A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3 million hits| History of Science, Math & Tech | Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places...
I was looking around for one of the original references to the earliest human-tech definition of "singularity" and found it in a roundabout way, a classic reference referenced in a classic paper on singularity. Vernor Vinge wrote a breakout paper in 1993 called “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era"1. Among many other things the San Diego State math prof quotes how the great Stan Ulam paraphrased John von Neumann saying: “One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” This was in 1958, and it appeared in Ulam's "Tribute to John von Neumann" in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, (volume 64, number 3, part 2, pp 1-49).
It struck me as ironic that the "singularity" would appear just at the time von Neumann2--perhaps without equal in this century in thinking in terms of the computer and its applications and overall sheer brain-power--died, Ulam surfacing the term in what was basically a memorial/obituary/celebration issue of the Bulletin, the carbon-based life-form container finally failing the great mind.
It was then that I came to realize how much biologicalization has taken place in compsci terminology--not the least of which is the self-replicating and damaging "virus", which itself of course is a massive biological deal, though in the digital world it is not its most abundant entity3. E-viriology is found just about everywhere, much like its bio counterpart, which is located in every ecosystem on Earth.
Even the word "computer" has an earlier biological counterpart--the "computer" was a human tabulator, a person grunting out figures into some sort of tabulating device. (Tracts for Computers, a series that began in 1919 and edited by Karl Pearson, is filled with statistical elements intended for the human computer...)
But what strikes me first are the bio references for the bad stuff. The viruses, and then later, the worms, and Trojan horses. (I should point out the "bug" enters the computer vernacular fairly early, in 1949, via (later Admiral) Grace Murray Hooper, though it doesn't get listed by her in her 1954 glossary of computer terms as published in two parts in Computers and Automation, volume 4, 1954. There's no "bug", though there is "de-bug".)
"Virus" emerges in a science fiction effort by Douglas Gerrold in 1972, a few years before they were artificially produced, which was a few years before a virus was released into the e-phere ("in the wild"). In 1975 John Bruner unleashes a "worm" in his Shockwave Rider.
Others early viruses have biological names: Creeper (1970), Rabbitt (1974), ANIMAL (by John Walker, though not created for being malicious, 1975), Top Cat (1980), Elk (1982), Whale (1990), Hare (1996), Blackworm (2006). There are of course many more names for viruses (and company) that are not biological, but it struck me of how many of the earliest examples do have animal names. I'm not sure that I have much to say about this presently, though I did want to put the general observation out there in this note.
1. The abstract of the paper begins: "The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century. I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence. There are several means by which science may achieve this breakthrough..."
2. Perhaps of most interest here is von Neumann's 1949 paper, "Theory and Organization of Complicated Automata", which looks as the logic required for the self-replicating machine, in A. W. Burks, ed., Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata [by] John von Neumann, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, pp. 29-87. This was based on transcripts of lectures delivered at the University of Illinois, in December 1949, and then edited for publication by A.W. Burks.
3. "Virus" is an old word, and is Latin for "poison" or "poisonous", and which first appeared in English in 1392. "Virulent" appears in English in 1728, "viral" in 1948, "virion" in 1958. "Virus" as we know it bioloigcally today has a somewhat complicated history, escaping Pasteur and his microscope until it emerges (again) with Martinus Beijernick in 1898.
JF Ptak Science Books an expanded post (#975) from 2010
This carefree stroll through the geology of death prep and care comes to us via the Embalmers’ Supply Company (ESCO) catalog, of 1941, serving and selling to members of the embalming profession since 1886. It provides the Practioner with all means necessary to scrape away facial muscle, cement the jaw, seal the eyes, color “old age” eyebrows, fill cancerous cavities, mold over gaping wounds, position the arms, contour the chin, scoop out the brain, replace the blood, pull out the bowels, and all other manner of removal/drainage/fillup, and then apply makeup to cover all suture wounds and other “deficiencies”.
[Darwinism Reproved and Refuted. Washington, D.C., 1873. 7x5 inches, 25pp.]
I wasn't going to write anything at all about this pamphlet, but the vocabulary was so strong and vehement, and reminded me so much of what we can read in today's daily press, that I thought to at least pick out some of the choice morsels.
