The word automaton sounds very futuristic, but these clockwork machines were first built hundreds of years ago. I began my speculative story collection, Owl Light, with a time-travel, steampunk story about an owl automaton. And the builder of my owl machine in “The Clockwork Owl” was officially employed as a clockmaker.
You can imagine my surprise when I stumbled on this video of an automaton, The Writer, built by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, a clockmaker, in Switzerland hundreds of years ago. It is a fascinating machine, but a bit creepy. Perhaps it’s because dolls in general give me the heebie-jeebies, but this little clockwork boy is both amazing and the stuff of my nightmares.
What do you think — is the automaton in this video genius or creepy or both?