This Amazing 240-Year-Old Mechanical Boy Is An Ancestor To The Modern Computer

This is the automaton, a machine built in the 1770s by world-renowned Swiss watchmaker, Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790). An automaton is a self-operating machine and seen below is The Writer, made from approximately 6000 parts.

It’s self-operating, programmable, and capable of writing letters and words with a quill pen. It is believed that this 240-year-old machine is a distant ancestor of modern-day computers.

In the 2011 film “Hugo“, the title character, Hugo Cabret, must fix a “mechanical man” automaton, which he and his father tried to fix, believing it holds a secret message from the latter before his father’s untimely death



The Writer is said to have inspired the primary character in the Martin Scorsese movie Hugo 


The Writer comes to life by using a crank to wind up the mainsprings 


It acts like a real person following its own hand movements as it writes 


The Writer even dips its quill into an ink bottle between words


It is one of three complex automata that was created by Jaquet-Droz between 1767 and 1774 


In the core of The Writer is a large stack of 40 cams with three cam followers that read their shaped edges and translate them into movements of the boy’s arm. He can write custom text up to 40 characters long


Professor Simon Schaffer explains the intricate machine below:

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