Jaquet-Droz Automata

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

In the 18th century, famed watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz built three automata, life-size clockwork dolls, to demonstrate his amazing technical skills.

Most amazing of the three is The Writer, a little boy capable not only of writing a note with pen and ink, but of writing any text up to 40 characters long:

The text is coded on a wheel where characters are selected one by one. He uses a goose feather to write, which he inks from time to time, including a shake of the wrist to prevent ink from spilling. His eyes follow the text being written, and the head moves when he takes some ink.

In some sense, such an automaton is an early computer.

(Hat tip to Fogonazos.)

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