be quite surprise, just because you call a person an idiot doesnt make him an idiot. Not in the internet, if that person like Bambi happens to write a whole lot of sense and probably has a photographic memory that allows him to reproduce all that info. That means even if you are nice and fluffy but you didnt bother to do your reading and research. It will just show up in what you write. You will just not be taken seriously, full stop. People may not say it directly to your face, but it will show in the number of hits you get, full stop. The brotherhood should just focus on developing its strenghts and eliminating its weaknesses. Worry less about what the world thinks about you, just worry about what you need to do and do it well, what they will eventually think of you will be based on these things not how nice or accomodating you are.

  16. psascholar said

    Agree with LWL. Many years ago when I first started reading the bro press what really impressed me abt bad boy bambie was his single mindedness. I think most people tend to forget he was incredibly well disciplined as a writer. After all he produced a single chapter everyday for six month!

    Neither did he did he idle his time talking in the forum either. It was always hello, bang – bang you are dead! Thank you very much, bye 2 stuff. Certainly a very strange and unpredictable character.

    But he was just terribly consistent and reliable. He just made sure rain or shine, the message was put out. So many of us began to cultivate the habit of reading consistently and more importanly weaving bad boy bambie into our daily life.

    In those day man other people won those forum battles, but if you notice none of them eventually won the war. He outlasted every single one of them.

    So I agree completely and absolutely with LWL go back to basics boys, the discipline, the flair and get the message out. The rest justa isin wortha da botha!

  17. third wife said

    Plato called Diogenes “Socrates gone mad” ‘ and it is certainly true that Diogenes, the cynic par excellence was certainly dodgy, though he appreciare the value of shock tactics in promulgating his core messages of self sufficiency in accordance with nature and society with the result he was managed to liberate himself from the shackles of convention better than any man who has and will probably ever live.

    The moral of the story being till you are really comfortable with how others see you. You will all simply be the scholarship of fools and fall over each other. Bambi on the otherhand never felt the need to conform or for that matter fit into their ideal. In a world when every man wears a white shirt, no one sees the man with the whitest shirt, but everyone notices the one who even wears one soiled with his own urine and feaces.

    I meant to be sweet, but it doesnt seem to be working with you chaps, perhaps its best if I took a cynics view and shocked you all into some form of accordance – do wake up boys!

  18. Harphoon said


    “Many years ago the brotherhood used to have the great hall debate series -where people like darkness or someone his equal will stand on a spot a be challenged by anyone on social, political or any subject.”

    This is very good proposition, the only problem is there are only three people in the brotherhood who have this skill to stand up bfr a crowd a give a such a performance – darkness, nacramanga and atomic monkey.

    For the benefit of Inspirid and our new readers, the “great hall debate” was a live session held once every last Sunday of every month at 2100 hr and it would usually go on thru the night.

    It was a live session, a open forum open to all. And receives the highest hit rate ever documented in our history. There is a sensible reason why we no longer hold the GHD, bc every time it happens the whole platform just crashes, too many ppl log on we dont have the band width to accomodate the number of viewers.

    This is however a good idea TBL, I will have to discuss with darkness and inspirid whether they are willing to stage the “great hall debates” again.

    Pls give us time to make the arrangements. I agree with what you say and I will personally undertake to see this matter. Thank you.

  19. Harphoon said

    I have been informed by our engineers the xtra bandwidth we have provisioned will allow a seating of at least 25,000 to 35,000 to be carried on the SLF on only one IP! We are really talking experimental tech here. So pls give us time to tie up the loose ends.

    This as compared to our previous capacity of only 15,000 will enhance our capacity to stage the great hall debates again.

    Pls remain patient. I will need to discuss with inspirid as all this will be brand new concept to him and many of our new readers.

    Thank You


  20. repairman said

    Coorection: 35,000 is out of the question. The IS will explode. We can only handle 30,000.

  21. Harphoon said

    “I will need to discuss with inspirid as all this will be brand new concept to him and many of our new readers.”

