Does Japan owe its current robot technology to the robot named ’ Alamet’ bestowed by Abdulhamid Han? What is the relationship of 7 masters who built up Alamet with SEIKO Clocks? In his Article Series, Oktan Keleş SIRDAŞ is once again narrating in historical documents.
The robot named ’ALÂMET’, (Miracle, medal) built upon the order of Abdulhamid Han has a distinctive character as being the first clock in the world reciting the azan. Sultan dispatched this extraordinarily gifted clock to Japan. It is probable that the Japanese copied their current robot technology from this azan reciting and whirling clock.
In 1887 Japanese Emperor’s nephew Prince Komatsu arrived in Istanbul on a battleship; presented some gifts to Abdulhamid Han and negotiated with Sultan.
In year 1889 Japanese Emperor Meiji sent private ambassadors to Istanbul. In the presence of them, he also sent Sultan Abdulhamid Han personal gifts and a confidential letter. Amongst these gifts there was also Great Krizantem Medal; the greatest medal of the Japanese. This medal was presented to Sultan Abdulhamid Han. In this confidential letter, Japanese Emperor asked Abdulhamid Han to “send them information in Japanese or French languages concerning subjects like Islam religion, science, technological innovation, funds, charities etc.”.
Abdulhamid Han brought up the issue to Shaylk al Islam Cemaleddin Effendi. The ambassadors could not be sent without any gifts to an overseas country that wanted to learn about the science and technology of Ottomans. In the first stage, an illuminated Koran and various gifts were sent to Japanese Emperor with ambassadors and some more time was asked to send the other information.
During this period Sultan Abdulhamid Han summoned Yeni Kapı Mevlihane clock master Musa Dede who was a great name in clock mechanics. Sultan demanded Musa Dede to “gather a perfect team and build a unique technological clock”. Hereon, Musa Dede started his works after establishing a team of seven and contemplated: “How can I make a clock that is unique, that has never been made before?”
A few days passed and Sultan Abdulhamid Han summoned Musa Dede to ask about the progress. He examined the projects drawn by Musa Dede and his team but he was not satisfied because the drawings of Musa Dede were simply different versions of classical clocks. Dervish Dede who was standing in His Presence was consulted and he said: “Let this clock be in shape of a Whirling Dervish. Every hour let it open its arm on both sides and ring.” Sultan Abdulhamid Han examined the project carefully, contemplated and uttered this genius idea: “No, not ring! Let it recite azan. Make it in such a manner that every new hour, it recites azan”. Then he drew some details on the paper and gave it back to Musa Dede. Musa Dede, murmuring “As you wish so my Sultan,” left His Presence thoughtfully.
There were cuckoo, gong clocks and the ones with a variety of melodies. They could be set with bellow and mechanic plates but the sound of azan was human; how could it be made? He had left the Presence of Sultan, ’ Your Highness, how is that possible?’Surrendered by these thoughts, Musa Dede ran into Fakir Dede while stalling around bibliopoles. Fakir Dede was a Melâmi Mevlevî Meşreb personality. Musa Dede secretly opened the matter to Fakir Dede. Fakir Dede overjoyed Musa Dede with this information: European invention Gramophone could be copied. Edison invented phonograph apparatus in 1877. He recommended this voice recorder. Gramophone’s patent was received by Emil Berliner on Sept. 20, 1887. That meant it was possible to build azan reciting clock.
Without any delay, the work began. Soon after, a clocked watch in shape of a Whirling Dervish, approximately in regular human size was made. Such were the features of it: A body sat on a plate; whirling every new hour, opening both arms to each side, its silver plate skirt is whirling and at the same it is reciting azan. The sound of azan resonated from the loopholes above skirt. The mechanism operated in such a technique that while it was doing all of these acts it was whirling at the same time and when azan ended it once again moved half meter backwards, went back to its previous place, and lowered its arms and skirt. Robot was thoroughly covered with silver and gold. In back of it there was setting part and every seven hour it had to be reset.
