The prototype Sparko, as distinguished by the dents and course finish of the side of his body.
Its been suggested by others that Sparko only moved his hind legs, and that his front 'paws' were rollers. From photographic evidence, I believe Sparko was built faithful to the diagram above, as there are the slots giving room for a walking motion, plus the picture below which shows Sparko mid-gait with one leg raised. I will concede, though, that from around 1942 onwards, I cannot see one image of Sparko where his front legs are not parallel. Maybe the walking action of the front legs was disabled.
The above image shows Barnett, the creator of Elektro, with his daughter Mary Lou astride Sparko.
"Barney" Barnett with Sparko. Note Sparko's front legs showing partial stride, although he is sitting on his back legs.
Sparko was designed by Don Lee Hadley to be a companion to Westinghouse's Elektro at the 1939 World's Fair. It was modelled after Hadley's own Scotty dog.
There were three dogs made. The prototype, one for Elektro, and one for Willie Vocalite.
Sparko was operated the same way as Elektro. See the Elektro post for the details on this aspect here.
Sparko stands at the rear of the stage. The command circuits now connected to him and not Elektro. He is activacted with the usual start up sequence (3-1-2) "Hey,..Spar..ko,……it's(1)……your..turn.(2)". Note: the Operator had to be careful with the letter "s", as any s-s-s sibilance would be picked up electrically as multiple impulses.
The dog walked forward about five steps and stopped.
The operator tensaid, "Now..Spar..ko(3)……do(1)……your..tricks.(2)" Again the same 3-1-2 sequence to activate the next command. The dog barked, sat down, sat up and begged, turned his head, returned to sit, then turned his head and barked once, as if to say "How did I do, Master?". This usually ended the show for both Sparko and Elektro.
Elektro and Sparko in Chicago, 1955.
See Elektro (called "Barney" in this clip) and Sparko 1min 17sec into this clip. Thanks to David Buckley for locating this for me.
Scott Schaut's excellent book on Westinghouse robots ("Robots of Westinghouse – 1924 – today", 2006) gives a lot of detail and more pics which I wont include in this post.
Colour photo of Elektro at the 1939-40 World's Fair held in New York.
ELEKTRO- "the Moto-Man
This 260-lb. mechanical man at the New York World's Fair 1939 walks, talks, smokes, and selects colors! His anatomy includes an "electric eye," 48 relays, 11 motors, a microphone, grid-glow tube, and amplifiers.
THIS mighty automaton is never brain-weary because his brain lobes are 48 electrical relays. These devices do all the thinking for him; he merely obeys their promptings which are delivered through his nervous system of motors, levers, gears and chains. His spinal column is made of wire, and there's enough of it wound around his coils to encircle the world at the equator. His name?— "Elektro." He's "A Latin from . . . ." —Pittsburgh!
He stands 7 ft. high in his aluminum feet and has an 82-inch chest expansion. His chest, however, is always expanded because, like the rest of his body, it is made of aluminum over a steel frame. His feet are 18 inches long and half as broad. His food he takes from the nearest light socket, for Elektro is an electrical robot. He's the Westinghouse "Moto-Man."
All told, Elektro has a bag of 26 tricks. He not only walks forward, but he can back up just as readily. He bows his head as prettily as a debutante or turns it 45 degrees in either direction to gape like a rowdy. If in the mood, he will bring either hand up to his face in a patriotic salute, and if properly coached he will raise his hands and count on his fingers, bending them one at a time in approved finger-counting style.
Elektro's favorite colors are red and green. As a matter of fact, they are the only colors he sees, and when they are flashed with a light before his eyes he speaks out "red" or "green" as the case may be.
However, Elektro is at his prodigious best when it comes to smoking. He not only puffs and inhales, but he blows the smoke in billows from both nostrils.
But frankly Elektro is a dullard by comparison with any man, and he can never hope to compete with human intelligence and muscular control. There are 292 different muscles in the human body, capable in combination of producing unestimated thousands of different movements beyond the 500 most elementary motions. On the basis of Elektro's 260-pound weight and 26 tricks, he requires about 10 pounds for every motion.
Elektro's "brain" weighs approximately 60 pounds and occupies more than 4 cubic feet of space outside the robot's body. The "brain" or control unit includes an "electric eye," 48 electric relays and signal lights, in addition to the controlling photo-electric cell. According to J. M. Barnett, the inventor of the Westinghouse "Moto-man," the "brain" alone would have to contain 1,026 electric relays in order to "think" for a robot capable of duplicating the 500 elementary human motions. It would then weigh nearly half a ton, and occupy about 108 cu. ft. of space! He is "bossed" by human commands spoken softly into a microphone, jumps to obey, although there is no visible connection between the microphone and the robot.
Spoken words set up vibrations which are converted into electrical waves by a grid-glow tube. The electric impulse then lifts a shutter in front of an electric lamp and sends a flash of light across the room to a photoelectric tube or "electric eye" in the control unit (not shown) which serves as Elektro's brain.
