10 Historical Robots

The Jaquet-Droz Trio
The writer, musician and draughtsman ©Rama, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 France license

When you imagine technology from two centuries ago, you may think about musket balls and wind-driven ships. But in 1774, Swiss clockmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his sons Henri-Louis and Jean-Frederic Leschot completed three insanely intricate automata.

The three automatons were called the writer, the draughtsman and the musician. All three used systems of cogs and wheels to perform their duties.

The writer can write custom sentences in fancy script. The doll actually dips a quill into an inkwell, shakes off the excess ink and then completes the commanded text in excellent handwriting.

The draughtsman (actually a child) makes four different drawings, such as a dog. He blows dust off of his work periodically.

The musician is a female figure that took nearly 10 years to complete and has 5,000 internal parts. She plays 45-second songs, actually moving keys on a clavichord with her fingers. Her chest rises and falls to mimic breathing, her eyes follow her fingers and she bows after each song.

You can still see all three pieces on display (and in occasional working performances) in Switzerland at a museum in Neuchatel.

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