Darwinism Reproved and Refuted, published in Washington D.C. in 1873, is left without any attribution to the author, the writer not caring to sign his/her name, not even to use as the wood into which some shingle with a weak social sciences/psych/religious Ph.D could be nailed. It is just left to the imagination or indignation that the writer didn't or couldn't feel confident enough to actually sign their work.
The author has little room for Mr. Darwin's work1, clearly on a super-rant over The Descent... and on the theory of evolution, using such colorful words in runny purple prose like "\repugnant, revolting, unsophisticated, outrage, deadening influence, peculiar, fallacious, cunning"--and this coming from the first two paragraphs. Needless to say, even though the writer was too weak to sign their name, they did have some strong opinions.
"Utterly false, radically and fundamentally wrong, futile in the extreme, unreliable, ungrounded, false, short-sighted (in relation to god), ridiculous..." continues the author. The endowments of the Creator stuff doesn't work its way in until the third page, when the adjectival and adverbial assault was already on it way, all without the assistance of any scientific counterexamples--but then the rest of the work is dedicated to proving the godless nature of Darwin's work and its escape from scientific reality.
We find this: "Evolution is founded on materialism, which is another term for atheism"...."let this doctrine be compared with the Mosaic account of creation, and then the student of nature determine if he will choose for his progenitors Darwin's pair of ring-tailled [sic] monkeys, or 'Adam...' "
And so that's what we get to in the refutation: the Creator. Old version of a contemporary complaint to get Darwin tossed out of classrooms to protect the youth of America, replacing it with divination. The author writes: "In the investigation of nature which is the proper province of the scientist, the most effectual method of studying it, in order to render this subject clearly intelligible to the human mind, is to regard the economy of nature as a form of government, having God for its founder, its Supreme Ruler, and Law-giver."
There's not too much one can do with that, and even though it sounds antique, isn't necessarily so, because the philosophy exists today, only with fewer commas.
1. By 1873 Darwin already had produced an epochal body of work, including but not limited to On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859), On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects (1862), On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants (1865), The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication (1868), The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1873)
I went searching in the 1896 issue of the Scientific American Supplement for early articles on Roentgen's x-rays (discovered just months earlier) when--flipping through the pages--I came upon this very impressive part of a score. But what is more impressive is that it sets to music the sound of Niagara Falls--the music of the falls.
At least music is what Mr. Eugene Thayer heard when he listened to the falls, and apparently he heard what few others did.
As all of you no doubt know Vincent van Gogh carried on a voluminous correspondence, mostly with his brother Theo. I sat down with the third (and final) volume of The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh (Bullfinch Press, 2001) and read through his letters from St. Remy (June 1889 to May 1890, two months before his death 29 July 1890), as well as those from Auvers-sur-Oise (the last of which is dated one week before his death). The letters are remarkable, and were written mostly to his brother, but also to his sister, and mother, and some few others.
The letters are filled with fantastic observations and captured vision, comments on his artwork, technical aspects of painting, philosophy, and daily life. And thinking. It has always been interesting to me how people slow down a letter so it can come to a halt, and Vincent--in addition to being an excellent observer and word curator--knew how to write a letter, and it is enjoyable to step back from them a bit to look at their mechanics, especially when it comes to this slowing-down section. So I've selected a few bits from what is usually the last part of the last sentence before the sign-off (hardly a rigorous process), just to see if there were the makings of a found-poem in them....and I believe there is.
"And believe me"
"I shake your hand, and your wife's too"
"Next drawings next week"
"And then it does one good to work for people who do not know what a picture is"
We did a little decoration of the house today for our younger daughter, who as it turns out is very interested in St. Patrick's Day. So there were green pancakes, green milk, and a green pastry, surrounded by all of the green markers we could find in the house, plus cut-out shamrocks, and piles of books bound in green or with green dust jackets. As it turns out, there are not many green books--just eyeballing it says low single digit percentage.
