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  1. 1. ROBOTS First published November 2005 Robots are machines that can be controlled or programmed to carry out physical functions usually carried out by humans - they can be good guys or bad guys. They are used in industry and technology; they can be toys or characters in fiction and the media. The first robot appeared in a stage play in 1921 and robotic devices have been widely used in industry, often to do work that is dangerous or repetitive, since the 1950s. ROBOTS IN THE BRITISH PATHE ARCHIVE A Search for robot(s) in the British Pathe Archive gives over 90 robot stories from the 1930s until 1969. They include stories about new inventions, gadgets, robot weapons, space exploration buggies, toys and robots in art. There are some USA and European stories but mostly they are British. Also search using the keywords ‘automation’ and ‘radio controlled’. ROBOT PLOUGH 25/08/1930 902.19 A new automatic ploughing machine is demonstrated TIN SOLDIERS OF TODAY 16/06/1932 1592.09 Quirky story about metal dummies used to test the heat retaining properties of army uniforms THE FACE OF THINGS - TO COME! (ALPHA THE ROBOT) 06/12/1934 2881.03 Alpha the Robot answers questions from a man and flirts with a girl - dupe of PSP 870. WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT? NO. 14 05/07/1934 1630.24 Huge mural takes shape in Manchester, a one-boy bus and a robot man startles the suburbs THE FACE OF THINGS - TO COME! 06/12/1934 1638.10 Odd story about a talking robot with curly hair answering questions ROBOT RADIOS 06/12/1948 1261.35 Inventor John Sargrove and the mass production of his radio invention by machines ROBOT 18/12/1950 1283.11 Excellent footage of radio controlled robot in Saffron Waldren, Essex ROBOT 18/12/1950 3398.04 Excellent footage of radio controlled robot in Saffron Walden, Essex. ROBOT SENSATION 1952 2636.07
  2. 2. Good item showing robot in Innsbruck. Austria GARAGE ROBOT 14/09/1953 1337.25 Saluting robot stands outside a petrol station in Stratford St Mary, Suffolk SCHOOLBOYS EXHIBITION (beware - other Colour Pics share this title) 13/02/1956 203.13 A robot and a model aircraft carrier at The Schoolboys' Exhibition EMETT'S IDEAL HOME 25/02/1957 59.03 Comic strip style inventor presents totally insane construction - automatic home. Excellent GENTLE GIANT (aka ROBOT) 20/10/1958 81.04 A demonstration of a new robot which can do many things including sing and dance THE STUDENT'S DALEK (aka ROBOT BOOK SELLER) 14/06/1964 283.02 An item about a remote controlled robot used to sell student rag magazines in Coventry LONDON - ALL SET FOR SANTA (aka CHRISTMAS TOY FAIR) 07/11/1965 1822.07 Children visit Christmas Toy Fair at London hotel. FILM NOW, LAND LATER 27/11/1966 2013.28 NASA takes photographs of the moon & Tinker, the robot, goes shopping in Leeds ROBOT BOY 25/05/1967 409.08 A home-made 'Robot Boy' and a Dalek come face to face in a suburban garden. NIGHTMARE ROBOTS 16/05/1968 429.14 Comedian Bruce Lacey shows us his surreal home-made robots OUT TAKES / CUTS FROM CP 689 - THE AGE OF THE ROBOT, PING- PONG PERFECTION and INDUSTRIAL ONE ARMED BANDIT MISS HONEYWELL 27/06/1968 455.06 Robot girl Miss Honeywell demonstrates computer equipment at an Olympia Exhibition. INVENTORS' EXHIBITION 13/01/1969 2065.27 Lots of new handy gadgets on show at the Inventors' Exhibition. London. ROBOT LAWN MOWER 1969 3326.09 Pat Alley demonstrates his remote control garage door and device for mowing entire lawn. THE ORIGIN OF THE WORD ROBOT
  3. 3. Karel Capek (1890 – 1938) was a Czechoslovakian writer who coined the word robot in his play RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots) written in1921. The idea of using the Czech word ‘robota’ meaning drugery or servitude was suggested by Karel’s brother Joseph. In the play has a complex narrative in which the robots take over the world but finding that they cannot re-produce have to seek help from the last remaining human. Capek’s Robots are chemically produced - more like genetic engineering than the mechanical metal robots that derived from them. Check it out at and The robots in RUR, (the 1923 New York staging of the play) try to negotiate with the last human. Picture from ces/RUR/ A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL ROBOTS The first radio controlled vehicles were built by Nikola Tesla in the 1890's. The first industrial modern robots were the Unimates developed by George Devol and Joe Engelberger in the late 50's and early 60's. see In recent times robots are usually controlled by computer programmes and can have a capacity to ‘learn’ e.g. Sony’s toy dogs - luckily there’s lots of cheaper versions. Robots are being developed at a micro level (nanotechnology) to create tiny robots that can be inserted into a