    Having said that if we do stage another great debate it will be a first in Singapore history. That is guaranteed to blow the minds off the lid and set a new bench mark on how IS and we continually strive to deliver a memorable internet experience for all our loyal and new readers.

    I will look forward to this new initiative and will work closely with inspirid, our friendly webmaster to deliver a great debate soonest.

    On this you have my word.


  22. astroboy said

    We held the great hall debates only 12 times. Each time the platform crashed.

    Are you sure you want to stage it again harphy?

  23. repairman said

    To stage a great debate we also need at least 8 controllers to crew the post in the SLF. On top of that we will require an additional 15 technicians on standby. Not to mention at least 15 to 20 moderators. What about the support crew for ppl like darkness to make sure we can post fast enough?

    Harphoon this is not realistic. The whole of IS will crash!

    I tell you it is not realistic. We agree 2 years ago the tech doesnt exist for us to hold this sort of event.

  24. pumpman said

    I disagree even if the whole platform crashes, we should spk to inspirid to stage at least on great debate.

    Once and for all the whole of Singapore will see the size of our readership. Bc many of the readers will log on using their own IP to get on board the IS.

  25. pumpman said

    Beside HAL can automate 90% of the process. He may be a real human but he behaves like a super duper computer, so we can rope him in.

    The only issue is darkness – I heard abt what happened – it is sad – but I am sure this will be a good change for him.

  26. Harphoon said

    It is precisely bc it requires so much planning, coordination and management that we should stage the great debate. I personally think miss tan.b.l is right.

    No one else has the technology or knowhow to do this. They can do ipoding and all post vids but the great debate is another level of data manipulation that we have build up critical skill in.

    I dont think darkness is an issue, he can perform under any circumstances. He is quite versatile only thing, I have to caution him abt his usage of colorful language that is all.

    Dont tell what we cannot do. Tell what I can do.

  27. observer said

    A great hall debate will be good. It will be very good, bc the message will go out very clearly to the rest of blogosphere.

    Just my POV, all of you shouldnt hide your numbers behind the single line feeders, it is causes alot of misunderstandings. If you come up clean the rest will just shut up.

    They dont have the technology to do this.

  28. Harphoon said

    OK repairman – we need to get in a first class team of controllers:


    Repairman you crew the moderators.

    HAL will take care of the feeder crewing.

    I will speak to inspirid.

    We will stage a GHD. The matter is carried.

    If it crashes it crashes. That is a risk the we and the webmaster just have to take.

  29. HAL said

    Good morning all,

    Feeder crewing will not be a problem. I can do that with my left hand will playing chess at the same time harphoon.

    I think we should just do it. It will be good for darkness to get his mind off things.

  30. harphoon said


    Dr Chandra has accepted the challenge. I just have to speak to darkness. He called darkness “a charlatan,” so that will do the trick very nicely – the great hall debate is on.

    We just need inspirid to buy in.

    The rest of you pls start preparing the platform.

    That is a direct order.

  31. harphoon said

    Miss Tan as you know I am the most honest carrot in the brotherhood. Never told a lie bfr in my life.

    I am pleased to inform you we have discussed your proposition and it is carried thru.

  32. nacramanga said


    130th is behind you. Dont worry about the manpower we have will handle the back door operations.
    Leave that to me. I will have also informed the IMS to help us the SLF will hold. We will just have to borrow bandwidth, leave that to me.

    We are 110% behind you.

  33. nacramanga said

    They wouldnt even know what hit them. We will leave them so far behind they will simply have to wonder no end.

    That is what we always do. However, you were foolish to apologize.

    This is war.

  34. nacramanga said

    Mr noconfrontation r u listening to me? Bc I can see your clicker glowing.

    Let me tell u a few things abt Dr Chandra / darkness goes for his throat / he will seek his balls – chandra is a street fighter.

    I know what you are thinking you can referee this. You cannot.

    We dont need weak minded apologist to tell us how to do this.

