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A Brief History of Robots Making Music, From Ancient Egypt to Modern Day Berlin

We made an infographic to show what windup monkeys and Daft Punk have in common.
Ben Ruby

Robots are fucking awesome. They assemble our cars and vacuum our floors, one day, we will probably be having copious sex with them (this guy probably already has). But unlike cleaning and copulating, robots suffer when it comes to the fine arts. Besides those janky, slightly terrifying anthropomorphic-animal bands singing happy birthday at pizza places, when has a robot ever actually made music though?


Well, as it turns out, for quite a long time—but that depends on your definition of "robot."

Speaking to THUMP, Mike Fabio, who wrote on the history of robots in music at Cambridge's Massachusetts Institute of Technology, defines a robot as any device that can perform mechanical tasks automatically.

With roots in ancient technology from Egypt and Iraq, humans have developed increasingly complicated robots that produce sound—from simple automata like music boxes, to MIDI-controlled heavy metal bands like Berlin's Compressorhead. Check out our brief history of robots and music below.

Infographic by Ben Ruby.

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