Paraphrased and clarified article:
In the late 18th century, a chess-playing automaton known as the Mechanical Turk captivated audiences in Europe. However, the truth was that a human was controlling the automaton from within. Many years later, Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres Quevedo developed a true chess-playing automaton called El Ajedrecista. The machine played a modified endgame against a human opponent using a vertical chessboard with pegs for chess pieces and a mechanical arm to move them. Torres Quevedo introduced his invention in 1912 and showcased it publicly in Paris in 1914. The experimental automaton attracted global attention and was upgraded in 1920, incorporating electromagnets concealed under a regular chessboard. Torres Quevedo’s purpose behind creating the automaton was to explore the concept of “thinking” machines and redefine the meaning of thought. While his work has often been overlooked, Torres Quevedo made significant contributions to the field of computing and artificial intelligence. His legacy can be explored at the Museo Torres Quevedo in Madrid.
While Torres Quevedo’s name may not be well-known outside of Spain, he was highly respected in his field during his lifetime. He was a member of prestigious scientific societies and his chess-playing automaton, El Ajedrecista, gained popularity among chess enthusiasts. Despite this, his experiments in computing are not widely recognized, possibly because they came later in his career after successful endeavors in other engineering fields such as funiculars and aeronautics. Torres Quevedo also invented the Telekine, an early remote control device. Another reason for his lack of recognition may be that he did not commercialize his chess player, missing out on the lucrative computer gaming industry.
Overall, Torres Quevedo’s contributions to computing have been overshadowed, particularly in English-speaking countries. However, his work laid the foundation for artificial intelligence and offers an intriguing glimpse into an alternate history of computer development.