The Mechanical Turk by Tom Standage

August 2003

Ever since reading an article about Vaucanson's mysterious mechanical duck, I've had a "thing" for automata, so I was very excited to read a book about the Mechanical Turk, a chess-playing automaton that confounded the world for nearly a century. The book provides a wealth of information on the historical backdrop to the Turk's existence, and it manages to link creations like the Turk to today's chess-playing computers like Deep Blue and to the dream of true artificial intelligence. Everyone from Napoleon to Edgar Allen Poe pops up on the pages of the book, and the desire to know the secret behind the Turk's extraordinary chess-playing skills kept me reading avidly right to the end. The book is a great combination of history, mystery and popular science - all in all, thoroughly entertaining jaunt.

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