A Brief History of Robots

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A Brief History of Robots

By | March 2006
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A robot can be defined as a programable, self controlled device consisting of electronic, electrical, or mechanical units. The notion of robots or robot-like automates can be traced back to medieval times. Although people of that era didn't have a term to describe what we would eventually call a robot, they were nevertheless imagining mechanisms that could perform human like tasks.

As early as 270 BC an ancient engineer named Ctesibus made organs and water clocks with moveable figures. In medieval times, automatons, human-like figures run by hidden mechanisms, were used to impress peasant worshipers in church into believing in a higher power. The automatons, like the "Clock Jack", created the illusion of self-motion (moving without assistance). The "Clock Jack" was a mechanical figure that could strike time on a bell with its axe. This technology was virtually unheard of in the 13th century. By the 18th century, miniature automatons became more popular as toys for the very rich. They were made to look and move like humans or small animals. Automatons like "The Pretty Musician", built around 1890, were able to turn their head from side to side while playing an instrument with their hands and keeping time with their feet. However, it is literature where human kinds vivid imagination has often reflected our fascination with the idea of creating artificial life.

In 1818, Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein, a story about the construction of a human-like creature. For Shelly, a robot looked like man but had the ability to function like a machine. It was built of human components, which could be held together by nuts and bolts. Shelly also thought that a robot had to be bigger that a regular person and had to have super strength. In 1921, Karel Capek, a czech playwright came up with an intelligent, artificially created person, which he called "robot." The word "robot" is czech for worker, slave, servant or forced labor and was gradually incorporated into the English...

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