Automata—the first robot companions
by Aidee Ladnier
Thanks so much for inviting me to guest post on your blog, Lex! I hope you don’t mind if I show off a little of my love for all things geeky–especially automata. And don’t forget to sign up for my rafflecopter giveaway. I’ve got lots of cool things to share!
In my new novella, The Break-In, published recently by Dreamspinner Press, roboticist Forbes Pohle
creates a robot named Jeepers that looks like a black and white tuxedo cat.
has several duties around Forbes’s house, but his most
important one is to keep Forbes from getting lonely. Keeping people entertained
is a function that robots, and their ancestors the automata, have been performing for centuries.
The earliest automata were recorded in the third century
B.C.E. They were often self propelled human figurines or animals. The early
roboticists, mechanics, and clockmakers often made bird automata. There are
famous preening peacocks, singing larks, and silver swimming swans. You can still see remnants
of these early mechanical birds in modern cuckoo clocks.
The most amazing creations, though, were the mannequins that moved. Ancient
engineers made metal beings who sang, served tea, drew elaborate pictures,
wrote poems, and there was even one controversial one who supposedly played
Here are some of my favorite automata:
- The ancient Chinese artificer Yan Shi created a mechanical
man who winked and flirted with court ladies.
- The Muslim inventor Al-Jazari created a boat
full of tiny musicians that entertained guests at parties.
- Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook has plans for a
knight that could sit up and wave its arms.
- Mathematician Johannes Müller von Königsberg
created an eagle made of iron that could fly.
- The magician John Dee manufactured a wooden
beetle that buzzed in the air of Elizabeth I’s court.
- Inventor Jacques de Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck
could eat and digest grain, leaving duck pellets behind.
- Japanese engineer Hisashige Tanaka created
little men who could draw and fire arrows at a target.
One automaton that has gotten a lot of press lately belongs to the Franklin Institute. They received the brass pieces of the automaton in 1928. The museum curators feared its entertaining days were over, but they carefully pieced it back together, unsure who had created the amazing little man. Finally, they put a pen in its hand and started the mechanism again for the first time in decades. The little man wrote a poem and signed it with the name of his creator, Henri Maillardet, the Swiss clockmaker, revealing it had been created around 1800. After so many centuries the little robot was still entertaining and amazing everyone who saw it.
I hope you’ll be check out my story about a lonely roboticist and his robot companion that plays matchmaker in THE BREAK-IN.
About Aidee Ladnier
Aidee Ladnier began writing fiction at 12 years old but took a
hiatus to be a magician’s assistant, ride in hot air balloons,
produce independent movies, collect interesting shoes, and
amass a secret file with the CIA. A lover of genre fiction, it
has been a lifelong dream of Aidee’s to write both romance and
erotica with a little science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, or the
paranormal thrown in to add a zing.
Author: Aidee Ladnier
Cover Artist: Christy Caughie
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Blurb: Ten years ago, roboticist Forbes Pohle
received a visit from time-traveler Oliver Lennox. “Wait for
me,” Oliver said. Now a decade has come and gone, and Oliver
has returned. However, Forbes never dreamed Oliver would
reappear as the point man for a gang of technology thieves
breaking into his lab. He finds the younger Oliver just as sexy
and even more annoying; still, he must convince him their
happily-ever-after is meant to be—but he only has the time it
takes his robotic cat Jeepers to thwart the thieves to do it.
After waiting so long, he could lose everything in the span of
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