• unknown (b.)


A Swiss-born watchmaker of the late eighteenth century, he lived in Paris, London, and Geneva, where he designed and built animated dolls, or automata, to help his firm sell watches and mechanical birds. Constructed between 1768 and 1774 by him, his son Henri-Louis (1752-1791), and Jean-Frederic Leschot (1746-1824), were The Writer (made of 6000 pieces), The Musician (2500 pieces) and The Draughtsman (2000 pieces). His astonishing mechanisms fascinated the world's most important people: the kings and emperors of Europe, China, India and Japan. Some consider these devices to be the oldest examples of the computer. The Writer has an input device to set tabs that form a programmable memory, 40 cams that represents the read-only program, and a quill pen for output. His work predates that of Charles Babbage by decades. His automata are also considered to be some of the finest examples of human mechanical problem solving. Three particularly complex, and still working and functional dolls are housed at the Art and History Museum in Neuch?tel, Switzerland, now known as the Jaquet-Droz Automata. He once constructed a clock which was capable of the following surprising movements:?There were seen on it a Negro, a dog, and a shepherd; when the clock struck, the shepherd played six tunes on his flute, and the dog approached and fawned upon him. This clock was exhibited to the King of Spain, who was delighted with it at which time the clock?s creator commented, "The gentleness of my dog is his least merit; if your Majesty touch one of the apples, which you see in the shepherd's basket, you will admire the fidelity of this animal." The King took an apple, and the dog flew at his hand, and barked so loud, that the King's dog, which was in the room, began also to bark. At this, the Courtiers, not doubting that it was an affair of witchcraft, hastily left the room, crossing themselves as they went out. The minister of Marine was the only one that ventured to stay. The king having desired him to ask the Negro what o'clock it was, the minister obeyed, but he obtained no reply. The clock?s creator then observed that the Negro had not yet learned Spanish.
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    Creator of animated dolls, or automata, devices which some consider to be the oldest examples of the computer
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