Robots have certainly revolutionized the modern workplace. There is no doubt that robotics is here to stay and will continue to evolve with waves of technology being released every few years. Robots have been integrated into many industries and there is a bit of surprise at how rapidly the technology is evolving.

A journey down history shows that the industrial robot arm has undergone several significant changes over the years. In the health sector, the robotic arm is the surgical end effector. The robotic arm of yore has morphed into a sophisticated technological tool today and is expected to evolve even more. Players in this sector need to be informed and to keep abreast.

The Intriguing History of Robots

Almost everyone in the world can claim to have seen a robot in action. Whether they are talking about The Terminator or Robot Cop doesn’t really matter. Hollywood has played a huge role in bringing robotic characters right into our living rooms. They have given us a glimpse of what could be.

The robots of today can be used for tasks such as:

  • Massage therapy
  • Vehicle assembly
  • Manufacturing
  • Code analysis
  • Surgery
  • Space exploration
  • Military operations
  • Domestic work

The earliest robots were not built for such complicated (in some cases) tasks. Their purpose was mainly to tell time and to entertain humans. However, these simple beginnings gave birth to possibilities and the evolution of robots began in earnest.

The Egyptian Water Clock

This is one of the earliest documented cases of robotics in history. The pharaohs are involved in this one, naturally, with first the robotic water clock being found in the tomb of Amenhotep. This was circa 1500 BCE.

A container with measurement lines was filled with water which dripped over time. The measurement was used to tell the time. What was fascinating about this robotic invention was the force of the water. It would ring or bong on the hour with human figurines.

The Robotic Knight

This was Leonardo Da Vinci’s creation which he designed and built in 1495. The robot was able to sit, stand and move its arms with the aid of pulleys and cables.

Modern Automation in the 17th Century

The idea of robots eventually caught on and the western world. Jacques de Vaucanson, a French inventor, introduced automation to this part of the world with three automata.

  • The first one played up to 12 songs on a flute.
  • The second was able to play a tambourine, drum and flute.
  • The last one was a duck. It could flap its wings, move, quack and eat. Vaucanson’s duck sounded much like a baby doll.

Modern automation is credited to a German named Friedrich Kauffman who designed a robot that looked like a soldier. The soldier blew a trumpet using automatic elbows.

Advancements in Mechanical Programming

Ada Lovelace, the Countess of Lovelace, is credited with advancing mechanical programming. She was an English mathematician who became famous for writing the first algorithm for the Analytic Engine.

The engine was a computer for general purpose and was first suggested by the countess’s husband, Charles Babbage, also a mathematician. The countess, however, was the one who recognized the functions of the machine and was able to explain it to the British establishment. This was between 1842 and 1843.

Although the machine was never completed, perhaps owing to the death of the countess, it paved the way for the modern digital computer.

The Remote Control Era

Nikola Tesla torpedo that was operated via remote control in 1898 and tele-automation was born. It was however in 1921 when the term robot was used for the first time. It was put forth by a Czech writer named Karel Capek to describe automata in his fiction works. Another writer, Isaac Asimov came up with the term robotics in 1942.


First forward to the modern times, a programming language called C-10 was developed for UNIVAC I by Ida Rhodes in 1950. In the same year, George Devol invented Unimate. This was the first industrial robot and ultimately became the most important of the robotic invention in history.

Today, robots have become essential in the workplace as most industries have adopted them. In fact, many industries especially manufacturing cannot do without them.