The Origins of Simulation

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I’ve recently published a new article on LinkedIn exploring the origins of simulation.  Modern simulation tools and techniques are almost exclusively computer-based but the origins of simulation lie in in the remarkable achievements of two 18th century inventors, Jacques de Vaucanson and Wolfgang von Kempelen.

A longer version of this article will form part of the opening chapter of my new book on the history of automation and robotics.  This chapter will trace the origins of robotics through the development of automata and mechanical toys.  I’m pleased to report that I’ve now completed the first draft of this chapter and have started work on Chapter 2 which will cover the mechanisation of the textiles industry and the advent of the factory system during the Industrial Revolution.

New Book Taking Shape

Boston Dynamics Atlas RobotI’ve recently completed a detailed outline for my second book and am now in the process of writing the opening chapter.  Having completed The Story of the Computer back in 2015, I’ve kept my authorial hand in by penning the occasional article for LinkedIn but haven’t written anything substantial so I’m really enjoying the discipline of writing every day again.

The subject of the new book is the history of automation and robotics.  Unlike the history of the computer, this topic hasn’t been covered very widely by other authors.  There are a handful of books available on the history of the robot but none of these include the development of automation technology and in my opinion it is impossible to separate the two.  A robot is a specific example of automation technology, one which can perform a complex sequence of actions automatically without manual intervention.  Robots which can operate with a high degree of autonomy, so-called autonomous robots, are arguably the highest form of automation technology.  Therefore, in order to cover the history of the robot as comprehensively as possible, it’s necessary to examine it within the wider context of automation.

I’ve been fortunate to work with robots and other forms of automation technology extensively during my career as an R&D engineer so I have a reasonable baseline knowledge from which to start.  Nevertheless, a huge amount of research will be required in order to chart the evolution of this fascinating subject.  Some of this has been completed already during the course of creating the outline of the book but there is still much to do.

Here’s a brief summary of the new book:-

It begins by tracing the origins of automation and robotics through the development of automata and mechanical toys.  The mechanisation of the textiles industry and the advent of the factory system during the Industrial Revolution are then described.  The story continues with the development of automatic control technologies before moving on to factory automation and industrial robots.  The book then focuses on the evolution of anthropomorphic robots before bringing the subject up to date with the development of UAVs, AGVs and Self-Driving Cars.  The final chapter examines the application of digital technologies to manufacturing in what is now being referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

I’ll keep you posted on progress.