April 14, 2003 10:28 PM   Subscribe

Automaton \Au*tom"a*ton\, n.; pl. L. Automata, E. Automatons. [L. fr. Gr. ?, neut. of ? self-moving; ? self + a root ma, man, to strive, think, cf. ? to strive.] 1. Any thing or being regarded as having the power of spontaneous motion or action.
posted by crunchland (13 comments total)
Cool pictures, thanks! For a contemporary automata-manufacturer (music-boxes, mechanical birds, etc.) see Reuge Music.
posted by misteraitch at 12:12 AM on April 15, 2003

I was lucky enough to see this mechanical swan in action a while ago - it really is amazing. There's a bit of video on the web page but it doesn't do it justice.
posted by chrid at 1:23 AM on April 15, 2003

Very interesting material, but horrible web page authoring. The large photos that are linked to on the main page are frequently squeezed into square frames, which distorts their geometry and unnecessarily loses resolution.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:37 AM on April 15, 2003

This place used to have a wonderful museum in London's Covent Garden. (now, alas, closed.) Dig around in their website for links to automata stores, artists, exhibitions, et cetera. Oh, and a friend of mine does some automata-esque work that's fun (and his page has lots of video!)
posted by Vidiot at 4:57 AM on April 15, 2003

Spooky cool. Thanks crunchland.
posted by walrus at 6:09 AM on April 15, 2003

In case anybody else was wondering what a gallery of automata was doing on the website of a linguistics course, this is from the course description:
The course introduces students to primary source materials on the mind/body problem and on linguistic criteria for intelligence starting from about 1600 (Galileo and Descartes) to the current day. The main emphasis is on the origins of the mind/body problem and on the mechanical analogies of mind developed since 1500. Students read materials by Galileo, Descartes, Voltaire, Huxley, Darwin, Arnauld, and others. The focus of the class is on the study Cartesian Linguistics, 1966, by Noam Chomsky. We investigate his claim that the ideas about mind, language, and intelligence which are current today parallel closely those of the Cartesians in the 17th century. This course is taught in alternate years. It alternates with V61.0003 Communication: Men, Minds, and Machines, LEP3.
Nice post, crunchland!
posted by languagehat at 7:30 AM on April 15, 2003

Yeah, good spot languagehat. I sort of assume everyone knows about the history of finite state machines in grammatical modelling, given my history, but it's a poor assumption. FWIW I always adore the fact that no-one ever gets close with these deterministic attempts. If I thought the mind and its abilities were something which could even be described in todays terms, much less understood, it would become, all of an instant, less fascinating by a half.
posted by walrus at 7:39 AM on April 15, 2003

Thanks for this look at evolutionary history. Wow, my species certainly has come a long way!
posted by hilatron at 8:40 AM on April 15, 2003

I recently played a great PC game called Syberia which was about, among other things, an automaton factory. Highly recommended
posted by Kafkaesque at 8:44 AM on April 15, 2003

And let's not forget the great chess-playing automaton, one of the greatest frauds in history.
posted by ed at 10:52 AM on April 15, 2003

If you're interested in that automaton (and the wide-ranging social/cultural/technological influence it welded) you must read the turk. really great book.
posted by jcruelty at 1:35 PM on April 15, 2003

NPR did a report on San Francisco's Musee Mecanique last year, which included a few pictures and a slideshow of some similar such things on display there.

(And some more photos are also here.)
posted by mattpfeff at 1:43 PM on April 15, 2003

Very cool post crunch - love these things! Great in-thread links too, everybody. I'll throw a few more into the mix.

Another neat site with very polished products. Also not to be missed - the bizarre coin operated automata on Tim Hunkin's site - the chirpodist and the doctor and the frisker are fun. And Will Jackson's kitschy coin operated automata offer a glimpse of the inner workings. These were once part of the Covent Garden Cabaret Theatre that Vidiot referenced. And finally, here's a site that tells you how to design and build automata - cams, pulleys, levers etc.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:03 PM on April 15, 2003

« Older Wes Anderson   |   Flag Flying Illegal Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments