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Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2000 10:13:57 -0800 (PST)
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 10:45:45 -0800 (PST)
From: nagle@animats.com John Nagle
Dead medium: The Toy Artist drawing automaton
Source(s): Mark Rosheim's "Robot Evolution", ISBN 0-471-02622-0

(((Dan Howland remarks: In a nutshell, this toy was capable of storing simple line drawings as replacable dual cams. The engraving shows a seated doll in a clown suit, with his right arm holding a pencil lead to an easel. Behind him, on the base, is a crank.)))

The Artist still exists, along with the Scribe and the Musician. These are three mechanical figures built by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, around 1772. They're in the Neuchatel Historical Museum in Switzerland, and they still work. They're operated once a month. I've seen the Artist and the Musician working there; the Scribe was dismantled for maintenance.

All are cam-driven. The Scribe has the most sophisticated mechanism, because it is programmable to write different texts. There's a big stack of cams, with one stack level for each character, arranged to slide like an idler shaft in a gearbox. A wheel with slots for character plug-in blocks controls the shifting. The Scribe is thus programmed by putting in the right character blocks for the desired message.

They're beautiful bits of clockwork. The works actually fit inside the doll figures, which are about 2' high.

A brief technical analysis of the devices appears in Mark Rosheim's "Robot Evolution", ISBN 0-471-02622-0.