Rebecca Linke

The long and glorious history of the Turbo-Encabulator

August 27, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

With this simple sentence, the Turbo-Encabulator was born.

For a number of years now work has been proceeding in order to bring to perfection the crudely conceived idea of a machine that would not only supply inverse reactive current for us in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters.

 

 

The video above, the first made about the Turbo-Encabulator, was produced in 1977 on the suggestion of the actor, Bud Haggart, after he had already filmed an actual GMC Trucks project training film. The Turbo-Encabulator spoof, however, had already been around for decades at that point.

John Hellins Quick first wrote a description of the Turbo-Encabulator in 1944 when, as a graduate student, his paper titled “The Tubro-Encabulator in Industry” was printed in the British Institution of Electrical Engineers Student’s Quarterly Journal.  The Turbo-Encabulator hit the U.S. in 1946 when Quick’s paper was published in the Arthur D. Little Industrial Bulletin.

The Turbo-Encabulator from a 1962 G.E. data sheet

It really hit big, though, when Time magazine republished it in April 1946 under the title “For Nofer Trunnions.” The Time article met with varied responses. Many readers were in on the joke, with Stanton Tomkins writing in:

May I add that if the bearings are lubricated with warm smortch they will not grunch?

Ernest N. Kirrmann added:

After being envised and cerebrally malleated by 1.5 nofer trunnions [TIME, April 15] from a matitudinative 0451 GMT to an epinocturnal-proximate 1155 EST, I felt the need of a spirianimating filliperative and therefore submersinized my hypersensinate endoderm in a 5% fizzionate bicarboalkali-nating Cepsy-Pola.

Others were more confused. W. E. Habig simply asked:

What is a “dingle arm”?

Evidently, everything else in the description seemed perfectly reasonable. 

After a quiet period, G.E. revived the Turbo-Encabulator joke in 1962 when General Electirc’s Instrument Department wrote up this data sheet on it. Containing the first visual representation of the product, the document was formatted in accordance with G.E. standards and included in the General Electric Handbook. After that, of course, came the 1977 video.

Today, geeks the world over are familiar with the Turbo-Encabulator, but most know it only by the various videos made about it. So here I will include two more of my favorites, though you can always find others on YouTube.


This 1997 Retro-Encabulator spoof by Rockwell Automotive is wonderful. It peppers the video with gems like “as you may remember from your high school days” and references to the fake 7th volume of Dr. David Blumenstein’s book Zeich Shrift Ver ElektroTeknica Stottisher DonnaBlitzer.

The next video is the most recent, made for April Fool's Day 2013. It is a modern take on the "Retro-Proto-Turbo-Encabulator," and it proves that the joke will never go out of style.


As we know from the last sentences from the original paper by Quick:

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.

As one commenter to the Rockwell video said: “If you don't get the joke, you must be an anhydrous sinusoidal dingle-sprocket.” 

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