The word Automaton, is derived from the Greek , automatos, (acting of one own's will) is more often used to describe non-electronic moving machines, especially those that have been made to resemble human or animal actions, such as the jacks on old public striking clocks, or the cuckoo and any other animated figures on a cuckoo clock.
Created by llyyll87 on 06/02/2009
Last updated: 07/02/09 at 01:23
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For people who are interested in working with wood and making their own Automaton.
Contemporary automata continue this tradition with an emphasis on art, rather than technological sophistication. Contemporary automata are represented by the works of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre in the United Kingdom and Dug North and Chomick+Meder and Thomas Kuntz in the United States.
An evolution of the mechanized toys developed during the 18th and 19th centuries is represented by automata made with paper. Despite the relative simplicity of the material, paper automata intrinsically are objects with a high degree of technology, where the principles of mechanics meet the artistic creativity.
These automata were first made between 1870 - 1920 at the port city of Kobe and sold along the docks as a cheap sailor's souvenir. All Kobe ningyo have moveable parts - eyes, tongues, heads, etc. These toys were activated by a knob on the side of a box containing the mechanism (older dolls had hand-crafted mechanisms). They play musical instruments, do gymnastics, drink sake, and etc. These are all hand-crafted one-of-a-kinds. This blackened Kobe Ningyo has 2 animated functions. (The bell raises to reveal another tiny head and when the handle on the side is turned, the snake from the front comes way out. Then the snake goes back in and the head will come way up.)
During this period many small family based companies of Automata makers thrived in Paris. From their workshops they exported thousands of clockwork automata and mechanical singing birds around the world. It is these French automata that are collected today, although now rare and expensive they attract collectors worldwide. The main French makers were Vichy, Roullet & Decamps, Lambert, Phalibois, Renou and Bontems.
The famous magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin (1805 - 1871) was known for creating automata for his stage shows.
Joseph Faber took 25 years to make his famous automata Euphonia. The automata produced sounds similar to the human voice. It started by reciting the letters of the alphabet and then said "How do you do ladies and gentlemen". It asked and answered questions, whisper, sang and laughed. The mechanisms could be inspected. It even spoke in an German accent as it talked in English but was made by a German speaking Austrian. Every one that inspected the mechanism was satisfied that the automata made the sounds and not a ventriloquist.
Tipu's Tiger (a.k.a. Tippoo's Tiger) is an automaton, representing a tiger savaging a European soldier, or employee of the British East India Company. It is currently on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Tipu's Tiger was originally made for Tipu Sultan in Mysore, ca. 1795. (Tipu Sultan used the tiger systematically as his emblem, employing tiger motifs on his weapons, on the uniforms of his soldiers, and on the decoration of his palaces.) The operation of a crank handle powers several different mechanisms inside Tipu's Tiger. A set of bellows expels air through a pipe inside the man's throat. This produces a wailing sound, simulating the cries of distress of the victim. A mechanical link causes the man's left arm to rise and fall. This action alters the pitch of the 'wail pipe'. Another mechanism inside the tiger's head expels air through two pipes. This produces a sound simulating the roar of the tiger. Concealed behind a flap in the tiger's flank is a small ivory keyboard; depressing these keys expels air through a series of organ pipes.
Jacques de Vaucanson produced some of the most famous historical automata and is regarded by many as one of the greatest automata makers of all time. His most famous work called The Duck was and artificial duck made of gilded copper which drank, eat, quacked, splashed about in water and digested its food like a living duck. Vancanson also made the flute and tabor players. The flute player was 5ft 10in tall (1.8m) and stood on a pedestal. A current of air led through the complex mechanism causing the the lips and fingers of the player to move naturally on the flute. Opening and closing holes on the instrument. It had a repertoire of twelve tunes. People could not believe that the sounds of the flute were made by the automata, instead thinking that bellows or some other devise was making the sound. Spectators were invited to see the mechanism and internal details. They could also feel the breath coming from the lips of the flute player and see the fingers determining the notes.
Pierre Jaquet-Doz was brilliant mathametition who specialist in applied mechanics and horology. With the help of his son and adopted son he produced three automata which even today are considered wonders of science and mechanical engineering. The Writer, The drauftsman and The Musician still exist and are in the museum of Art and History in Switzerland. They are considered to be among the remote ancestors of modern computers. The writer can be programed to write up to 40 letters dipping his pen into the ink and writing each letter clearly, he even dots the i and crosses the t. The Draughtsman can draw four pictures and even blows the graphite of the page. The Musician plays an organ, depressing the keys of her instrument with her fingers whilst moving the upper part of her body in a life like manner and bows at the end of the performance.
Valentyn van Lanscroon carved this ancient wood doll in 1647. This festival doll is carried along in special feasts in Mechelen (the former capital of the Netherlands). He represents an old, drunkard. The doll dances in reaction to the simple movement of being thrown into the air - falling limply around like a drunken man. Like some college mascots who fall prey to rival college student's pranks, Op-Signoorke is like a town mascot falling into many misadventures.
Japan adopted automata during the Edo period (1603-1867); they were known as Karakuri
The Smithsonian Institution has in its collection a clockwork monk, about 15 inches high, possibly dating as early as 1560. The monk is driven by a key-wound spring and walks the path of a square, striking his chest with his right arm, while raising and lowering a small wooden cross and rosary in his left hand, turning and nodding his head, rolling his eyes, and mouthing silent obsequies. From time to time, he brings the cross to his lips and kisses it. It is believed that the monk was manufactured by Juanelo Turriano, mechanician to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
Leonardo da Vinci sketched a more complex automaton around the year 1495. The design of Leonardo's robot was not rediscovered until the 1950s. The robot, which appears in Leonardo's sketches, could, if built successfully, move its arms, twist its head, and sit up. The device was built and it actually functioned.It is partially the fruit of Leonardo's anatomical research in the Canon of Proportions as described in the Vitruvian Man.
Johannes Muller was reputed to have made and artificial eagle. It flew to greet the Emperor Maximillian on his entry into Nuremberg in 1470, whilst some distance from the city, then returned to perch on top of a city gate and saluted the emperor on his arrival, by stretching its wings and bowing.
Villard de Honnecourt, in his 1230s sketchbook, show plans for animal automata and an angel that perpetually turns to face the sun.Among the devices Villard sketched is a perpetual-motion machine, a mill-driven saw, a number of automata, one of which depicts a simple escapement mechanism, the first known in the west, lifting devices, war engines as well as a number of anatomical, architectural and geometric sketches for portraiture and architecture.
Al-Jazari is credited for the first recorded designs of a programmable automaton in 1206, used for a set of humanoid automata. His automaton was a boat with four automatic musicians that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties. His mechanism had a programmable drum machine with pegs (cams) that bump into little levers that operate the percussion. The drummer could be made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns if the pegs were moved around