Monday, July 09, 2007

Yours Truly, 60 AD

The New Scientist blog has an article up about the oldest known programmable robot - all the way back in Alexandria around 60 AD.
In about 60 AD, a Greek engineer called Hero constructed a three-wheeled cart that could carry a group of automata to the front of a stage where they would perform for an audience. Power came from a falling weight that pulled on string wrapped round the cart's drive axle, and Sharkey reckons this string-based control mechanism is exactly equivalent to a modern programming language.
The post also has a (short) video of a version of this robot that the blog's writers built themselves.

There's a full report on the New Scientist site (subscribers only), or in this week's magazine (I think?) if you can find it.

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