Writer Automaton: Ancestor to the Modern Computer

STORY BY Vicky Victoria

Published: August 19, 2014

This 240 year-old machine is an ancester to the modern computer; an automaton, a doll that can write.

An automaton is a self-operating machine or robot. Seen above is the Writer, an automaton built in the 1770s by world-renowned Swiss watchmaker, Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790).

Made from nearly 6000 parts, the Writer is a self-operating, programmable machine, capable of writing letters and words with a quill pen. The 240-year-old machine is said to be a distant ancestor of the modern-day, programmable computer.

From the BBC programme Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams (which can be viewed in its entirety here), Professor Simon Schaffer explains this remarkable creation by Pierre Jaquet-Droz in the must-see video below.



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