When Robot was presented to Sultan Abdulhamid Han, he was delighted and a little bedazzled; “Let it be called ALÂMET. This is indeed a MIRACLE,” he said.
In a part closer to neck Alâmet had golden embroidered star and crescent, under the loopholes on its skirt there was the Symbol of Ottoman Empire. Below its right arm, initial letters of the masters’ names were inscribed.
Sultan Abdulhamid Han sent this robot which was a miracle of the age, a work of art and technology on Ertuğrul Frigate to Japanese Emperor together with a confidential letter, many other gifts and medals.
Lot Head of Frigate was Colonel Osman Bey, ship commander was Lt Col Ali Bey. The ship having departed from Istanbul in July 1889 arrived to Yokohoma Port in Japan on June 7, 1890 and met with glorious ceremonies held by Japanese Dynasty.
Well then, why has this azan reciting clock, Alâmet, been kept hidden till today? Let’s look into this matter deeply: When Japanese ambassadors came to Istanbul and presented the greatest medal of Japan, Krizantem, to Sultan Abdulhamid Han, by way of return, they were asked if it was possible for Abdulhamid Han to offer Japanese Emperor a medal in the name of Ottoman Empire. With that, by Ertuğrul Frigate; Special Ottoman Medal, other gifts and medals were presented to Japanese Emperor by Osman Bey.
These incidents are recorded in historical documents and Ottoman archives. Yet there are still certain unknown facts: Why on earth has this azan reciting, clocked robot namely Alâmet never been mentioned! According to official documents, that is because: “Ottoman medals were presented to Japanese Emperor side by side with the gifts.” These parts are recorded in Japanese documents such: “In the name of Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdulhamid Han’s ambassadors presented Ottoman medal and gifts to Japanese Emperor.” The most delicate part of not mentioning the name of Alamet lies here. Now please pay attention: In Ottoman language, Alâmet means, medal, sign, miracle. Therefore ALÂMET word’s equivalent in Ottoman dictionary is NİŞAN (MEDAL). That is the secret. When records mention ALÂMET as MEDALS AND GIFTS, Alâmet is almost camouflaged, intentionally hidden. Finally a fact which has been kept hidden in the dusty pages of history is uncovered.
Still some more questions might be intriguing. Like why have Japanese never announced this robot (Alâmet) reality? The answer can be hidden here: During those ages Japanese Dynasty was in turmoil. Palaces and personal gift halls were loitered and robbed. In the chaotic atmosphere Alâmet might have been taken by a robber. Another question mark; is it possible that clock companies of that age were inspired by Alâmet? To give an example, Seikosha clock factory was established in 1892 and in 1899 it introduced the first alarmed clock. In 1881 Seiko Co limited company was founded by Kintaro Hattori. Now the question is: Was Alâmet a source of inspiration for these clocks? The initials of 7 names of the masters of Alâmet, did they symbolize something? What is the effect of Alâmet on the fact that Japan is the country of origin for azan reciting clocks? It is a mystery but one thing is for sure; the first azan reciting robot-like clock was introduced to the whole world by Sultan Abdulhamid Han for the very first time.
SIRDAŞ narrates historical facts of Alâmet to Sultan Abdulhamid Han and inscribes them to the Book. Sultan Abdulhamid Han comments; “this technology needs to be improved more.”
The one and only photo of Alâmet was probably burnt in YILDIZ Palace raid, the remaining, deformed pieces show; one of the masters in this project stand holding assemble lever in its hand, and next to him stands Alâmet. Above the photo there are blurred Ottoman inscriptions and on another corner erased Japanese letters are seen.
It should be of everyone’s knowledge that as opposed to common belief, robot technology is not a new technology. In an Ottoman newspaper published at the start of 1900s, it was written that: Some were trying to capture the world by making use of Robots.
Islam scholars, centuries ago, performed studies known as robot however the first known and functional one is ALÂMET. Robot as a term means mechanical apparatus performing the previously programmed commands. Very few of them are similar to humans.