The funny thing is that the green books are so interesting: for example, there's Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno; Stafford Artful Science; Schwillinger The Mathematical Basis of the Arts; Johnson's New Universal Cyclopedia, a Scientific and Popular Treasury of Useful Knowledge (in four massive volumes); The Working Classes of the United States (1867); Ed. Guerard Dictionnaire Encyclopedique d'Anecdotes; Bynum Dictionary of the History of Science; A Natural History of American Birds of Eastern North America; J.A. Symond The Renaissance in Italy (6 vols!); Holmes The Age of Justinian and Theodora; Jenks The History of Australasian Colonies; Hall Color and Meaning; The Works of E.A. Poe; and The Works of Charles Dickens.
The Dickens set is the so-called "Household Edition", which is shorter than you'd expect, the size of an old-standard paperback, but very nicely bound in a dark green linen that feels great in your hand. There's also the Collected Works of George Orwell, except those dust jackets are half green and half white, and it doesn't quite make it.
But the way I see it, this list of green books would make a Green Year Reading List and would really add up to something on day 365.
I saved the biggest green for last: The Physical Review. There were a few odd copies up here in the house (with R.P. Feynman contributions), but down in the warehouse there are easily two very large bookcases filled with them, a good green wall. The funny thing is that a younger sister publication, Review of Modern Physics, which is the same size and format as its older sister, is published with orange wrappers. And yet the two sit happily side-by-side...so far as I know.
JF Ptak Science Books Revisiting/expanding an earlier post from 2009
In 1982 Werner Herzog, in what may have been a weirdly fashioned and irresistible death-wish effort, released a very difficult film that he wrote and directed: Fitzcarraldo. It is a spill-over-big, magnificent film about a would-be ice-making rubber baron bringing an opera house into the trans-Andes, trying to make his way into the dense forest in a huge rear-paddle steamboat on the Amazon to stake a claim in exploiting leased lands filled with rubber trees The problem faced by Fitzcarraldo (played by the probably-insane Klaus Kinski--just see Herzog's 1972 Agiurre, Wrath of God and you'll know what I mean) is that his path is blocked by unnavigable rapids--he can however reach his destination by hauling his very large ship up and over a mountain to get to a more pliant river and then to his goal. Herzog actually does this for the film--no digital anything here--in what is one of the most glorious things I've even seen in the movies. He really does have native people clear a path up and over a mountain, and they DO haul this ship up and over. It really, truly, is magnificent.
The story is partially based upon the adventure of Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, who in 1890 attempted a similar feat, though with a much smaller vessel, and who also dismantled the craft (?!) to haul it overland.
The bigger and deeper back-story though is the effort--mainly by Elmer Cotherell and James Eads--to build a combination railroad ship canal across the Tehuantepec isthmus in Nicaragua. The idea of moving across central America rather than taking the enormously long route around the tip of South America and up again is hundreds of years old. The Cotherell/Eads plan, begun in 1870's and alive in the early '80's, was really the first feasible (and workable) initiative.
It would have been a gigantic undertaking, and even though it was much longer (130 miles or so) than the more-favored Panama location for the canal, it seemed more workable as there would be less digging and no need for a lock/canal system as required at Panama. The plan was outlined in the pamphlet below, and printed in 1886. (This pamphlet is available for purchase at our blog bookstore.)
The French began a doomed attempt at conquering Panama shortly before this. Ferdinand de Lesseps tried to build a canal in 1880, but the organization and general construction plan was truly inferior; also, the sanitary and medical conditions were irreproachable, with the French losing perhaps 22 thousand men in the failed process to disease (mainly malaria). (The United States would lose 5,609 workers while building the Panama canal, on land granted as a payback for "helping" Panama release themselves from Columbia.)
The Cotherell/Eads (who by the way was a master builder perhaps best known for his inspired masterpiece of a bridge at St. Louis) plan called for hauling the ships up and out of the water in a short canal and placing them on an enormous floating roundabout; the roundabout would then be raised, and the ship place on huge cradles borne upon vastly augmented railway lines. Once on the cradle, the ship would be pulled and pushed by a team of four large locomotive teams which were in turn composed of two large engines. Happily aboard, the ship would then be taken on the extended, expanded wide and augmented rail 130 miles overland and dumped into the Pacific.
