The Engine

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Illustration of The Engine from an edition of Gulliver's Travels The Engine (Gulliver).png
Illustration of The Engine from an edition of Gulliver's Travels

The Engine is a fictional device described in Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift in 1726. It is possibly the earliest known reference to a device in any way resembling a modern computer. [1] It is a device that generates permutations of word sets. It is found at the Academy of Projectors in Lagado and is described thus by Swift:

<i>Gullivers Travels</i> novel by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, is a prose satire by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, that is both a satire on human nature and the "travellers' tales" literary subgenre. It is Swift's best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature. He himself claimed that he wrote Gulliver's Travels "to vex the world rather than divert it".

Jonathan Swift 17th/18th-century Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, and poet

Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

A computer is a device that can be instructed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming. Modern computers have the ability to follow generalized sets of operations, called programs. These programs enable computers to perform an extremely wide range of tasks. A "complete" computer including the hardware, the operating system, and peripheral equipment required and used for "full" operation can be referred to as a computer system. This term may as well be used for a group of computers that are connected and work together, in particular a computer network or computer cluster.


“... Every one knew how laborious the usual method is of attaining to arts and sciences; whereas, by his contrivance, the most ignorant person, at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labour, might write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, laws, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.” He then led me to the frame, about the sides, whereof all his pupils stood in ranks. It was twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room. The superfices was composed of several bits of wood, about the bigness of a die, but some larger than others. They were all linked together by slender wires. These bits of wood were covered, on every square, with paper pasted on them; and on these papers were written all the words of their language, in their several moods, tenses, and declensions; but without any order. The professor then desired me “to observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.” The pupils, at his command, took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed. He then commanded six-and-thirty of the lads, to read the several lines softly, as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found three or four words together that might make part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys, who were scribes. This work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn, the engine was so contrived, that the words shifted into new places, as the square bits of wood moved upside down." [2]

Stanisław Lem in Summa Technologiae (1964) and McCorduck (2004) connect the machine with the Ars Magna of Ramon Llull (1275), a mechanical device for combining ideas to create new ones. [3] [4]

Stanisław Lem Polish science fiction author, futurologist

Stanisław Herman Lem was a Polish writer of science fiction, philosophy, and satire, and a trained physician. Lem's books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 45 million copies. From the 1950s to 2000s, he published many books, both science fiction and philosophical/futurological. He is best known as the author of the 1961 novel Solaris, which has been made into a feature film three times. In 1976, Theodore Sturgeon wrote that Lem was the most widely read science fiction writer in the world.

<i>Summa Technologiae</i> book

Summa Technologiae is a 1964 book by Polish author Stanisław Lem. Summa is one of the first collections of philosophical essays by Lem. The book exhibits depth of insight and irony usual for Lem's creations. The name is an allusion to Summa Theologiae by Thomas Aquinas and to Summa Theologiae by Albertus Magnus.

Ramon Llull 13th and 14th-century Majorcan writer and philosopher

Ramon Llull, T.O.S.F. was a mathematician, polymath, philosopher, logician, Franciscan tertiary and writer from the Kingdom of Majorca. He is credited with writing the first major work of Catalan literature. Recently surfaced manuscripts show his work to have predated by several centuries prominent work on elections theory. He is also considered a pioneer of computation theory, especially given his influence on Leibniz.

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Yahoo (<i>Gullivers Travels</i>) fictional race from Gullivers Travels

Yahoos are legendary beings in the 1726 satirical novel Gulliver's Travels written by Jonathan Swift. Their behavior and character representation is meant to comment on the state of Europe from Swift's point of view. The word "yahoo" was coined by Jonathan Swift in the fourth section of Gulliver's Travels and has since entered the English language more broadly. Its most famous use is as the name of a pioneering search engine, Yahoo!.

Lilliput may refer to:

Laputa fictional island

Laputa is a flying island described in the 1726 book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. It is about 4.5 miles in diameter, with an adamantine base, which its inhabitants can maneuver in any direction using magnetic levitation. It has a cave in the very centre which is precisely there to gather all the rainwater. It is also used by the king to enforce his supremacy.

Lilliput and Blefuscu fictional island

Lilliput and Blefuscu are two fictional island nations that appear in the first part of the 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. The two islands are neighbours in the South Indian Ocean, separated by a channel 800 yards (730 m) wide. Both are inhabited by tiny people who are about one-twelfth the height of ordinary human beings. Both kingdoms are empires, i.e. realms ruled by a self-styled emperor. The capital of Lilliput is Mildendo. In some pictures, the islands are arranged like an egg, as a reference to their egg-dominated histories and cultures.


