60,000 pieces, 240 years old. Jaquet-Droz's dolls still write, draw, and play music


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This is utterly insane, can this even be reproduced today lmao? I see our robots falling over trying to walk and the like, I don't know if making a doll write has been attempted before but I imagine it would be quite hard to get the smooth movements for the type of writing this doll does, either way it is insane for the time period.

A thought that comes to mind is this was just a simple childrens toy and more advanced "robots" existed in households but for whatever reason we don't know about them.


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There is a story about another amazing machine created in 1770 called The Mechanical Turk, an automaton that played chess. It was supposedly an elaborate hoax with various master chess players hidden inside the small cabinet. I find the Wiki write up about it to be completely absurd. The hoaxer, with apparently nothing better to do invents this elaborate fake chess-playing doll, finds and convinces master chess players who speak several languages to tour with him for decades for free to perpetuate the hoax. Even after the inventors death, the inheritor of the machine continues the hoax (charging fees) and also able to find grown intellectuals to travel with him hiding in a cabinet playing chess via magnetic manipulation under the board.


Another part of the machine's exhibition was the completion of the knight's tour, a famed chess puzzle. The puzzle requires the player to move a knight around a chessboard, touching each square once along the way. While most experienced chess players of the time still struggled with the puzzle, the Turk was capable of completing the tour without any difficulty from any starting point via a pegboard used by the director with a mapping of the puzzle laid out.


Not surprisingly, The Mechanical Turk was lost in a fire in 1854. An 80 year long hoax that continued even after the inventors death and involving at least 6 intelligent, multilingual chess masters who had the leisure time to travel the world for years so that they could wad themselves into a box and play magnetic chess upside down. Sounds perfectly reasonable.

It wasn't until the 1980's (over 200 years later) that some clever fellow was able to replicate the machine which he called The Raspberry Turk (at a cost of $120,000) using computer technology. In comparable 1770 dollars, it seems a bit pricey for a gag.


It seems this level of clockwork technology would have (or should have) been used in development and advancement of mathematical/analytical 'engines' along the lines of Charles' Babbage's Difference Engine to either make those large machines smaller or capable of higher functions.

Were there other, precursor 'engines' now lost that allowed for advanced engineering concepts, chemistry etc, that we've seen?