18 August 2009

Jake Is Not Dead

While doing the sorting++ preparation I mentioned in Chess Ads V, I found the 1942 ad pictured below.

The ad was for Felt & Terrant Comptometers. It read,

Jake is not dead. • Jake is thinking. • Jake is thinking about his next move. • Jake knows there are a lot of possible moves (mostly bad) in a game of chess. But Jake does not know how many. Shall we tell him? Hey, Jake! Get a pencil. Write down "1", Then write five hundred zeros after it. That's how many possible moves there are in a game of chess!

We know from experience that, ordinarily, a lot of people would write to us and say, "Out with it! How did you arrive at this figure? So we will answer them right now.

Dear Reader, We didn't arrive at it. We got it out of a book. We don't know how the mathematician who wrote the book arrived at it. But he is an expert mathematician, and we trust him. We are experts, too, but on a different kind of figure work. Our kind is the figure work connected with business and industry [...]

The number 10^500 is much exaggerated, even by advertising standards, and I hope that comptometers (a forerunner of computers?) were more accurate than the anonymous 'expert mathematician' who derived the number.

But nitpicking aside, that's a great chess ad!

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