The history of robots has its roots as far back as ancient myths and legends. Modern concepts were begun to be developed when the Industrial Revolution allowed the use of more complex mechanics and the subsequent introduction of electricity made it possible to power machines with small compact motors. After the 1920s the modern formulation of a humanoid machine was developed to the stage where it was possible to envisage human sized robots with the capacity for near human thoughts and movements, first envisaged millennia before. The first uses of modern robots were in factories as industrial robots - simple fixed machines capable of manufacturing tasks which allowed production without the need for human assistance. Digitally controlled industrial robots and robots making use of artificial intelligence have been built since the 1960s.
Chinese accounts relate a history of automata back to the 10th century BC when Yan Shi is credited with making an automaton resembling a human in an account from the Lie Zi text.
Western and Eastern civilisations have concepts of artificial servants and companions with a long history. Many ancient mythologies include artificial people, such as the mechanical servants built by the Greek god Hephaestus (Vulcan to the Romans), the clay golems of Jewish legend and clay giants of Norse legend.
Likely fictional, the Iliad illustrates the concept of robotics by stating that the god Hephaestus made talking mechanical handmaidens out of gold. Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum is reputed to have built a mechanical pigeon around 400 BC, possibly powered by steam, capable of flying. The clepsydra was made in 250 BC by Ctesibius of Alexandria, a physicist and inventor from Ptolemaic Egypt. Heron of Alexandria (10–70 AD) created programmable devices in the late 1st century AD, including one that allegedly could speak.
Aristotle took up an earlier reference in Homer's Iliad and speculated that automatons could someday bring about human equality by making the abolition of slavery possible in his book Politics (ca. 322 BC).