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The Turboencabulator or turbo-encabulator (and its later incarnation, the retroencabulator or retro-encabulator) is a fictional machine whose alleged existence became an in-joke and subject of professional humor among electrical engineers. (see: technobabble).

Contents

History of the Turboencabulator

In 1946 one of the earliest references to the turbo-encabulator appeared in Time on, April 15, 1946 by Bernard Salwen, a New York lawyer working in Washington, DC. Part of Salwen's job was to review technical manuscripts. He was amused by the jargon and wrote the classic description of a non-existent turboencabulator [1].

In 1955 the turboencabulator was supposedly described by a "J.H. Quick" in "The Institution of Electrical Engineers, Students Quarterly Journal" 25 (London), p184 in 1955 [2]. (Other sources give vol 15 no. 58 p. 22, December 1944.)

Page 1 of 1962 description of a turboencabulator "made" by GE
Page 2 of 1962 description of a turboencabulator "made" by GE

In 1962 a turboencabulator data sheet was created by engineers at General Electric's Instrument Department, in West Lynn, Massachusetts. It quoted much of the above sources and was inserted into the General Electric Handbook [3]. The turboencabulator data sheet had the same format as the other pages in the G.E. Handbook. The engineers added "Shure Stat" in "Technical Features", which was peculiar only to the Instrument Department, and included the first known graphic representation of a "manufactured" turboencabulator using parts made at the Instrument Department.

Circa 1988 the former Chrysler Corporation "manufactured" the Turboencabulator in a video spoof. See external link in the bottom of this article.

Circa 1997 Rockwell Automation "manufactured" the renamed Retro-Encabulator in another video spoof. See external link in the bottom of this article.

The technical descriptions of all these turboencabulators remain remarkably similar over the years.

Typical technical description

The following quote is from the Time article. "General Electric", "Chrysler" and "Rockwell Automation" use many of the same words.[1]

"Work has been proceeding in order to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a machine that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such a machine is the 'Turbo-Encabulator'.

"The original machine had a base-plate of prefabulated amulite, surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving bearings were in a direct line with the pentametric fan. ... The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots in the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a nonreversible trem'e pipe to the differential girdlespring on the 'up' end of the grammeters.

"Forty-one manestically spaced grouting brushes were arranged to feed into the rotor slipstream a mixture of high S-value phenylhydrobenzamine and 5% reminative tetryliodohexamine. Both of these liquids have specific pericosities given by P = 2.5C.n^6-7 where n is the diathetical evolute of retrograde temperature phase disposition and C is Cholmondeley's annular grillage coefficient. Initially, n was measured with the aid of a metapolar refractive pilfrometer ... but up to the present date nothing has been found to equal the transcendental hopper dadoscope. ... Undoubtedly, the turbo-encabulator has now reached a very high level of technical development. It has been successfully used for operating nofer trunnions. In addition, whenever a barescent skor motion is required, it may be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocating dingle arm to reduce sinusoidal depleneration."

Fact and Fiction

While the turboencabulator is completely made up, most of the brands and divisions mentioned in the videos exist and are accurately described. Allen-Bradley manufactures controls. Dodge Power Transmission manufactures gears and bearings. Reliance Electric manufactures motors, and Rockwell Software is a division of Rockwell Automation.

The equipment shown in the original Chrysler video are a real Chrysler four-wheel drive transaxle and diagnostic equipment, and the Rockwell video uses real parts that can be ordered from Allen-Bradley, including the motor control center (MCC) that is being described as the retro-encabulator.

Most generators operate by the "relative motion of conductors and fluxes". On the other hand, the Retro-Encabulator is said to use the "modial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive directance". As plausible as this may sound to non-engineers, "modial" and "directance" are not even words, much less meaningful engineering terms. Some of the other parts mentioned in the video, (e.g., "differential girdle spring" and "dingle arm") help signal even the technically non-proficient that it is a joke.

References

Usage

  • Time; May 6, 1946; An adjunct to the turbo-encabulator, employed whenever a barescent skor motion is required.
  • Time; June 3, 1946; If the sackful of mail we have received from you is any indication, the story of "The Turbo-Encabulator in Industry" struck many a responsive chord. Aside from those of you who wanted to be reassured that TIME hadn't been taken in, we received the customary complaints about using too much technical jargon for the layman, observations such as "My husband says it sounds like a new motor; I say it sounds like a dictionary that has been struck by lightning"; suggestions that it "might have come out of the mouth of Danny Kaye," and plaintive queries like: "Is this good?" Wrote one bemused U.S. Navyman: "It'sh poshible." To some the turbo-encabulator sounded as though it would be a "wonderful machine for changing baby's diapers." A reader from Hoboken assumed that it would be on sale soon in Manhattan department stores. Many of you wrote in to thank us for illuminating what you have long wanted to tell your scientist friends.
  • The Coe College Cosmos; May 23, 1951, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; "Now I have a brand new turboencabulator with the ... we hope that Jasper ... hasn't scared away all the little tots from future operettas. Seems that he had ..."

External links

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