Posts Tagged ‘1954’

1954 – “Homko” Robot Remote-controlled Lawnmower – (American)

homko remote mower 1954   Homko Robot Remote controlled Lawnmower   (American)

homko remote mower x220 1954   Homko Robot Remote controlled Lawnmower   (American)

homko robot lawnmower 1953 press 1 x640 1954   Homko Robot Remote controlled Lawnmower   (American)

Want to lie in your hammock and mow the lawn in repose? The Homko Robot mower can be maneuvered by a remote control panel, one lever for forward, stop and reverse, and another for right and left. Since the cord that attaches this brain to the mower is 40 feet long, you can mow 40 feet in any direction without getting up. You get exercise just the same—mental-from trying to keep the thing from cutting its own cord.
Text Source: Kiplinger's Personal Finance, April 1954.

See other early remote-controlled and robotic lawn mowers here.


1954 – Radio-controlled Lawnmower – William M. Brobeck (American)

Brobeck Auto Lawn Mower 1954 x640 1954   Radio controlled Lawnmower   William M. Brobeck (American)

William "Bill" M. Brobeck  joined the UC Berkeley lab in 1937 and moved several years later to Orinda with his late wife, Jane Knox.
Their home became a local landmark in the mid-1950s, after Mr. Brobeck used his engineering talents to build an automatic lawn mower.
Neighborhood kids would gather outside the couple's backyard to watch the lawn mower effortlessly trim two large patches of grass. Mr. Brobeck had buried wires beneath the lawn that guided the automatic mower.
After leaving the Berkeley lab in 1957, Mr. Brobeck formed his own engineering company, Brobeck & Associates, and later founded the Cyclotron Corp. in 1965. The Cyclotron Corp. helped create practical uses for cyclotrons in cancer treatment and other medical uses.
He retired in 1988, holding 22 patents and an honorary degree from UC Berkeley.
Mr. Brobeck is survived by his wife, Gloria Brown Brobeck of Orinda; a son, Bill Brobeck of Moraga; two daughters, Kathy Brobeck of Massachusetts and Betts Coury of Oregon; and two grandchildren.

brobeck 1954 lawnmower x549 1954   Radio controlled Lawnmower   William M. Brobeck (American)

Brobeck's professional interests and bursting ingenuity extended way beyond the field of accelerator design. In 1972, for instance, he was hired by the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop pollution-free vehicles. Even in his retirement years Brobeck continued to design gadgets that made him as famous in his neighborhood as accelerators did in the world of science. Among them: an automated lawn mower that could start up by itself, head out onto the lawn and mow it before going back, turning itself off and recharging its battery. He also invented an automatic record changer and a car that ran on both gas and electricity.

The May 1955 issue of Popular Mechanics (p155)  featured William Brobeck's lawn mower.

brobeck mower popmech may55 x640 1954   Radio controlled Lawnmower   William M. Brobeck (American)

Self-Guided Mower Follows Electrical Cord Laid in Lawn
Electrical cord laid in the lawn guides an automatic lawn mower built by William Brobeck of Orinda, Calif. Separate motors supplied by another cord attached to a reel on the mower drive the two wheels. Each motor is connected to a coil that picks up the induced current from the electric cord. The coils, wound in opposite directions, cancel each other out if the mower exactly straddles the electric cord. If the mower goes off to one side, one of the motors is checked long enough to bring the machine back into line. The mower, which will cut an entire lawn without attention, cuts alternate swaths as it moves in toward the center of the lawn and mows the remaining portions on its return trip. Additional coils, an audio amplifier, a transformer, sensitive switches and relays are used in the system.

Bill's son William I. Brobeck has followed in his father's footstep by designing and patenting an automatic tennis court drying machine:

US 7454846 B2

Publication number US7454846 B2
Publication date Nov 25, 2008
Filing date Apr 10, 2007
Priority date Apr 11, 2006


An apparatus and method for automatically drying a tennis court or other flat surface after rainfall is provided. A robotic vehicle cooperates with a sensing unit preferably mounted on a fence adjacent the court or other paved surface. A sensing unit detects the onset and cessation of rain and then waits a predetermined amount of time. After waiting, the sensing unit transmits a signal to the robotic vehicle which actuates the vehicle. The robotic vehicle includes an on-board controller which is internally programmed with a map of the court including obstructions. The robotic vehicle automatically sponge rolls the entire court. A thermal imaging camera connected to the sensing unit then scans the court to determine if any wet spots remain. The location of any remaining wet spots is recorded and transmitted to the on-board controller of the robotic vehicle. The robotic vehicle then returns to the location of the wet spots and automatically sponge rolls and fan dries those remaining wet spots. The robotic vehicle then returns to a storage unit on or adjacent the paved surface where it is recharged and waits for further use.

