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"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford

Knowledge Engine  
  The first reference to a machine that could create sentences or write books.  

This is really a remarkable idea for the eighteenth century. It is also a very effective satire on so-called scientific literature of the time, which was not always obviously the result of rational thinking.

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.
From Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift.
Published by Unknown in 1726
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  More Ideas and Technology from Gulliver's Travels
  More Ideas and Technology by Jonathan Swift
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  - Machine-Generated Fiction In Fiction
  - All Your Prior Art Are Belong To Us

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