--- research by Julie S. Porter
Constructed in the years around 1773 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, His son Henri-Louis and associate Fredrik Leschot. The three surviving dolls still amaze visitors to the art and history museum in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
The simplest of the dolls takes the form of a young boy who draws pictures of the then crowned heads of Europe, George and Charlotte of England and Louis the XV of France. The doll also draws a picture of a Cupid riding in a cart pulled by a butterfly as well as a picture of a dog. This doll works on a simple system of cams making it the ancestor of the computer plotter.
His brother, quite a bit more complex, can write any 40 character sequence of the Roman alphabet. As far as functionality is concerned this little fellow is the worlds oldest computer. He has an input device, which is used to set tabs on what could be considered short term programmable memory, a stack of 40 cams (some upper case letters are not present) represents the read only program. A quill pen is the output device. All of which predates Charles Babage by about 50 years. Babage himself was familiar with dolls of this type and writes about them in his autobiography. he may have actually seen these dolls while visiting Switzerland.
The sister, which is my favorite, actually plays a small pipe organ. This is done so that the tips of each finger press the appropriate key. This is difficult to do even with computers.
These dolls are so complex that the word _Android_ was created to describe them. While they do not actually mimic human process, the dolls are quite lifelike. There is also evidence that Marry Shelly, who created Frankenstein saw the dolls just prior to writing that fateful tale.
Special thanks to Antoine Simonin, who graciously allowed me to photograph the dolls in 3d.
click here to see a photo-3d analyglyph of the Writer's mechanism Anaglyph Glasses
click here to see a photo-3d analyglyph of the Musician. Anaglyph Glasses
click here to read a my translation of a description of how the musician works from the 1928 book Le monde des Automtates
click here to read the above description in the original French
click here to see a picture of Pierre Jaquet-Droz from the book Le monde des automates
click here to see a picture of Henry-Louis Jaquet-Droz from the book Le monde des automates
click here to see a picture of Jean-Frédéric Leschott from the book Le monde des automates
click here to see a picture of Writer from the book Le monde des automates
click here to see a picture of Draftsman from the book Le monde des automates
click here to see a picture of Musician from the book Le monde des automates
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