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The History of Robotics – 1495 to 1938 – Robotics History (Part 2)

This history of robotics is intertwined with the histories of technology, science and the basic principle of progress. Technology used in computing, electricity, even pneumatics and hydraulics can all be considered a part of the history of robotics.

The timeline presented is therefore far from complete.   Robotics currently represents one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments and is the single greatest attempt of mankind to produce an artificial, sentient being. It is only in recent years that manufacturers are making robotics increasingly available and attainable to the general public. 

1495 :Leonardo da Vinci designed what may be the first humanoid robot though it cannot be confirmed if the design was actually ever produced. The robot was designed to sit up, wave its arms, and move its head via a flexible neck while opening and closing its jaw. 

1645 :Blaise Pascal invented a calculating machine to help his father with taxes. The device was called the Pascaline and about 50 Pascalines were built. Only a few can be found in museums such as the one on display in the Des Arts et Metiers Museum in Paris.

1666 :A pocket version of the Pascaline was invented by Samuel Morland which worked “without charging the memory, disturbing the mind, or exposing the operations to any uncertainty”

18th Century :In the 18th century, miniature automatons became popular as toys for the very rich. They were made to look and move like humans or small animals.

1709  :Jacques de Vaucanson’s most famous creation was undoubtedly “The Duck.” This mechanical device could flap its wings, eat, and digest grain. Each wing contained over four hundred moving parts and even today it remains something of a mystery. The original Duck has disappeared.

1801 :Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented a machine (essentially a loom) that could be programmed to create designs that could be printed onto cloth or tissue. 

1865 :John Brainerd created the Steam Man apparently used to pull wheeled carts and more. In 1885, Frank Reade Jr. built the “Electric Man” which is more-or-less an electric version of the Steam Man.

1903 :The first patents were awarded for the construction of a “printed wire” which came into use after World War 2. The concept was to replace radio tube with something less bulky.

1921 :The term “robot” was first used in a play called “R.U.R.” or “Rossum’s Universal Robots” by the Czech writer Karel Capek. The plot was simple: man creates a robot to replace him and then robot kills man!

1937-1938  :Westinghouse creates ELEKTRO a human-like robot that could walk, talk, and smoke . ELEKTRO was first unveiled at the 1939 world’s fair.

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