"The Great Humming God" this is the title
of the the exhibition, taken from the German translation ("Der
große summende Gott") of Christopher Hodder-Williams' novel
of digits (Hodder & Stoughton; 1968).
The exhibition was staged by the State
Library of Lower Saxony and devoted to the history of "thinking
machines" mechanical and electronic. The spritus rector behind
the exhibition is Dr. Georg Ruppelt, also a chess enthusiast who well
understands the importance of chess playing computers for the contemporary
study of artificial intelligence.
The ChessBase team came to Hannover this weekend to stage a chess event. It
consisted of a lecture on the Adventure of Chess Programming, held by
Frederic Friedel and GM Dr Helmut Pfleger. The lecture traced the history
of the field, from Baron von Kempelen's Turk up to Kramnik and Kasparov's
recent matches against top computers.
The lecture was illustrated with pictures and videos, displayed on a computer
monitor and a giant projection screen.
After the lecture there was a consultation game between two teams, both called
HSK, but one from Hannover and one from Hamburg. Naturally it was played on
the Playchess.com server. Then there
was a youth tournament without computers.
There was a special corner for children (and their parents) where they could
try out the latest and hottest ChessBase product: Fritz
For the exhibition the Landesbibliothek Hannover delved deep back into
the history of the subject, showing one of the very first powerfuly calculating
machines ever built. Leibniz's "Stepped Reckoner".
Wilhelm von Leibniz was born on June 21, 1646 in Leipzig, Germany and he
died on November 14, 1716 in Hanover, Germany. In 1668 he wrote the description
of a new calculating machine. His stepped reckoner was capable of adding,
subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and extracting square roots through a series
of stepped additions.
Original construction plans drawn up by Leibniz, who was the co-inventor of
calculus, but not a particularly gifted artist.
A better depiction of the working of the stepped reckoner.
Frederic Friedel trying to understand how the stepped reckoner works
A closer look at the elaborate cog-wheel mechanism
It is truly incredible that something as complex as this could be constructed
in the 17th century
The Analytical Engine, designed (but never built) by Charles Babbage.
One of the exhibits in the State Library caught our attention. It was about
"Tarnschriften", books with disguised or false covers, which were
part of the clandestine literature of the battle against the fascist dictatorship
in Germany from 1933 to 1945. They were produced in the guise of well known
book series or of advertising, making possible the inconspicuous distribution
of oppositional texts.
Here is a chess book with anti-fascist material contained within its pages.
The first and last two pages contain chess, the rest is political information.
Dr. Georg Ruppelt, the director of the library and organisor of the exhibition.