In the Plot
Apparently Agatha had been attempting to produce a clank like Prime for some time at the story start, and in fact had made some progress even before her locket was stolen. Like the Search Engine, Prime's initial revision was completed in one of the to which Agatha was prone while "easing through".
It came with Agatha when she escaped from Castle Wulfenbach, and continued to build while Agatha traveled with the Circus, thus accounting for the ease and completeness with which Agatha's designs for defense systems for the Circus were implemented. Agatha had been able to improve it by referring to van Rijn’s notes. It’s not clear what specific improvements were made, though one of them may have been the clank's initial musical ability.
Dingbot Prime is far from infallible. In Sturmhalten, Prime follows Agatha's order to open her cell door even though Agatha has been released before Prime completes the task. Prime thus releases Agatha's former cellmates, Lady Vrin and Eotain and Shurdlu, allowing them to capture Agatha and subjugate her to the Other. Further, it is Dingbot Prime who activates Agatha's (unfortunately sabotaged) signal device, complicating the conflict with the Baron. However, Agatha is able to use one of her periods of lucidity to modify Prime to produce dingbots that could also make her music, giving her a defense against the takeover of her brain.
Speculation: Infinite Primes?
Since Prime has a penchant for stowing away in Mechanicsburg is Dingbot Prime. Readers assumed that Dingbot Prime had managed to escape with Agatha from Sturmhalten to Mechanicsburg., readers generally understood that the prime-like dingbot who Agatha's coffee making diversion in
However, more recently, Gil of a prime-like dingbot in one part of Castle Heterodyne at virtually the same time that Agatha in another part of the Castle. This suggests that there is at least a second prime-like Dingbot. Gil that he picked his up in Sturmhalten. If true, that suggests that the prime-like dingbot in the coffee shop in Mechanicsburg was Deuce Dingbot and that Gil has Dingbot Prime.
However, there could easily be more than two such prime-like dingbots. One hypothesis suggests that Agatha builds a version of Prime before attempting any major project.
There are at least two, it seems--though they didn't know about each other, and are very competitive over the title of "Dingbot Prime" (i.e., they start a miniature war over it).
The prime Dingbots. While the Dingbot Prime (Known as Deuce Dingbot in this wiki) Agatha carried with her in Castle Heterodyne has one hinge in each arm, the other Dingbot Prime that Gil picked up in Sturmhalten and released in Castle Heterodyne has two hinges in each arm.
Abilities and Limitations
Chief among Prime's abilities is the abilitydingbots, though the copies tend to be moderately inferior. All dingbots are of other machinery, and Prime is presumably better than most.
Although Dingbot Prime's intelligence is surely an example of the way in which a "strong Heterodyne" can "truly warp laws of nature", it does apparently need to be wound regularly (though this may have been reduced by a subsequent improvement), and its own dingbot procreations are inferior to itself.
In a recent strip, Gil and Tarvek theorize that the Primes actually possess a rudimentary Spark, a belief that seems to be proven correct when they begin exhibiting "other Sparky behavior" (violence, unruliness, and egomania).