It was evidently not a workable deal all the way around, though, as the U.S. decided on the new Panama to works its engineering miracle
.There is something pleasing though about the Ship Railway, though, something that appeals to the little bit of Mr. Herzog in me. Perhaps it was the appraisal of the very stiff-lipped Sir Edward Reed--who was the former master engineer for the British navy and consultant to Eads—that makes it all so irresistible. “It would be best to avoid a very high rate of speed” when hauling the massive ocean-going and heavily laden cargo ships. Indeed.
I found this fine map decorating the front and back covers of an interesting pamphlet called Union Inland Terminal Number One, in the Heart of the Port of New York, which was published in 1931. This was an advertising vehicle publicizing the coming building, which was built by the Port Authority in 1932. It was a transport/shipping hub for trucking, handling tons and tons of freight from the port. The building was enormous--at about 3,000,000 square feet, it was the largest building in NYC until 1963. It stands today as a mixed-use building at 111 Eighth Avenue (between 15th &16th, 8th & 9th). In any event, the pamphlet design is lovely--the image below shows it open, front and back.
I was looking through a batch of unusual history of technology material when I came upon an interesting idea in city planning by the Schmidt & Gallatin firm. The long title (Tranportation of Passengers in Greater New York by Continuous Railway Train, or Moving Platforms. Argument in favor of equipping the East River Bridges, and connecting subway to Bowling Green, Manhattan, with a continuous railway train or Moving Platforms) pretty much tells the story. This interesting and perhaps 1903-useful idea featured a system of moving sidewalks that allowed for sitting (for longer rides) and standing (for just a quick hop). The "platform" would move slowly enough to allow it to run continuously and fast enough to make it useful in geting people to their destinations a little faster, or at least get there without working up an Edwardian sweat. And it was being designed to get folks from Bowling Green at nearly the tip of Manhattan across the river and into Williamsburg in Brooklyn. [This pamphlet is available for actual purchase via our blog bookstore, here, under "city planning".]
That is a lot of continuously-moving surface area: a napkin estimate may be something like 25 acres of sidewalk/salon on-the-go. Unforntuantely the pamphlet doesn't have too much to say about powering this beast.
This is one version of the moving platform, which didn't leave much room for standing:
From the pamphlet:
"Moving Platforms for the conveyance of passengers were recommended by Mr. Horace Greeley thirty years ago. They were successfully operated, first, at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, where 2,700,000 people were transported. In 1896 they were installed at the Berlin Exposition, and again at the Paris Exposition of 1900, where they carried over eight million passengers. Few persons know what Moving Platforms are. From the face that sometimes they are called " Moving Side- walks," it is believed that they must be some sort of a pavement on rollers, on which it is difficult to step with safety and maintain equilibrium. The Moving Platforms are to all intents a railway, operated like other railways, propelled by electricity, with cars, seats, motors, passenger stations, ticket booths, guards, electric lights — in fact, everything belonging to a first-class railway."
"Where it differs from the ordinary railway is that the cars, or trains, are not running at intervals, but are coupled up continuously, so that there is no interruption of traffic at any time, but a large seating capacity at all times. It differs also in the construction of the cars, which are mere flat cars, provided with seats placed crosswise, and so ar- ranged that all rmssengers face in the direction of motion. Each of these seats may be made wide enough to accommodate one, two or more persons. The most approved plan is to provide seats on one side of the cars only and leave the other for passengers to walk, thus giving them an opportunity to further accelerate their speed if they so desire..."
It is an interesting idea for the time, but has its own share of problems. In some ways it was basically a slow elevated trains using just the car beds: a slower, cheaper, untunneled subway.
This book is available for purchase at our blog bookstore, here.
In my imaginary History of Lines there is a chapter or two for humans-in-line(s).In the history of the world, the fourth and fifth decades of the twentieth century—the 1930’s and ‘40’s—were big ones for human lines.Big does not imply good, because as we all know lots of humans lined up for all manner of unspeakable nastiness during this time and well more than 100 million didn’t make it out alive (considering all of the wars, purges, revolutions and stupidity).
The lines here are a little more benign, though with shriveled overtones of corrected respect.
Oppressive obedience in a well-designed environment is still like dressing your ear-infected 14-year-old St. Bernard/Jack Russell (?!) mixed breed in baby booties—its just not right, and these images attest to this simpy comparison. All of these photographs come from a delightful manufacturer’s catalog for linoleum products (Il Linoleim nelle Costruzioni Scolastiche), which was printed in Milano in 1935.(The original is available at our blog bookstore.)
