The animal on the cover of Arduino Cookbook is a toy rabbit. Mechanical toys like this one move by means of springs, gears, pulleys, levers, or other simple machines, powered by mechanical energy. Such toys have a long history, with ancient examples known from Greece, China, and the Arab world.
Mechanical toy making flourished in early modern Europe. In the late 1400s, German inventor Karel Grod demonstrated flying wind-up toys. Prominent scientists of the day, including Leonardo da Vinci, Descartes, and Galileo Galilei, were noted for their work on mechanical toys. Da Vinci’s famed mechanical lion, built in 1509 for Louis XII, walked up to the king and tore open its chest to reveal a fleur-de-lis.
The art of mechanical toy making is considered to have reached its pinnacle in the late eighteenth century, with the famed “automata” of the Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son Henri-Louis. Their human figures performed such lifelike actions as dipping a pen in an inkwell, writing full sentences, drawing sketches, and blowing eraser dust from the page. In the nineteenth century, European and American companies turned out popular clockwork toys that remain collectible today.
Because these original toys, which had complicated works and elaborate decorations, were costly and time-consuming to make, they were reserved for the amusement of royalty or the entertainment of adults. Only since the late nineteenth century, with the appearance of mass production and cheap materials ...