An interesting link from a William Gibson post. A renaissance art form lives on in Switzerland. Dating back to da Vinci, the European fascination with automata created what could be thought of as the first robots, man's fledgling attempt to mimic natural processes.
I've always been interested in the work of Jacques de Vaucanson, whose creations were some of the most intricate. They haven't survived the ages, but Vaucanson's duck and flute player are thought to represent the height of the automata craze.
Today, what was once cutting edge tech has become anachronistic curiosity. Which leads me back to a favorite Neuromancer passage:
The most unusual thing Jimmy had managed to score on his swing through the archipelago was a head, an intricately worked bust, cloisonné over platinum, studded with seedpearls and lapis. Smith, sighing, had put down his pocket microscope and advised Jimmy to melt the thing down. It was contemporary, not an antique, and had no value to the collector. Jimmy laughed. The thing was a computer terminal, he said. It could talk. And not in a synth-voice, but with a beautiful arrangement of gears and miniature organ pipes. It was a baroque thing for anyone to have constructed, a perverse thing, because synth-voice chips cost next to nothing. It was a curiosity. Smith jacked the head into his computer and listened as the melodious, inhuman voice piped the figures of last year's tax return.