Computers have come a long way since I was a teenager, when the internet was in its infancy and dial-up broadband was the height of technological sophistication for the modern home. Mobile phones, pieces of equipment small enough to fit in a pocket, are advanced enough to act as fully functioning miniature computers, while laptops and PCs are sleek and stylish. Many people believe that the first example of a working computer, so different from the technology of today, was large enough to fill a room and required several people to operate it.
However, as this video shows, the concept of programming a machine to produce a specific output was thought of many years before computer technology as we know it. One of the most stunning examples has to be this writing boy automaton by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, known as one of Switzerland’s master clock-makers. Jaquet-Droz created the automaton, which derives both its energy and its function from 6000 tiny parts located in the body of the boy himself. An amazing achievement for anyone, but even more so when we consider that Jaquet-Droz completed his masterpiece way back in the early 1770s. Exquisitely rendered, the writing boy is a triumph of patient genius that still works like – well, like clockwork – 240 years since its creator put the final touches to his wonderfully delicate, intricate work.