Turboencabulator

ge handbook

The turboencabulator (and its later incarnation, the ‘retroencabulator’) is a fictional machine whose alleged existence became an in-joke and subject of professional humor among engineers. The explanation of the supposed product makes extensive use of ‘technobabble’ (jargon that uses buzzwords, esoteric language, specialized technical terms).

‘Time’ magazine reported on the joke in 1946: ‘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 tremie pipe to the differential girdlespring on the ‘up’ end of the grammeters.’

The original technical description was written by British graduate student John Hellins Quick (1923-1991). It was published in 1944 by the ‘British Institution of Electrical Engineers Students’ Quarterly Journal.’ The earliest written US source may have been in Boston-based, international management consulting firm Arthur D. Little’s 1946 ‘Industrial Bulletin.’

In 1962 a turboencabulator data sheet was created by engineers at General Electric’s Instrument Department, in West Lynn, Massachusetts. It was later inserted into the ‘General Electric Handbook,’ and the turboencabulator data sheet had the same format as the other pages in the 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.

In 1977 Bud Haggart, an actor who appeared in many industrial training films in and around Detroit, performed in the first film realization of the description and operation of the ‘Turboencabulator,’ using a truncated script adapted from Quick’s article. Bud convinced director Dave Rondot and the film crew to stay after the filming of an actual GMC Trucks project training film to realize the Turboencabulator spot.

In 1988 the former Chrysler Corporation ‘manufactured’ the Turboencabulator in a video spoof. American industrial automation experts Rockwell Automation ‘manufactured’ the renamed ‘Retro-Encabulator’ in another video spoof in 1997.

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