Meet The Writer, A 250-Year Old Humanoid Robot That Functions Perfectly Even Today


At the Musee d’Art et D’Histoire (The Museum of Art and History)  of Neucgtel, Switzerland is a rare feat achieved by a watchmaker  over 250 years ago. The humanoid robot, The Writer, writes with a quill on parchment even today. This surprisingly well-thought innovation was built a century before the mass commercialisation of electricity, in 1768, and might be one of the most complex automation robots to date.

The mastermind and the reason behind the ‘doll robot’

The Writer is one among a handful of automation humanoid robots made by Swiss-born watchmaker Pierre Jacquet-Droz with the help of his son. This crafty ‘doll’ was built, as absurd as it sounds, to entertain nobility. The automated robots also helped boost sales of Droz’s watches for people to come to view these strange wonders.

What was The Writer made of and how does it work?

The splendid doll is intricately structured. As the records suggest, it is made of 6,000 moving parts. An achievement like that even before most people came to know about electricity is almost superhuman. The doll is programmed to write any and every possible combination of letters and words upro 40 characters. Yes, it can write anything under the character limit that has been set. 

What makes this automation robot so special is its doll-like, but close humanoid appearance. Not only that, the doll moves its hand while writing, along with its eyes as if it is reading the words it writes. Time to time, the robot dips its feather quill in ink, and sometimes shakes its hand so that the ink doesn’t blot. 

Remember Chucky? Imagine him as a writer, only non-evil and less creepy.

Some other automatically robots by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

With his son Henri-Louis and Jean-Frdric Leschot, Droz made some more spectacular doll automata, automated dolls, human-like robots, meant to entertain.

These are named The Musician, The Draughtsman, The Magician and more

The former consists of 2,500 parts and the latter of 2,000. Along with dolls, Droz also created mechanical caged songbirds which he commercialised as a way to increase the capital output of his company.

Pierre Jacquet-Droz must have realised neither the importance of his innovation nor the mere potential robots held. Back in the late 18th Century when popular media was only in its starting stages and science not fully developed, this would not be a surprising assumption. However, the automata have inspired later centuries by opening the door of possibilities, and for that technology and science are ever grateful.

If you liked reading this, you will love: It’s The Antikythera Mechanism- A 2,000-Year-Old Computer?


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