The "electric eye" acts as a sensory nerve. It receives the light command, translates it into a feeble electric current which is amplified and sent on to the bank of relays. The relays, which operate on the same magnetic principle that makes the front door bell ring, close and open electric circuits to start Elektro's motors turning.
Talking to Elektro is like dialing an automatic telephone, using light impulses instead of numbers to cause the relays to act. It makes no difference what words are used to give the command so long as the proper number of light impulses are produced.
One word or impulse places a series of relays in position to act. Two words close the electrical circuit and release current to the motors employed in any particular movement of the robot. Three words activate relays to stop Elektro, and 4 words bring all of the relays back to their normal position of rest.
Signal lights on the control panel inform the operator which movement of the robot is next in sequence. By speaking single words or a series of words properly spaced, the operator can cause the relays to skip over any number of these "points of motion." When the light flashes over the desired "point of motion" on the control panel, a 2-word command will start the proper relay.
Just as the "electric eye" converts light waves into electric currents to put life into the robot, two other "electric eyes" enable it to discern colors. These photoelectric cells are placed directly back of Elektro's glass eye. A filter in front of one tube lets only the relatively hot rays from red light through to the cell. A filter in front of the other tube permits only the relatively cool heat waves of green light to reach the tube. When the proper lights are flashed in Elektro's eyes, one or the other of these "electric
eyes" energizes a relay to start a record revolving on a turntable to produce the word —"red" or "green."
WALKING AND TALKING
Electro's walking is accomplished by of 4 rubber rollers under each foot which are driven by chains and shafts connected to a motor in the middle of the automaton. Nine motors are required to operate the fingers, arms, head and turntables for talking. Another small motor works the bellows for Elektro's smoking.
Like some radio programs, Elektro does his talking by means of transcriptions. His speech usually lasts about 1 minute and uses only 75 words. He has 8 turntables, each of which could be used to give 10-minute talks. Actually, except for an opening talk of about a minute, his other speeches will be only a few seconds long. A solenoid (a tubular coil) activated by electrical impulses in proportion to the harshness or softness of spoken words makes Elektro's aluminum lips move in rhythm to his speech-making.
Automatons have indeed come a long way since Aristotle speculated upon the possibility of making mechanical men. Elektro's direct forebear is Willie Vocalite, a robot developed a few years ago in the Westinghouse research laboratories. Willie is voice-operated and can stand up and sit down, but he can't walk. Their common ancestor was named Televox, hut he responded only to sounds transmitted by telephone wires and went through life without an "electric eye."
These are actors on the stage of electrical living. The scientific principles which they dramatize are already quietly at work in industry. The Televox has now supplemented supervisory control in power transmission systems, enabling the system dispatcher to reroute the supply of electricity when a power line has been damaged. The "electric eye" and relays are employed in countless tasks of sorting, counting, and regulating, freeing human hands from monotonous and dangerous tasks. The sole reason for making Elektro was to dramatize the action of these sensitive electrical devices.
Elektro at the World's Fair. The start of a smoking habit. It's always a woman tempting him.
Elektro with Sparko.
Post card from 1956. Its the only mention of an especially built piano for Elektro that I'm aware of.
Elektro and Sparko did a lot of hospital visiting.
Like his predecessors, most of the electronics were located off-stage.
above: Happy family: Elektro, Sparko and their creator, Barney Barnett.
above: John Angel was the operator of Elektro in 1949.
It was said that Operators of Elektro had to clean out the cigarette tar from the tubing at the end of each performance, putting them off from smoking.
above: "Hi, pal!" says Mr. Elektro to J. M. Barnett, his creator. Three years were spent perfecting the mechanism which performs 36 tricks for visitors at the New York World's Fair 1939.
"Oil on the knee" is Mr. Elektro's affliction, but it is also an aid to his locomotion. Elektro's walking mechanism is given the once-over.
Elektro with Jean Dowling in 1954.
An attempt to get Elektro off smoking. The balloon trick was a later addition from 1941.
Elektro and Sparko in Chicago, 1955.
above: After some time in retirement, Elektro was shipped to Westinghouse's pavillion for Pacific Ocean Park in 1957 for the official opening in 1958. He was painted silver and had the chest hole squared off. He wasn't there long before becoming a movie star in "Sex Kittens" (see below).
"Sam Thinko" (Sequential Auxilliary Modulator) from "Sex Kittens Go to College". The motors to Elektro's legs had gone by this stage. See trailer clip here.
Here is a description of how the Operator interacts with Elektro. It is based on the video clip of Elektro at the 1939 World's Fair in New York.
Operator: "And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, with a great deal of pride and pleasure I present to you Elektro – the Westinghouse Moto-Man."
He puts the handset mouthpiece to his mouth and says, "Elektro ..(takes handset away for a second, then back up to his mouth again.
