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A Year: Day to Day Men: 25th of September, Solar Year 2018

The Source of Inspiration

On September 25, 1906 Leonardo Torres Quevedo successfully demonstrated his Telekino before a crowd in Bilboa, Spain.

Torres Quevedo traveled throughout Europe, studying the scientific and technical advances of the day, especially in the initial stages of the science of electricity. He returned to Spain, set up residence in Santander where he began a regiment of study and investigation. From the work Quevedo accomplished from 1890 to 1899, the cultural institution Athenaeum of Madrid created the Laboratory of Applied Mechanics of which he was named director. The same year, he entered the Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences in Madrid, which he later presided over in 1910.

In early 1910, Torres Quevedo began to construct a chess automaton, that was able to automatically play a king and rook endgame against king from any position, without any human intervention. This device was demonstrated in Paris in 1914 and is considered the world’s first computer game. In the prototype, mechanical arms moved the pieces; later in 1920, electromagnets under the board was used for this task.

Torres Quevedo demonstrated twice, in 1914 and in 1920, that all of the cogwheel functions of a calculating machine, like that of inventor Charles Babbage’s design, could be implemented using electromechanical parts. Quevedo’s 1914 analytical machine used a small memory built with electromagnets; his 1920 machine used a typewriter to receive its commands and print its results.

Torres Quevedo presented the Telekino with a lecture and a demonstration at the Paris Academy of Science in 1903. He obtained a patent in that year covering the territories of France, Spain, Great Britain and the United States. The Telekino consisted of a robot that executed commands transmitted by electromagnetic waves. It constituted the world’s second publicly demonstrated apparatus for radio control and was a pioneer in the field of remote control. On September 25, 1906, In the presence of the King of Spain and a great crowd, Torres Quevedo successfullly deomonstrated the Telekino in the port of Balboa, Spain, guiding a boat from the shore. With his Telekino, Torres Quevedo created wireless remote-control operation principles.

In 1916 King Alfonso XIII of Spain bestowed the Echegaray Medal upon Torres Quevedo. The Sorbonne of Paris named him an Honorary Doctor in 1922; and he was named one of the twelve associated members of the Academy in 1927. In 2007, the presitgious Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers dedicated a Milestone Award in Electrical Engineering and Computing to Quevedo’s Telekino.

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