 1954   Radio controlled Lawnmower   William M. Brobeck (American)

See other early remote-controlled and robotic lawn mowers here.


1954 – Programmed Article Transfer Patent – George C. Devol Jr. (American)

 1954   Programmed Article Transfer Patent   George C. Devol Jr. (American)

Programmed Article Transfer by George C. Devol Jr. See full patent details here.

Patent number: 2988237
Filing date: Dec 10, 1954
Issue date: Jun 13, 1961

engelberger devol unimate 1954   Programmed Article Transfer Patent   George C. Devol Jr. (American)

Joseph Engelberger on the left, George Devol Jr on the right – c1960

[Image credit: The Estate of George C. Devol]

In the patent, Devol wrote, "the present invention makes available for the first time a more or less general purpose machine that has universal application to a vast diversity of applications where cyclic digital control is desired."

Devol's patent for the first digitally operated programmable robotic arm represents the foundation of the modern robotics industry.

At the suggestion of Devol's wife, Evelyn, the word "Unimate" was coined to define the product. 

In 1960, Devol personally sold the first Unimate robot, which was shipped in 1961 from Danbury, Connecticut to General Motors.

See the rest of the story in my later post on "UNIMATE" [TBC].

1954, March – “Positioning or Manipulating Apparatus” patent by Cyril Kenward (British)

kenward robot 52 x640 1954, March – Positioning or Manipulating Apparatus patent by Cyril Kenward (British)

Another early patent that looks surprisingly modern was granted for a robot called 'Improvements in or relating to Positioning or Manipulating Apparatus' invented by Cyril W. Kenward. The British patent was filed March 29, 1954 and was published August 21, 1957, and preceded George Devol's first robot patent by several months. It is an interesting parallel that Britain, birthplace of the machine tool industry, would also pioneer the idea of robotics.
Hydraulically powered, this dual arm, gantry mounted robot was years ahead of its time. The patent even speaks of robot self-replication. Featuring detachable grippers and gantry mounting, it could well be used as an illustration for a current research contract proposal. Another key feature of this design was complete internal porting of hydraulics and internal wiring, problems that went unaddressed in early hydraulic robots and often is not achieved in modern day hydraulic robots. Figure above shows the six-axes, hydraulically powered arm in cross section.

Text source: Robot Evolution: The Development of Anthrobotics By Mark E. Rosheim, 1994

Kenward robot pat 2 x640 1954, March – Positioning or Manipulating Apparatus patent by Cyril Kenward (British)

Interesting that some comments made around this patent is that it was not successful.  It should be noted that the patent was only a British patent, and not filed in the US or other countries. When the "Versatran" and "Unimate" robots were to be imported into the UK in 1967, these clearly infringed the Kenward patent. It was reported at the time that this matter was resolved by a "cash payment". Further, the author of the article, Douglas Hall, adds "It did, however, illustrate how people in britain often have good ideas for inventions but then have to sit on the sidelines as noone is prepared to back them".

1954 – Square Walking Wheel – Albert Sfredda (American)

square wheel PMapr70 x640 1954   Square Walking Wheel   Albert Sfredda (American)

Source: Popular Mechanics, April 1970.

1- SQUARE WHEELS WORK BETTER than round ones in this system for use on rough terrain- The sharp-cornered treads dig in on snow, mud, sand or steep grades, providing increased traction for trucks, tanks and other military vehicles. At the same time, ingenious self-leveling geometry provides a smooth ride on even surfaces. Each wheel is driven by a pinion gear engaging a star-shoped ring gear. 
Mounted on a floating axle, the wheel automatically rides upward os the corners approach the ground and downward as the flat segments come around. This produces the effect of a round wheel with all parts of the tread equidistant to the ground, thus permitting the use of high speeds on a level terrain.

Sfredda Square Wheel x640 1954   Square Walking Wheel   Albert Sfredda (American)

Patent number: 2786540
Filing date: May 13, 1954
Issue date: Mar 26, 1957
See full patent details here.

See all Walking Wheels and Walking Machines listed here.