I’ll undoubtedly write a post on this stylistic beauty later on, but suffice to say for right now that it really is a lovely thing.If only we could forget the Mussolini part.Now I’m no fan, necessarily, of linoleum, but if I had to live on a linoleum island far removed from civilization and I had to choose a design for my world, I would choose the designs from this catalog, without hesitation. They’re spare, well-proportioned, beautifully design utilitarian designs; they are also very shiny and cold with a dispirited order, but so it goes.The catalog seems to speak for its times, the inspired design bowing to the weighty needs of the flatulent state.
Even though the people (mainly child people) are in very structured environments, they still look as though they really don’t believe in whatever it was was happening--of course they were at school, or in an academic environment, or hospital, or something (as the titlf of the work states). There is something just wrong in the child-straight lines and seemless expanse of linoleum, something that looks as though details have been left out, that there is a ground-in sameness to everything, that the indifference to difference is so to make the children of a sort of sameness. Ihope that they did okay--most would be around 80 or 85 by now, if they survived.
I'm not sure how to investigate this right off-hand, but I think that there is a special category in the history of art, subcat history of art and technology, subcat history of computer art, subcat using the image of the computer in art. The image above comes from the front cover of one of the early issues of the "new" Physics Today magazine (volume 2, number 10), in October 1949--it is the artwork of Paul Bond, who created this portrait of a juggler "on a matrix sheet used for plotting computor [sic] plug board diagrams", and is one of 11 such images. It illustrates an interesting article by pioneers R.D. Richtmyer and N.C. Metropolis ("Modern Computing"). Richtmyer/Metropolis have a very sober approach to the computer--mostly speaking about the ENIAC--and address its romance, possibilities, but seemingly (to me) most of all "a need for defining the limits of computing machine operation, as well as its promise". In effect, then, the authors really only address the known quantities of computing capacity in 1949, and even though tempted by looking into the future, they really do not. Their vision of the future is very pragmatic: when speaking to future applications, they conclude "by their very nature, these applications are not easy to foresee, and perhaps, therefore, this is the point at which this discussion should close".
Certainly there have been much earlier images of automated steam-driven robots with some sort of calculating brain, and images of imaginative computer-like objects...but art made by the computer seems to come a fair bit later than this issue, later still than what might be considered the first art generated via the computer (which were images made from manipulating an oscilloscope) in 1952. In any event, I think at the very least that the Bond artwork is very curious, interesting, and probably very early for what it is.
(Almost) in the beginning were monsters.The epic battle that Moses wages early on is not with Pharaohs, but with the dragon(s?) that the creator itself had fought on the opening whisper of creation (Book of Job 26:12, Psalms 89:10) and who would again meet at the very last bits of the closing days.Behemoth, Leviathan, Rehab may all well have been monsters to these ancient folks, but they very well might look like rhinoceros or crocs or hippos to us.Monster demons like Rehab (Psalm 87:4), a slaughtering beast who would be reintroduced to a different part of the world as Tiamar who would or could also be known as the Red Sea, lifted straight from Mesopotamian mythology and placed directly into that of the Old Testament among the rest of the borrowed stories and beliefs, a problem by any other name.
Following names and their cyclonic twists, and absences and sudden re-emergence through the history of storytelling is dizzying—just consult your Robert Graves on myths if you want to have your memory plumbed (the great poet and writer doing not such a poetical or writerly job in this effort in my opinion though most people love it). Keeping an eye on the mix and mash of gods and goddess and associated super beings from thousands of years ago, the god of the Old Testament makes it very clear and precise about just who he is in his self-introduction to Moses:“I am the God thy Father, the God ofAbraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6)
Equally almost in the beginning, again so far as the Bible is concerned, are colors—before that maybe everything was black and white, or just white, or maybe just black, depending on your epistemological concept of everythingness or nothingness. (It looks like green may be the first color mentioned in the bible, (Gen 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so) though the mixing up of meat and veggie is a little confusing to me.))