  4. 4. human being to repair, for instance arteries. In space exploration robots are used to explore the surface of distant planets. e.g. the Cassini mission at or ISO standard 8373 defines an industrial robot as an ‘automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulator programmable in three or more axes’. HISTORY OF ROBOTS IN FILM and TV The fascination with robots in films, comics, TV and literature is often with the threat that having acquired physical capabilities they might somehow take on human feelings and powers of thought, break free of the control of humans and even take over the world! The ancient legend of the Golem describes an animated man of clay, mentioned in the Talmud (ancient Jewish text). Metropolis ~ 1926 The first robot on film. The great silent movie Metropolis by the Director Fritz Lang depicts a world in which industrialisation serves the few and enslaves the many. The inventor, Rotwang, creates as seductive robot without a soul...view on... The 1930s. The age of the Depression and film Robots appeared in television and film usually as the tools of evil forces against which the heroes fight and prevails. e.g. the Flash Gordon series and one of the first TV robots ‘The Phantom Creeps’ starring Gene Autry. Aldous Huxley’s novel ‘Brave New World’ published in 1932 developed the chemical method of creating robots originated by Capek. The 1940s. The period of the Second World War and the fight against fascism. The 1950s. The great period of Science Fiction movies and the rise of consumerism. 1951: In "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (20th Century Fox), a flying saucer lands in Washington D.C. releasing Gort a menacing and invincible yet protective figure. Humanoid alien Klaatu and the robot Gort must determine the fate of all earthlings. 1956: Robots appear as friendly or likeable for the first time. The feature film "Forbidden Planet" (MGM) introduced, "Robby, the Robot," who
  5. 5. has super-human powers but clearly is under human control. "Robby's" design had a profound impact on the toy market and was the first movie prop to be heavily merchandized and targeted to both children and adults. The 1960’s. Swinging robots, “fab, gear, man...” The great year of 1966 In the UK ‘Dr Who’ introduced The Daleks, the UK tv’s finest robotic villains In the USA: ‘Lost in Space’ television series the bodyguard/servant robot B-9 (early version of C-3PO and R2-D2) saves the day for the humans in every episode. Across the Galaxies: ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’ by Stanley Kubrick, in which HAL the computer knows all... The Iron Man was written by the poet Ted Hughes in 1968 1970s. the Star Wars decade. "Futureworld". The robot gunslingers show the dark side of robot ‘life’ while in 1977 'droids "R2-D2" and "C-3PO" provide the comic support in George Lucas' "Star Wars" (20th Century-Fox). ‘The Stepford Wives’ had men turning their wives into obedient replicants (1972) 1980’s. The fight against evil goes on... In the 1980’s life got a little darker and films explored situations where human heroes sought to overcome evil. "Terminator" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Blade Runner" (1982) with replicants and "Robocop" (1987) in which the hero is resuscitated through implants and electronic limbs. A comic robot: Marvin the Paranoid Android in ‘The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy’ 1990’s Bender the Robot in the animated tv series ‘Futurama’ XR, the indestructable, self healing sidekick robot of Buzz Lightyear in ‘Toy Story’. ROBOT NAME GENERATOR Robots just love acronyms, techie sounding names and number sequences such as C3PO, R2D2 and the dog robot K9 (a good pun). Acronyms are where the letters of the name stand for a descriptive
