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MMD > Archives > September 2003 > 2003.09.05 > 04Prev  Next

Are Mechanical Music Instruments "Robots"?
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  I might have said this some years ago, but I vividly remember
encountering my first player piano and a player piano music roll.  As
I looked at the player piano, which didn't work at the time, and then
the music roll, I said to the owner, "This is like an 80-foot IBM
computer card.  But instead of doing arithmetic equations, it plays
music.  I have to find out how this thing works."

It didn't take long to realize that some of the devices in the player
piano were quite similar to components found in computers.  The one
that really titillated my interest was the four-hole tracker device,
which I thought was very similar to an adder.

My point is that the earliest 'toy robots' were programmed in a fashion
that was very similar to programming a music roll.  After all, it was
just a process of turning devices 'on' and 'off'.  So, from my rather
simplistic point of view, I did see a 'connection' between a player
piano and a simple robot.

Naturally, as time and technology progressed, robots became quite a bit
more sophisticated, and feedback circuits were employed.  I referred
to them as the first 'fuzzy logic' devices.  Facts be known, it was
about 15 or so years ago that I actually looked into becoming a robot
repairman.  It seemed that personal home robots were just around the
corner, and I knew they would have to be maintained by someone.  And,
having a fair background in electronics and pneumatics, I thought
I would be a perfect candidate for such a position.

Unfortunately, the idea of personal robots never caught on in America.
Too bad -- they would have been great fun.  I still have three toy
robots and occasionally I'll bring them out when small children are
around.  They love them -- almost as much as my player piano!  ;-)


John A. Tuttle
Brick, NJ, USA

(Message sent Fri 5 Sep 2003, 17:32:59 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Are, Instruments, Mechanical, Music, Robots

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