Brobdingnag is a fictional land in Jonathan Swift's 1726 satirical novel Gulliver's Travels occupied by giants. Lemuel Gulliver visits the land after the ship on which he is travelling is blown off course and he is separated from a party exploring the unknown land. In the second preface to the book, Gulliver laments that this is a misspelling introduced by the publisher and the land is actually called Brobdingrag.

Lemuel Gulliver fictional character

Lemuel Gulliver is the fictional protagonist and narrator of Gulliver's Travels, a novel written by Jonathan Swift, first published in 1726.

Lindalino is a fictional city from the book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. Lindalino successfully revolted against the flying island of Laputa. The name Lindalino is a play on words of Dublin.

The history of Artificial Intelligence (AI) began in antiquity, with myths, stories and rumors of artificial beings endowed with intelligence or consciousness by master craftsmen. The seeds of modern AI were planted by classical philosophers who attempted to describe the process of human thinking as the mechanical manipulation of symbols. This work culminated in the invention of the programmable digital computer in the 1940s, a machine based on the abstract essence of mathematical reasoning. This device and the ideas behind it inspired a handful of scientists to begin seriously discussing the possibility of building an electronic brain.

<i>Gullivers Travels</i> (miniseries) 1996 film directed by Charles Sturridge

Gulliver's Travels is a British/American TV miniseries based on Jonathan Swift's novel of the same name, produced by Jim Henson Productions and Hallmark Entertainment. This miniseries is notable for being one of the very few adaptations of Swift's novel to feature all four voyages. The miniseries aired in the United Kingdom on Channel 4, and in the United States on NBC in February 1996. The miniseries stars Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud, Omar Sharif, Isabelle Huppert, Geraldine Chaplin, Shashi Kapoor, Warwick Davis, Kristin Scott Thomas, Alfre Woodard, Kate Maberly, Tom Sturridge, Richard Wilson and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Due to their small size, both moons were discovered only in 1877, by astronomer Asaph Hall. Nevertheless, they frequently feature in works of science fiction.

<i>Gullivers Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants</i> 1902 film by Georges Méliès

Le Voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les Géants, released in the United States as Gulliver's Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants and in the United Kingdom as Gulliver's Travels—In the land of the Lilliputians and the Giants, is a 1902 French short silent film directed by Georges Méliès, based on Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels.


Lagado is a fictional city from the satirical book of Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Motte v Faulkner was a copyright lawsuit between Benjamin Motte and George Faulkner over who had the legal rights to publish the works of Jonathan Swift in London. This trial was one of the first to test the Statute of Anne copyright law in regards to Irish publishing independence. Although neither held the copyright to all of Swift's works, the suit became a legal struggle over Irish rights, which were eventually denied by the English courts. Faulkner, in 1735, published the Works of Jonathan Swift in Dublin. However, a few of the works were under Motte's copyright within the Kingdom of Great Britain, and when Faulkner sought to sell his book in London, Motte issued a formal complaint to Jonathan Swift and then proceeded to sue Faulkner. An injunction was issued in Motte's favor, and the book was prohibited from being sold on British soil. The basis of the law protected the rights of the author, and not the publisher, of the works, and Swift was unwilling to support a lawsuit against Faulkner. With Swift's reaction used as a basis, the lawsuit was later seen as a struggle between the rights of Irishmen to print material that were denied under English law.

"Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels" is a critical essay published in 1946 by the English author George Orwell. The essay is a review of Gulliver's Travels with a discussion of its author Jonathan Swift. The essay first appeared in Polemic No 5 in September 1946.

<i>Gullivers Travels</i> (2010 film) 2010 film by Rob Letterman

Gulliver's Travels is a 2010 American fantasy adventure comedy film directed by Rob Letterman, produced by John Davis and Gregory Goodman, written by Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller with music by Henry Jackman and very loosely based on Part One of the 18th-century novel of the same name by Jonathan Swift, though the film takes place in the modern day. It stars Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, T. J. Miller, Chris O'Dowd, James Corden, and Catherine Tate and is distributed by 20th Century Fox. The film was theatrically released on December 25, 2010 in the US. The film earned $237.4 million on a $112 million budget. Gulliver's Travels was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on April 19, 2011, by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.


  1. Eric A. Weiss (1985). "Jonathan Swift's Computing Invention". IEEE . Retrieved 2010-01-26. In 1726 Jonathan Swift published a description of a wonderful machine, made of equal parts of ...
  2. Swift, Jonathan (1726). Gulliver's Travels. p. Part 3, Chapter 5. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  3. Lem, Stanisław (2013). Summa technologiae (1964). Translated by Joanna Zylinska. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p. 359 (Conclusion). ISBN   9780816675760.
  4. McCorduck, Pamela (2004), Machines Who Think (2nd ed.), Natick, MA: A. K. Peters, Ltd., ISBN   1-56881-205-1 , p. 317

See also