World Doll Day is tomorrow.
The world has lots of amazing and well-loved dolls of all shapes and sizes, there aren’t many like the one known as The Writer.
Though depending on who you ask, it may be more of a computer than it is a doll.
It’s called The Writer, because that’s what the figure does.
A little boy wearing a fancy red coat and no shoes sits at a wooden desk and writes a message on a piece of paper.
He can also blink and move his head so that his eyes follow what he’s writing.
And you can customize what The Writer writes with any message you like, up to 40 letters.
It’s a pretty fancy system, especially when you know that this was built in 1770.
It’s the work of Pierre Jaquet-Droz, a watchmaker from Switzerland who was famous in his time for what were called automata.
In the case of The Writer, he and two assistants designed and built a figure that had 6,000 moving parts.
They didn’t have electronics back then, so it was all mechanical.
To make the automata work at all required a lot of thought and care.
To make it elegantly write a custom message? That’s on a whole other level.
And there was more.
Pierre Jaquet-Droz created several other automata.
One was called The Draughtsman, and it could draw four different pictures.
Another was The Musician, which could press down onto the keys of a special keyboard and play it like an organ.
The automata were a hit across Europe, and they weren’t bad at advertising Jaquet-Droz’s skill as a watchmaker, either.
If you can make a little writing dude out of thousands of moving parts, then your timepieces must be pretty special too!
But more recently, those who study the history of technology have argued that The Writer was actually a very early computer.
Choosing the letters that The Writer writes is a basic kind of coding, and then the mechanical hardware generates output from there.
If you’d like to see this early computer, it’s on display along with the other automata at a museum in Switzerland.
You probably won’t be able to make them do what they do, but it’s said they are all still fully functional all these centuries later.
Today in 1928, the birthday of author and artist Maurice Sendak.
He said he once replied to a kid’s letter by sending a drawing of one his famous Wild Things.
The kid’s mom wrote back, saying he’d enjoyed Sendak’s card so much, he ate it.
Maurice Sendak and childhood — we ate it up, we loved it (Washington Post)