Pierre Jaquet-Droz his son Henri-Louis and their associate Fredrik Leschot were Swiss watchmakers active in the years around 1775.
As a tour de force they also built automata. Three of them still exist today. The Jaquet-Droz were hardly alone in building automata, but the interesting fact about their machines is that, in a sense, they were programmable.

  1. the little drawing boy: this doll-like automaton draws portraits of the royalty of Europe and a couple of other subjects. Interestingly, the drawing is done with a quill that the boy dips in an inkpot. The smooth movements are caused by a system of cams.
  2. the little scrivener can draw an almost arbitrary sequence of 40 characters. The shapes of the characters are stored as cams, and an ingenious system allows the user to specify the sequence of characters. This is -historically- one the very first robots; in a sense, it runs a simple linear program.
  3. the organ player is built around a carillon movement, but it plays a pipe organ. The doll's chest moves and simulates breathing. At the end of the piece, the musician takes a bow.

see also: Vaucanson's Duck