  6. 6. set of words – e.g. LASER = Light Amplification by Secondary Emission by Radiation. Robot name generator: go to pop in your teacher’s name and see what it stands for in pseudo sci-tech jargon. THE SOUND OF SCIENCE FICTION Robots love sounds...bleeps and peeps and mechanical voices - like the Daleks, “exterminate”.... In the film ‘The Day the Earth stood Still’ the theremin (the first electronic instrument) was used to produce the other-world electronic sound that has become identified with science fiction film. For more on theremins see the Pathe Starter on ‘Recorded Sound’. GLOSSARY AI = artificial intelligence Android, ‘droids (Anthropomorphic Robot) or humanoids - robots that look like humans. Animatronics Lifelike creations made for films such as Jaws, ET and some of the Jurassic Park animals. Also used for some of the display in the Disney theme parks. Good article with examples at These sort of animal effects are usually done by CGI (=computer generated imagery) digital effects now. Automaton or Automata name used to describe machines that work automatically. They include the Victorian drawing-room mechanical toys like singing birds in cages. Automation the general term for the introduction of machines to take over the work in factories, transport housework etc. Bionic (contraction of bio-electronics) as in the Bionic Man. Control The word used in Design and Technology for ways of controlling electronic/mechanical devices. Cybernetics: study of communication, control and feedback; e.g. the governor on an engine measures and controls the speed. Cyborg (from Cybernetic organism) (or ‘borg’ for short) a person who is part machine or a robot who is part human Mass production Mass production was the aim and result of the industrial revolution using power to drive machines to make goods. Led to the creation of the industrial cities and large numbers of workers in factories.
  7. 7. Replicants Artificially created beings who cannot be told from real humans. See Blade Runner. Robot (sometimes shortened to ‘bots’) A machine with human capabilities. Comes from the Czech word meaning drudgery or servitude. Robot in some South African countries ‘robot’ means traffic lights. The Robot Institute of America, 1979, defined a robot as “A reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move material, parts, tools, or specialized devices through various programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks" Robot performers or robotronix Performers who act as robots ~ often in public spaces such as Covent Garden in London Robotics the science of making robotic devices Web robots Web Robots are programs that traverse the Web automatically. Some people call them Web Wanderers, Crawlers or Spiders. See for detailed techie info on web robots. Asimov’s Laws of Robotics Isaac Asimov is one of the great Science Fiction writers of the 20th century. The word 'robotics' was first used in ‘Runaround’, a short story published in 1942. ‘I, Robot’, a collection of several of these stories, was published in 1950. The film of ‘I Robot’ was launched this year 2004 starring Will Smith. Asimov also proposed the "Laws of Robotics" Law Zero: A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm. Law One: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, unless this would violate a higher order law. Law Two: A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with a higher order law. Law Three: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with a higher order law. WEBSITES
  8. 8. Selected, but teachers should review first... Many sites are USA in origin and many contain adverts and sales. To restrict search to UK search for ‘Robots UK’ on search engines. Robot Hall of Fame: A great site with videos and quality photos of Asimo, Shakey, Astro Boy, Robby the Robot and C-3PO How Stuff Works Play the online robot your own robot and then play the game at the Royal Society lecture 2000 website science/microsites/R/robots/ uses ‘Shockwave’. The Robby the Robot site Some other websites ... teachers first... Robots Net very large site very detailed.... Robotics USA education site...D&T-type technical stuff... Android World another vast site bursting with ideas (and sounds); basically a selling site...but has vast array of info and could build your own android at a price... We are robots. flash humour short cartoons of robot characters