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Once we leave the realm of automata mythology, the history of automata is lengthy and fascinating.  Since this diary is finite (and hopefully brief and interesting), I won't cover the entire history of automata (or automatons - either plural is correct).

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The earliest automaton that still exists (that we know of) is the antikythera, a device created to mark the positions of astronomical objects.

Now, we're going to move thousands of years into the future, to the 1700 and 1800's, the Golden Age of Automata.

Jacques de Vaucanson is considered (still) the finest artificer of all times.  He lived from 1700 - 1782. He built a duck of gilded copper that swam, ate, drank, quacked, and walked. He also built a flute player that blew air through the flute and whose fingers would move naturally on the flute to play 12 different tunes.

Pierre Jaquet-Doz (1721- 1790) only built three devices, but they are still considered wonders of mechanical engineering. The Writer, The Draughtsman, and The Musician are all still functioning and on display in the museum of Art and History in Switzerland. The Writer can write up to 40 programmed letters meticulously, crossing t's and dotting i's. The Draughtsman draws 4 pictures, and the The Musician plays a piano by depressing the keys, and then bowing after her performance. They are amazing devices.  I saw them back in the 70's and the memory of them remains fresh.

Amazing, aren't they?

Joseph Faber took 25 years to build Euphonia, an automaton that spoke with a human voice. It spoke German and English with a German accent.

George Moore built a steam powered automaton man that could walk as fast as 9 miles an hour.

During this Golden Era of automata, the gears and guts of the devices became easier to make and more precise. It was possible to mass produce some of them, and the ease of making them allowed them to become children's toys rather than expensive adult amusements. Even though many modern toys are powered by batteries instead of wind up mechanisms or electricity, they still rely on the gearing and engineering feats of the 19th Century.

An interest in automata has revived (or perhaps, it never really went away), as can be seen in the Japanese robot-building efforts, and the desire to create androids (not the cell phone, but golems that do our bidding, more like Asimov's robots).

Last Saturday, I led a class in basic beginning automaton making, using paper and a simple lever method. The people in the class were amazed and thrilled that, from a single sheet of bristol board paper and a bit of glue, they were able to make a dancing automaton in 2 hours.

We used paper, scissors, and glue because it was a beginning class, and none of us have the brilliance of automata-making of a George Moore or a Pierre Jaquet-Doz, let alone a Jacques de Vaucanson!

This is the classroom set up for work:

March 2013 Tea

This is the automaton we made:

March 2013 Tea

I got the pattern from Kamibox and gave them a donation for using the pattern in the class. The site has many interesting patterns for paper automata, but the instructions are often difficult to follow.

This is why I tossed the instructions and taught the class without them, using a series of models and one unglued model to demonstrate each step.

They had a lot of fun making them and took many pictures (as did I):

March 2013 Tea

None of these people had ever made an automaton before. None of them were engineers of any sort. Two of them were librarians, so they kind of had a head start in knowing where we were going with this. One is a professional artist (who will be showing and selling her work at OctopodiCon and doing panels on art). The delight in their eyes when their paper automata worked was wonderful, and one of them pulled up the Gangnam Dance music on his cell phone so they could have their little men dance to the music. It was cute!

March 2013 Tea

They weren't fancy-shmancy automata that you'd be proud to pass on to your heirs, but they were quite cute and fun for two hours of intense work (we took no breaks, no one wanted to stop working!), and a few hours of play.

I gave everyone in class a Paper Engineers credit for OctopodiCon. bringing them that much closer to that novelty Bachelor of Steampunk degree we'll be awarding people (this year, our classes will be composed of "freshmen" and "sophomores", so we have 201 as well as 101 level classes).

This is one just before the final glue step is made:

March 2013 Tea

Here's a close-up of the much abused sample model that got passed from hand to hand during the class:

March 2013 Tea

And while you have that Gangnam Style music echoing in your mind, let's go explore the Tops:  Top Comments, Top Mojo, and the ever-changing and lovely Picture Quilt!

March 18, 2013

Thanks to tonight's Top Comments contributors! Let us hear from YOU
when you find that proficient comment.

From brillig:

In Leslie Salzillo's diary Breaking: Steubenville's Jane Doe Receives Death Threats, stevemb has a simply obvious (and easy!) way to make sure your kids don't change passwords on their social media/web accounts.
From Dave in Northridge:
itzik shpitzik makes an offer that's very difficult to refuse in kos's triumphant diary on the new ABC-WaPo pollon marriage equality
From zaynabou:
Commonmass' comment in Horace Boothroyd III's diary "CNN is crying over rapists
From Steveningen:
In my Top Comments diary last night, Tara the Antisocial Worker cracked me up with this comments about CPAC pick-up lines.
From me:
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March 17, 2013

(excluding Tip Jars and first comments)

Got mik!

  1) Agree that it sucks for everyone, but by ProgLegs — 173
  2) the larger story is the football team by entlord — 166
  3) I don't feel sorry for those boys by Hannibal — 117
  5) except in this case they were not tried as adults by wasatch — 97
  6) Thank you for the prompt reporting - I have been by Roxine — 96
  7) Not one iota of sympathy for these two animals. by mrsgoo — 95
  8) I have never been tempted to HR by TealTerror — 85
  9) Parental denial by s l o w loris — 83
10) I hope Ms Judd is as tough as she seems. by DuzT — 81
11) I read some of the comments at HP by entlord — 80
12) No rest for basement cat even on a holiday by kerflooey — 79
13) Just Another "Big Government" Project by JekyllnHyde — 77
14) ...I just have nothing...I'm sorry... by paradise50 — 76
15) Forget the news media. A young woman was by glorificus — 76
16) Cannot believe by LSophia — 75
17) Oh Hai Whoknu! Yes, System's Dangerously Flawed: by leonard145b — 75
18) It's Blowing Minds This Morning by bink — 75
19) There's your fundamental problem: by conniptionfit — 74
20) I was trapped at an auto dealership by xxdr zombiexx — 73
21) The VICTIM is receiving threats by talismanlangley — 72
22) He didn't win. by belinda ridgewood — 71
23) Even if they have green eyes-- by kerflooey — 71
24) How you know if a comedian is conservative by thenekkidtruth — 70
25) This! ^^^ by Chi — 69
26) Not idiots, practical. Not much has changed since by JDWolverton — 69
27) He's Fox's young "comedian" guy, by begone — 67
28) Okie dokie #sekritarmy, but first a snack ... by jwinIL14 — 67
29) It's not just CNN. by OldSoldier99 — 66
30) It is, as usual by ChemBob — 65
31) BEST THING EVER. by OllieGarkey — 65

March 17, 2013

Enjoy jotter's wonderful PictureQuilt™ below. Just click on the picture and it will magically take you to the comment that features that photo. Have fun, Kossacks!

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