The world’s first robot was actually integrated in 1773

he word “robot” is increasingly common in our vocabulary, even though most people still treat it as something new. Robots aren’t as new a technology as you might think, and this 1773 robot called “Drawing Boy Automata” proves it. Back then, however, people did not refer to these technologies as robots, but rather as machines or mechanisms.

This ancient robot was forgotten over time as people in the 18th century were not able to understand this technology, especially the impressive mechanism on the back of the robot which was way ahead of their time. Some people called this robot “The Writer” because of what it was capable of.

The man with the futuristic vision who was able to create this robot was Pierre Jaquet-Droz. Pierre was the first watchmaker behind the famous Automata brand. Born in Switzerland, Pierre has always been interested in watches and more particularly in their functioning. From an early age, he took apart old clocks to discover the complex system inside.

Even today, Pierre Jaquet-Droz is considered the best watchmaker of his time and his main dish prove. In 1772, he really wanted to show the world the power of technology. Every piece of technology had been created to solve a problem, the problem Peter as well as the world population at the time wrote. Not everyone was a neat writer, and most people couldn’t write.

This is why Pierre decided to create a programmable typewriter. With the help of this son Henri Louis Jaquet-Droz and a good friend Jean-Frédéric Leschot, Pierre managed to create more than 6,000 custom mechanical components that would create the Writer.

The programmable dial on the back of the machine (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This machine would be able to write with pen and ink any letter of the English alphabet shown on the wheel at the back. What is amazing is that the writer works alone, even applying the ink to the quill and without using any source of energy, everything is mechanical.

You can see how the robot works in this short documentary film directed by Professor Simon Schaffer. The video shows how the robot works and how natural it moves when writing. What’s even more bizarre is that his eyes focus on each letter he writes on paper, as if it were alive.

During his career as an innovative inventor, Pierre also made two other types of robots named The designer and the musician both self-reliant and doing what their names imply. Some historians say that Pierre is the father of computing for the mechanisms he created, at least the basics of computing.

Pierre Jaquet-Droz presenting his machines to the public in 1774 (Source: CommonPlace)

When these creations were presented to the public, people were simply amazed. Some who didn’t understand the intricate mechanism believed the machines were actually possessed by some kind of demonic power, while many others simply mistook them for mere toys due to their appearance.

The world never really understood the technological leap and what an important historical moment it was. It surprises me that even to this day few people are aware of this creation and some still think it is a hoax. Those who still don’t believe in it can see the machine with their own eyes at the Art History Museum of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Much like Leonardo da Vinci or Nikola Tesla, Pierre Jaquet-Droz is just another visionary who either thought way ahead of the technology available at the time or was simply born in the wrong century.

If we take a look at today’s technology and how quickly it is changing, we slowly cease to be amazed because today’s sci-fi film presents tomorrow’s technology and the capabilities of the world. For today’s society, the word “robot” refers to a much more complex system that focuses on artificial intelligence.

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