I'm a big fan of tantalizingly complex pre-electric automatons and computers, from the mechanism found at Antikythera to the Blaise Bontems. In an hourlong documentary, embedded below, Professor Simon Schaffer reviews the history of clockwork devices crafted to mimic the behaviour of living things.
The film brings the past to life in vivid detail as we see how and why these masterpieces were built. Travelling around Europe, Simon uncovers the history of these machines and shows us some of the most spectacular examples, from an entire working automaton city to a small boy who can be programmed to write and even a device that can play chess. All the machines Simon visits show a level of technical sophistication and ambition that still amazes today.
See also the Aeolipile. Greeks and Romans repeatedly invented steam turbines, but could not make modern engines because they couldn't press metal well enough, among other factors. Technology is like a plane crash: the obvious coinciding causes hide the other ones. Another thing expressly not an automaton: Mechanical Turk.