From what we can tell, robots have always been a point of interest. As far back as history goes, there has been some interest in robotics all over the world. In the very beginning, it is hard to tell exactly who went where with robotics, and what to believe. In ancient writings there are many examples of ideas of robots. In Greece, there is evidence that states that Heron (a.k.a. Hero of Alexandria) wrote on siphons, fire engines, water organs, the aeolipile and a programmable cart of some kind. All through ancient religion are even more examples of what could have been robots as we know them used. By 270 B.C. it is even said that ancient Greeks had the beginnings of a clock going. The only question here is what is the truth? Did these people really have robots before anyone really knew what to call them?

Even more early inventions were based on wind power more than anything. Apparently, it became a fantastic sight in the 8th century middle east to have metal trees with birds that sang, and even branches that moved. By the 9th century, many even figured out how to make a flute play itself. By 1206 this developed into a boat that had automatic musicians to float on a lake, and entertain Al-Jazri’s many guests. This was often called a “robot band” and was said to even have facial and body movements. Al-Jazri was also responsible for the flushing toilet. He started it as a female mechanism that would empty the sink of dirty water, and fill it with clean for the next person to wash his or her hands. He even went further with this idea, and had automated servants offer soap, and towels for the handwashers. At this time, it is said that when European countries caught wind of these inventions, the Catholic Church took hold of these, and used them in the services of the Medieval times in order to further capture the attention of the peasants.

As history continued, many more robots began to appear. One of the first being the famous “digesting duck” invented in France in 1739.  The idea was brought up by Descartes when he stated that animal’s bodies were no more than a machine of flesh and bone. First thought of as fun toys, digesting ducks became the precursor to robots as we know them. Jaques de Vaucanson also perfected The Flute Player in 1737. By 1769, the Turk, a device that played his opponents at chess, was touring Europe, and impressing everyone with his amazing skills (which, although operated by a small man inside the Turk, were still really awesome.)

Throughout the 18th century these toys continued to develop into robots. Mostly sought after by the extremely wealthy for their children, these early robots were designed to be like small animals or people. Eventually, seeing the benefits of these toys, people began to invent automatons for use in the work force. In 1865, John Brainerd created the Steam Man which was designed to pull a cart and more. In 1885, Frank Reade Jr. took this idea, and made him into an electric man.

By 1921, the term “robot” came into use. In Czech writer Karel Capek’s play “Rossum’s Universal Robots” a man creates a robot to replace him. Eventually this robot takes over, and kills the inventor. Given this idea, in 1939 ELEKTRO, the first human robot, was revealed at the world’s fair. By 1942, Isaac Asimov came up with four laws by which robots must abide, settling a bit of the fear created by Capek’s play.

All in all, robots have been improving from the beginning of time. Whether for a small rich child’s enjoyment, tracking of the stars, or even to replace a human being, people are fascinated, and always will be.

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