Over the years color names themselves have creepethed among themselves like a vocabularic ocean, a fluid dynamic of naming. Names have flowed across their individual spectra, some names sticking, some not; the originator of the concept of the naming of "red", the original namer of the color, lost to the earliest and deepest part f the collective human memory.
I don't know where many of the names of colors come from, or why. Index to Color Names and Color Numbers of the Standard and Season Color Cards of America (published and created by the Textile Color Card Association), and published in 1923, is filled with color names whose meaning and origin are a mystery and whose necessity seem to hinge on sunspots. Which is fine, though it might be interesting to have had color names more dependent on that which went before. Like the names of the streets on most of Connecticut Avenue in D.C. are alphabetical, and once the first 26 letters or so are monosyllabicly employed, the second set starts with two syllables, and then three. It is a system that usefully indicates where long the long avenue you might be. It might be useful to employ such a method in color names; or not.
And I suspect it would be "or not", unless the poetry and art and music inherent in these formulations would be imaginatively employed
But on to the color names: Ambulance, Basketball, Bosom, Cowboy, Squirrel, Chit, Old, Nymph, Old mephisto, Pelt, Racket are examples of some of the mystery colors.
Some names which were part of institutionalized racism I'm sure are now gone: Arab, Negro, African; Bagdahd (?), Bombay Brown, Coolie Yellow, Coolie, Congo Brown, Egyptian Husk, Hankow (yellow), Kyoto Yellow, Korea Yellow, Mandarin Yellow, Punjab Brown, Kafir, Tar Baby.
But I've got to say, even though the names may not have much to do with the colors, most of the names in the pamphlet sound quite lovely, and many are yummy: London Smoke, Log Cabin, Leadville, Madonna, Naked, Pitchpine, Pompeii, Prelate, Smoked Pearl, Swamp, Lucky Stone, to name a few. Overall I doubt that this is what Newton, Goethe, Chevreul, Rood, Maxwell and the rest had in mind when they were figuring out what color *is*, but I do think that all of them had large enough poetic natures (Newton the weakest and Goethe by far the strongest) to appreciate the occasional beauty of naming. The unbelievable Shakespeare seems not to have spent that much time on color (so far as I know, and I don;'t much about the Bard), but (in a dear-sweet-god understatement) other people did: people like Richard Feynman synesthesically thought in mathematical color terms, others created musical instruments which would produce color from music while most of the rest of the world produced music which conveyed color, and on and on. And then of course there's the whole world of art.
But I won't go there now--I just wanted to follow this loose thread in what seemed to be a pretty inert pamphlet--in the end it opened itself to a lot of possibilities with just a little thinking.
I've addressed the ideas of early mechanical men elsewhere in this blog (just enter "robot" in the site search box at left and you'll find two or three dozen related posts on the subject), but failed to include this very fine and early example by William Heath in his March of Intellect series (printed from 1825-1829).
He was particularly bitter about what he saw as an aristocracy of official ruination, and created an unusual steam-driven mechanical man with a book-driven intellect that swept up the great "rubbish" and "dust" of society. At the top of this early robot (preceding the invention of the term by about 100 years) was a pile of books with a "crown of many towers", which was London University, beneath which was a set of gas-light eyes, iron arms, and legs made of printer's tools, sweeping away useless and insulting lawyers and jurists and their legal wigs and obsolete and repetitive rules, medical quacks, and the dust of other official abuses, "sweeping rubbish from the land".
Another near-robotic image by Heath is his pre-Rube Goldberg automatic house, a central feature in the March of the Intellect No.2 (1829) which features fantastic flying machines hovering and screaming past the house.
[Source: Graphic Arts Collection, Princeton University libraries, here]
It isn't a robot unless you consider the entire house as a host for all of the things going on inside itself, and then you have something else entirely.
The beautifully and accurately named Rubber Tipped Arrow Company supplied an assortment of parlor games for children (and adults) for "perfectly harmless" shooting. The truth is that I really liked the image of progression of shooters, reminding me a little of the "Ages of Man" prints. This appears in the advertising section of the Scientific American for 3 August 1890--two issue before their famous cover showing Herman Hollerith's critical calculating machines at use in the American census.
And this ad, from one of their competitors, found in The American Stationer, 1889, page 957: