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The turboencabulator (later the retroencabulator and Micro Encabulator) is a fictional electromechanical machine with a famous technobabble-filled description, originally from a 1944 Students' Quarterly Journal article by "J. H. Quick”:[1]

The original machine had a base plate of prefabulated amulite, surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two main spurving bearings were in a direct line with the panametric fan. The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzlevanes, so fitted to the ambifacient lunar waneshaft that side fumbling was effectively prevented. The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-deltoid type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots in the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a nonreversible tremmie pipe to the differential girdlespring on the "up" end of the grammeters.

The description has become an in-joke among engineers. Technical documentation has been written for the non-existent machine, and a number of humorous marketing-style video recordings have been made using the description as teleprompter text.


Page 1 of a 1962 description of a turboencabulator "made" by GE
Page 2 of a 1962 description of a turboencabulator "made" by GE

The original satirical technical description of the "turbo-encabulator" was written by British graduate student John Hellins Quick (1923–1991) and published by the British Institution of Electrical Engineers in their Students' Quarterly Journal[2] in 1944. The description is also noted by the consulting firm Arthur D. Little in a 1995 reprint of Quick's description.[3]

The earliest written US source may have been in 1946, in an Arthur D. Little Industrial Bulletin. An early popular American reference to the turboencabulator appeared in an article by New York lawyer Bernard Salwen in the April 15, 1946 issue of Time magazine. Part of Salwen's job was to review technical manuscripts. He was amused by the jargon and passed on the description from the Arthur D. Little pamphlet.[1]

Time got with the gag, featuring the device in a 1946 issue. In response to a letter printed in the May 6 issue from W. E. Habig of Madison, N.J. asking "What is a 'dingle arm'?”, the editors described it as "An adjunct to the turbo-encabulator, employed whenever a barescent skor motion is required."[4] A month later a response to reader mail on the feature appeared in the June 3, 1946 issue:

If the sackful of mail we have received from you is any indication, the story of "The Turbo-Encabulator in Industry" struck many a responsive chord. Aside from those of you who wanted to be reassured that TIME hadn't been taken in, we received the customary complaints about using too much technical jargon for the layman, observations such as "My husband says it sounds like a new motor; I say it sounds like a dictionary that has been struck by lightning"; suggestions that it "might have come out of the mouth of Danny Kaye," and plaintive queries like: "Is this good?" Wrote one bemused U.S. Navyman: "It'sh poshible." To some the turbo-encabulator sounded as though it would be a "wonderful machine for changing baby's diapers." A reader from Hoboken assumed that it would be on sale soon in Manhattan department stores. Many of you wrote in to thank us for illuminating what you have long wanted to tell your scientist friends."[5]

In 1962 a turboencabulator data sheet was created by engineers at the Instrument Department of General Electric in West Lynn, Massachusetts. It quoted from the previous sources and was inserted into the General Electric Handbook,[6] where it was laid out in the same format as the other pages. 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 department.

Circa 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. Haggart 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.[7]

Around 1988, the Chrysler Corporation "manufactured" the turboencabulator in a video, with Haggart reprising his role from the GM film.[8] Rockwell Automation "manufactured" the renamed Retro-Encabulator in another video in 1997 featuring actor Mike Kraft. In this video, rather than a transmission-like device, Rockwell uses a series of electrical wall panels to demonstrate the nature of its Retro Encabulator.[9] In an interview, Kraft explains the video's popularity:

It’s just the fact that so many people have had to sit through so many educational/industrial videos that look and sound just like this one and they're dead serious and deadly dull. From the engineers to the marketers to the distributors, they all have to know about the product in order to present it to customers, and sometimes that means having to know your cardinal grammeter from your girdle spring.[10]

On April Fools' Day 2013, Hank Green released a SciShow episode on YouTube entitled "The Retro-Proto-Turbo-Encabulator."[11]

On April 1, 2016, PATH "introduced" the Micro-Encabulator on their YouTube channel as a "new game-changing global health technology featuring hydrocoptic miniaturization and advanced panametric fan alignment."[12]

In August 2018, Macquarie Telecom released a spin-off advertisement of the gag, which instead used telecommunications jargon.[13]

In April 2020, Viper Innovations continued the gag with a presentation of the "Turbo Encabulator 2.0 with quantic IoT".[14] In December 2020, the video game Cyberpunk 2077 included an off-path scannable item called the "Cyberencabulator", findable during one particular end game mission, with multiple references to the original text, including averted sidefumbling.[15]

In April 2021, Keysight paid homage to the turboencabulator by releasing video in which the "Electro Turbo Encabulator" was revealed.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Salwen, Bernard (15 April 1946). "For Nofer Trunnions". Time.
  2. ^ Quick, J.H. (1944). "The turbo-encabulator in industry". Students' Quarterly Journal. 15 (58): 22. doi:10.1049/sqj.1944.0033.
  3. ^ adl.com[full citation needed]
  4. ^ "Letters, May 6, 1946". Time. May 6, 1946. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
  5. ^ "Letters, Jun. 3, 1946". Time. June 3, 1946. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
  6. ^ Turboencabulator.
  7. ^ 'Turbo Encabulator' the Original. Retrieved 2013-12-24.
  8. ^ Chrysler Turbo Encabulator. Chrysler Corporation. Retrieved 2013-12-24.
  9. ^ Rockwell Retro Encabulator. Rockwell Automation. Retrieved 2013-12-24.
  10. ^ "An Interview with Mike Kraft". www.plcdev.com. 2006-05-30. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  11. ^ April Fools Episode – The Retro-Proto-Turbo-Encabulator. Hank Green. 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2013-12-24.
  12. ^ PATH (2016-04-01), Introducing the innovative new Micro Encabulator™, retrieved 2017-01-11
  13. ^ The Macquarie Telecom SD-WAN Turbo Cloud Encabulator, retrieved 2021-08-16
  14. ^ Turbo Encabulator 2.0, 2020-04-01, retrieved 2020-04-01
  15. ^ Cyberpunk 2077 easter eggs #2 Cyberencabulator, retrieved 2021-09-08
  16. ^ Electro Turbo Encabulator Reveal & Reviews, 2021-03-30, retrieved 2021-03-30

External links[edit]

YouTube videos[edit]