Technology knows no limits. Man has ascended from the life of the caves and wood fires to microchips and computers, all created to assist men and make his life easier by every second. Perhaps the height of technology so far is the robots; an everyday luxury in Japan, and a fantasy for those who live in third world countries, robots survive on electricity, their metallic bodies obeying the commands fed into their system with an efficiency hard to match. They are like your assistants, only they are not made of flesh and soul, rather of metals and cogwheels and wires.
A step ahead of the robots, and we come to what the scientists call the “automata”. Automata are self-operators; to put more precisely, self operating, and independent robots. The idea became popular ages ago in the Hellenistic World, first intended for toys and religious idols. Greek mythology represented this idea in the story of Daedalus, when he used quicksilver to make his statue speak. The idea might have been a fantasy at those times, and ridiculed and jeered upon by all; but fantasies are, after all, based on imaginations conjured by the brains, and brains do exist. So, believing that fantasies also exist, automata were created, though they have not been used as widely as the idea has travelled.
Coming to the medieval times, automata were seen among the richer: kings had metallic birds and flute players and guards to open and close the gates. With the Renaissance is sweeping over the world, the outlook shifted a little. Automata appeared in drawings of DA Vinci, a form that was more complex than before, and Descartes claimed living bodies to be analogous to machines: replace bones and muscles with metal and you recreate a living thing without a soul and the need to breathe and eat. Thus the toys appeared: birds and animals that walk and flap their wings and bark and roar, with, of course, highly limited abilities. Chess player machine, “The Turk” followed and horizons expanded. Clocks with cuckoos and various accessories became popular. Soon, the modern times were upon us, and things again shifted a little.
The era spanning from 1860 to 1910 was the era of the automatons. It has been labeled as the “Golden Age of the Automata”. It was the time when the market boom began, and automatons began to get heavily commercialized. Magicians used them on stage shows. Paris and France earned nickels and galleons by selling clock work and birds perched on them, and companies flourished like flowers in the bloom. Thus, the idea spread like wildfire, and Japan went further than the rest of the world to create robots that would serve the guests and do the cleaning and could write and draw. What was once a fantasy had become a reality.
The automata represent a portion of technology where we humans are overshadowed by our own inventions. We create them, we use them, yet we cannot reach the perfection of their work. Automata are a man’s skill and talent at heights no one could have ever imagined.