Todays Computer Is The Descendant Of This 240-year-old Machine
An automaton (plural: automata or automatons) 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.
At the core of The Writer is a large stack of 40 cams with three cam followers that read their shaped edges and translate them into movements of the boy’s arm. Controlling the cams is a large wheel or ‘system disk’, made up of letters that could be removed, replaced and reordered (i.e., programmable). The Writer is able to write any custom text up to 40 letters long, spread over four lines.