Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Amazing Automata from the 18th Century

Here's something to knock the socks off of any of you fans of automata.

The newscast is in German, but anyone can get the drift. These are three mechanically animated figures. One plays the organ, one writes, and the other draws. To be clear: the organ isn't a player organ (that plays itself) while the figure sits in front and pretends to play... the figure ACTUALLY PLAYS the organ. The information for the tune is in her mechanics, so that her fingers and arms move to play the fairly complex little tune!

These are housed in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Neuchâtel, and were built by theologian, mathematician and watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis and their colleague Jean-Frédéric Leschot in the early 1770s. They were first exhibited to the public in nearby La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1774!

This is truly amazing stuff.. Unlike the two mechanical boys, the woman-organist's body and head move independently of her task, and she can sit and breathe and fidget (her head and neck making almost imperceptible movements) independently for an hour. Also unlike the boys she is operated by four separate pieces of machinery—one to pump the organ, one to operate her hands and fingers, one to operate her head and body, and one to power the bow she performs at the end of each song. She plays five tunes.

via Steampunk Magazine

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