    Now just in case you think you can so to atomic chimp and get his buy in. Pls go ahead he agrees with me.

    The GHD will take place but I want you to sit this one out. I am I clear?

  35. Harphoon said


    SLF: Single Line Feeder / It’s the technology that we use to typically communicate with you and others.


    OK. I will just sit this one out.

  36. inspir3d said

    harphoon i don’t get how the thing is going to be conducted…
    is it just going to be on a thread here on IS or somewhere else?

  37. Harphoon said


    Yes, on one thread here in the IS as I mentioned in the caption. Only we will coordinate the entire debate on our end using the SLF. As the Webmaster you will know that the post is from us only bc it carries a single IP.

    One of the problems we have in the great debate is trolls coming in and posting. Your job is to make sure only post from the SLF goes through.

    On our end we have to manage a 101 things. Its a bit like hosting a live radio show. The SLF is still very much a primitive system, so we will be streching it.

    At the same time, 5 other SLF’s will be carrying a live feed to our readers so that we do not affect your stat counter or over load your platform.

    Understand now?

  38. Harphoon said


    I need to work with nacramanga on this bc he has the best trained controllers.

    A SLF needs a controller. Its not a GUI, its I post but someone needs to send it to you.

    The problem with a live debate is it is happening so fast across two time zones and at so many dimensions, it is abit like air traffic control. So we would need at least 4 to 5 controllers just to make it happening, get it wrong and the whole SLF will just hang or worse still crash.

  39. inspir3d said

    “One of the problems we have in the great debate is trolls coming in and posting. Your job is to make sure only post from the SLF goes through.”

    i see. i think some testing should be done because i’m not sure that this can be done very efficiently on wordpress. a strict filtering process will involve delays in posting and will be quite tedious.

    the alternative is to have fast posting but delayed filtering – so u will need to decide which u prefer. i personally think fast posting with delayed filtering will be the better option.

    “5 other SLF’s will be carrying a live feed to our readers”

    could u also explain what this means?

  40. Harphoon said

    (1) wordpress is the least of our worries. There shouldnt be any delays, bc we can issue you a set of running codes e.g 093 for each post 039 for the next etc.

    We usually send this off to the webmaster bfr the debate starts, this way he doesnt have to page for the IP source code to ID the origin of the post. If the post codes dont add up, he just deletes and the whole debate cont as if nothing happened.

    I will of course have to give you the post codes in advance.

    On you second question. Each side in the GHD has 10 slots to argue his case. This may be extended at the discreation of the chairman.

    Problem comes in at the end of each stage, when we open the debate to questions from the floor. That is where the rest of the SLF’s kick in full force.

    The rest of the SLF will also enable our readers to view the debate without registering a hit count on the IS stat counter. One SLF one IP.

    As you can see very labor intensive on our part but nothing much on your part.

    Having said that some of our readers may bypass our SLF completely and just log on directly to the IS using their own IP. That always happens when we r slow on our part. So again coordination is key.

    On our part there is a need to make sure our SLF doesnt crash, it has a tendency of doing that when it is overloaded.

  41. Harphoon said

    fast posting with delayed filtering is the only way to go otherwise we will lose the dramatic effect.

    Its not called the great hall debate for nothing, got to understand they arent typing to each other. They are talking into a machine that converts their speech into words and it real time it is edited by another controller (see how labor intensive it is) and then routed to another controller who will post it. But the delay all this happens in less than 5 secs.

  42. Harphoon said


    This is a concept that the brotherhood has pioneered. We are the first to successfully stage a great hall debate.

  43. inspir3d said

    okay. i think u shouldnt be too concerned with crashing IS because i think the wordpress servers can take a lot of traffic.

    “fast posting with delayed filtering is the only way to go otherwise we will lose the dramatic effect.”

    if this is the case then there shouldnt be much problems. although we should probaby have a short trial run either on sat or sun b4 the debate itself.

  44. astroboy said

    ok we will make the arrangements friendly WM

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