At Smithsonian, Jimmy Stamp posted a brief history of bird automata. And yes, I know that Bubo from Clash of the Titans, above, isn't real. But... Bubo! Clash of the Titans! From Smithsonian:
The earliest example (of an avian automaton) dates to 350 B.C.E. when the mathematician Archytas of Tarentum, who some credit with inventing the science of mechanics, is said to have created a mechanical wooden dove capable of flapping its wings and flying up to 200 meters, powered by some sort of compressed air or internal steam engine. Archytas’ invention is often cited as the first robot, and, in light of recent technological advancements, perhaps we could even consider it to be the first drone; the very first machine capable of autonomous flight. Very few details are actually known about the ancient mechanical dove, but it seems likely that it was connected to a cable and flew with the help of a pulley and counterweight. This early wind-up bird was chronicled a few hundred years later in the pages of a scientific text by a mathematician, Hero of Alexandria.
"A Brief History of Robot Birds
Dug North sez, "The book titled 'Two Odd Volumes on Magic & Automata; has been available in a printed version for a while, but is now available as a PDF. The book is offered for free from LEAFpdx, but I am sure donations would be welcome."
The Sette of Odd Volumes published two fantastic books in the early 1890s. The Sette was a club of book collectors and eccentric personalities in London. It was founded by the famed book dealer Bernard Quaritch in 1878. He collected members for his club much like he did rare editons: each had an expertise in some unusual specialty.
William Manning was a club member who gave an after dinner talk on his recollections of the great magician Robert-Houdin. When Manning was a young boy he met the great magician and befriended Robert-Houdin's sons. His 'recollections' about Robert-Houdin were later published as a small book. Reading it today, over a hundred years after the speech was originally given, one is still struck by how forward thinking Robert-Houdin was and how down to earth. He developed many famous magic acts that are still performed today. Originally trained as a clockmaker, Robert-Houdin built all his own automata and magic props. He experimented with electricity and even wired his house with clocks and alarms in the 1860s which must have seemed very magical indeed. Manning captures the spirit of his admired friend. His words make the magician seem very contemporary and even more remarkable.
Two Odd Volumes on Magic & Automata
OK, nobody tell my kid about ~renegadecow's "Applejack's Apple Harvest" My Little Pony automata. Nine days left on eBay, bids open at $200:
No pony appreciates a good days work more than Applejack. She loves the hard-earned life so much that she doesn't even look like she's working at all! Of course, not everybody is gifted with the talent for apple bucking. It's also an untold mystery as to how she can send each and every single apple into a bushel with nary a one touching the ground. But I think her ever faithful, canine companion Winona has rooted that secret out. That or she's on the lookout for bad apples.
The figures, stand, tree and bushel are carved out of Philippine mahogany while the gears and apples are made out of Narra hardwood. They're painted in enamel and protected by clear flat lacquer. Applejack stands at 5 1/8" tall (with her hat down) while the entire complete piece measures 11 3/4" high, 9 1/2" long, and 3 1/2" wide. It took 161 hours to complete.
Applejack's Apple Harvest
Ernie made us a Jackhammer Jill automata from pinewood and paint: "She bounces up and down like the animated GIF." Ernie wins the whole goddamned Internet.
Dug sez, "This video profile of automata-maker Dug North includes a better view of the 'Crazed giant beast hand-cranked automaton prototype' featured on Boing Boing back on August 2nd, 2011."
(Thanks, Dug North!)
Dug North sez, "I don't know what to say other than this mechanical wooden hand is awesome. The articulating hand and arm were made by the talented automatist Keith Newstead. There is nothing in the video description to suggest what form this will ultimately take. The fact that the video is titled 'Prototype' leads me to believe that we are waiting for something very, very good."
Prototype Arm and Hand