The turbo encabulator is a fictional electromechanical machine with a satirical technobabble description that became a famous in-joke among engineers after it was published by the British Institution of Electrical Engineers in their Students' Quarterly Journal in 1944. Technical documentation has been written for the non-existent machine, and there are a number of parody marketing videos.
The original machine had a base-plate of prefabulated aluminite, surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two main spurving bearings were in a direct line with the pentametric 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-delta type placed in panendermic semi-bovoid slots in the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversible tremie pipe to the differential girdlespring on the "up" end of the grammeters.— John Hellins Quick, "The turbo-encabulator in industry", Students' Quarterly Journal, Vol. 15, Iss. 58, p. 22 (December 1944)
An early popular American reference to the turbo encabulator 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, including an Arthur D. Little Industrial Bulletin which had reprinted Quick's piece, and he was amused enough by it to include the description in his article.
In response to a letter printed in the May 6 issue of Time 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." 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."
In 1962 a turbo encabulator data sheet was created by engineers at General Electric's Instrument Department, in West Lynn, Massachusetts. It quoted from the previous sources and was inserted into the General Electric Handbook. The turbo encabulator data sheet had the same format as the other pages in the G.E. 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" Turbo encabulator using parts made at the Instrument 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 turbo encabulator, 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 turbo encabulator spot.[better source needed]
Another version was done by Mike Kraft who had previously worked with Bud Haggart and known as the "retro encabulator" using an Allen-Bradley motor control center and referencing other brands owned by Rockwell Automation. This version was put online and made its way to eBaum’s World where it gained quite a bit of notoriety.
The term, in both textual and video format, has continued to appear in newer media.
The case of turbo encabulator has become a humorous example of obfuscation by excessive jargon in the fields of science and engineering. The term has been used as a classic example of technobabble.
- Quick, John H. (1944). "The turbo-encabulator in industry". Students' Quarterly Journal. 15 (58): 22. doi:10.1049/sqj.1944.0033.
- Salwen, Bernard (April 15, 1946). "For Nofer Trunnions". Time.
- "Letters, May 6, 1946". Time. May 6, 1946. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- "Letters, Jun. 3, 1946". Time. June 3, 1946. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- "Turboencabulator" (PDF). General Electric. 1962 – via RF Cafe.
- Christiansen, Michael A. (January 2017). "Back to Basics: Principles of Teaching That Will Never Expire". In Christiansen, Michael A.; Weber, John M. (eds.). Teaching and the Internet: The Application of Web Apps, Networking, and Online Tech for Chemistry Education. ACS Symposium Series. Vol. 1270. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society. pp. 171–186. doi:10.1021/bk-2017-1270.ch010. ISBN 978-0-8412-3272-3. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
- 'Turbo Encabulator' the Original. Retrieved December 24, 2013.
- "An Interview with Mike Kraft". plcdev.com. April 24, 2011.
- Moffat, Robert J.; Henk, Roy W. (February 2, 2021). Planning and Executing Credible Experiments: A Guidebook for Engineering, Science, Industrial Processes, Agriculture, and Business. John Wiley & Sons. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-119-53286-6.
- Clough, Michael P.; Olson, Joanne K.; Niederhauser, Dale S. (September 3, 2013). The Nature of Technology: Implications for Learning and Teaching. Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 319–320. ISBN 978-94-6209-269-3.
- Cassidy, Harold C. (July 1963). "Professional presentation of scientific papers". Journal of Chemical Education. 40 (7): 373. Bibcode:1963JChEd..40..373C. doi:10.1021/ed040p373.
- Copy, with errors, of original article, prepared by Arthur D. Little
- Digital archive of original article
- Selected videos
First four presented by Bud Haggart.