Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Video of Three Jaquet-Droz Automata in BBC Film

While a bit longer than most videos I like to post, this one is worth a look. The first several minutes contain footage of the three famous automata created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz: The Musician, The Writer, and The Draftsman.

The automata footage is in the first few minutes. If you are curious about the French Revolution, Mozart, and Ben Franklin, by all the rest of the clip. Pretty interesting stuff, actually.

The video is from part 8 "The Drive For Power" of a 13 part series "The Ascent of Man" by Jacob Bronowski available as a 5 DVD set.

Here is a link to the The Ascent of Man 5 volume set.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, March 31, 2008

Jaquet-Droz Writing Automaton: First Computer?

Here is nice video of the internal mechanism of Pierre Jaquet-Droz's writing automaton.

The text to be written by the automaton could be programmed. By some people's definition, The Writer is an early -- perhaps the first -- version of the computer, having an input method, programmable instructions, and an output display.

Computer or no, this is a work of unparalleled craftsmanship. That it still works today, hundreds of years later is a testament to its excellent design and construction.

This and two other Jacquet-Droz automata are on display at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire of Neuchâtel, in Switzerland.

This video is from TIL Productions, by Director Philippe Sayous of

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jaquet-Droz & Leschot Music Box

Take a look at this gold and enamel signed singing bird box. This rare automaton was made by two of the most important names in automata-making history: Jaquet-Droz and Leschot. This piece is dated to be circa 1785.

I will post more details later, but for now, enjoy the video above.

This exquisite and rare piece will be part of Skinner's upcoming Science and Technology auction to be held this Sunday, October 28th, 2007.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Good post about The Writer by Jacquez-Droz

I posted about The Writer by Pierre Jacquez-Droz back in June of 2006. My post links to a film clip by the film-maker Philipe Sayous.

I met Monsieur Sayous in Paris in 2005. His films are very well made. I recommend them especially to educators. (Be sure to order the NTSC version if you live in the States and buy a video.)

Here's a new post on what may be the most amazing automaton ever created: The Writer (at Fogonazos).

We should all keep in mind how difficult it is to write with pen and ink. The Writer is so carefully thought out, that he taps the quill on the edge of the inkwell to remove excess ink before beginning to write.

I found the recent post via this post on

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Writer Automaton by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

I saved the best for last. The Writer is the most complex of the three automata Jacquet-Droz automata housed at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. The Writer is programmable such that he can write out any line of text up to 40 letters long. The sentence to be written is coded on a wheel where characters are ordered individually in sequence.

He writes with a real goose feather which he dips ink. After dipping the quill, the automaton taps the quill over the inkwell to remove excess ink to prevent drips. His eyes follow the text as he writes, and his head moves when he dips the quill in the inkwell.

Again, this clip is from Monsieur Sayous's film The Jaquet-Droz Androids, available at

The Writer by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Musician Automaton by Jaquet-Droz

Another of three surviving Jaquet-Droz automata is The Musican. Here is a clip from THE JAQUET-DROZ ANDROIDS by Philippe Sayous. She is actually playing a custom made organ. As if that wasn't amazing enough, she moves her head to read the sheet music and can be seen breathing. Jaquet-Droz's attention to detail is astounding considering the mechanical sophistication required for the basic effect.

The full video (in French or English, NTSC or PAL) can be ordered at

The Musician by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Draftsman Automaton by Jaquet-Droz

One of three surviving Jaquet-Droz automata is The Draftsman or. Check out this clip from THE JAQUET-DROZ ANDROIDS by French producer and director Philippe Sayous. The video (in French or English, NTSC or PAL) can be ordered on his site The automaton not only draws elegant pencil drawings, but it also blows the dust from the drawing. Amazing.

The Draftsman by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pierre Jaquet-Droz Automatons

Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790) was 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 Pierre Jaquet-Droz, 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).

Here is a clip of the Pierre Jaquet-Droz automaton The Writer on YouTube.

To get a good look at all of the working masterworks, you should consider buying a well made automata film on video from my associate in France, Monsieur Philippe Sayous. It is available in French and in English.

Labels: , , , ,