"Come…Here…" (as two distinct words with a slight pause between them. You cannot see the lamp inside Elektro's chest at this time.) You can here the humming sound of the motors as Elektro starts to move forward. He is actually being guided on a track embedded in the stage. The track ends in a turntable.
With the handset away from his mouth, he says, "And here he comes, Ladies and Gentlemen, walking up to greet you under his own power."
Once Elektro reaches the turntable some seconds later (or ~3 steps), the Operator holds the handset to his mouth again and says,"Stop."
Now on the turntable, the Operator manually rotates him to front the audience.
With the handset away from his mouth, the Operator says, "You see, all I need to do is speak into this phone, and Elektro does exactly what I tell him to do, some times."
He continues , " but I don't see why I'm telling Elektro's story when he's perfectly able to tell his own. So let's listen and see what Elektro has to say to us today. All right Elektro.." Now the handset is place to the Operators mouth.
"Will..you..tell (three syllables)…. your(one syllable)…. story..please?(two syllables" Note: The 6-impulse vvoic ccode (3-1-2 wus o start all of Elekto's "tricks".
The handset is now taken away.
Elektro: "Who.. me..?" Note: there is a pause in Elekto's pre-recording that allows time fo the Opeator's response.
Operator: "Yes, you."
Elektro: "OK, toots." (gets a laugh from the crowd. A lot of the time it was a female presenting, so the script was not for a male Operator.)
Elektro: (in a now classic "robotic" monotonic, monosyllabic voice) "Ladies and Gentlemen, I'll be very glad to tell my story. I am a smart fellow as I have a very fine brain of 48 electrical relays. It works just like a telephone switchboard. If I get a wrong number, I can always blame the Operator…"
Operator: "Thank you". Gets a laugh from the crowd.
Elektro: "And by the way, I see a lot of good numbers out in our audiance today. (another laugh from the crowd).
Operator: "Elektro, behave yourself!"
Elektro: "Quiet please, I'm doing the talking!"
Operator: "I'm sorry. (break in film clip and Elektro now has his right hand raised to his face.) Now Elektro, a moment ago you were bragging about being able to count on your fingers. Do you remember that? Well we're going to find out about that. Now, do you remember how many children were born at the same time to a certain family up in Campbell?. Do you remember that? All right, let's see if you do."
One can now see the lamp inside of Elektro's chest, indicating each syllable signal when flashed.
"Count..them..on (lamp flashes 3 times – once per syllable) ….your(single flash)…. right hand.(two flashes)" Note: Again, this is the (3-1-2) code used to start any of Elektro's "tricks".
With the handset away from his mouth, the Operator counts the movement of each finger, from the little finger to the thumb), "one , two, three, four," and just before uttering the next word, the Operator places the handset to his mouth and says, "five. (a single flash)"
Note: A single impulse is used to stop any command. In this case, there is a rotary motor-driven cam inside of Elektro's hand that, via a lever, pulls a cable that bends each finger in turn. This would repeat until Elektro was commanded to stop.
The handset is lowered.
Operator: "Five. Well that's absolutely correct."
(another cut in the film clip – hand is now lowered)
Operator: "Alright now Elektro, I know you enjoy these and I'm really going to try give
you a nice pleasure out of these, so here you are."
Operator places cigarette in Elektro's mouth – actually a hole in Elektro's upper lip.
Operator: "You got that? Now hold onto them."
Operator places the handset to his mouth, "You may..now..smoke(3 flashes)……this..cigarette(two flashes)…….go..on(two flashes)." The handset is put down.
Operator: "Oh, yes, Elektro, you need a light don't you? Here you are." and he lights the cigarette and you can see the cigarette smoke coming out of his nostrils.
"And folks, he's only two years old, too, just learning." (referring to Elektro's smoking action).
Westinghouse's first robot was "Herbert Televox" built by Roy Wensley out at their East Pittsburgh, Pensilvania plant. Wensley left Westinghouse, but another man of metal was born. Referred to as the son of "Herbert Televox", "Mr. Vocalite", later called "Willie Vocalite" was conceived and designed by Joseph (Barney) M. Barnett, member of the Westinghouse Engineering Department at their plant in Mansfield, Ohio. Barnett became interested in Robots while working in the East Pittsburgh works of the company where he met Wensley, and after being transferred to Mansfield, developed a few of his own ideas in Mr. Vocalite. The robot's name "Vocalite" gives some clues to his improvements, namely now responding to vocal signals, not whistle signals, and light control through the use of photo-electric cells. Let's not forget Rastus and Telelux, constructed by Thomas and Kintner, that also responded to light control, and were fixed to a base, but were not men of metal, but men of rubber, at least externally.
What can Willie do?
In himself, he can rise from a seated position, move either arm independently by rotation at the shoulder, he can be seated again, wink his eyes, and he can smoke cigarettes continuously. Having a "televox' supervisory control unit, he can turn on and off any electrical appliance connected to him. Typically he shows domestic appliances being turned on and off, from vacuum cleaners, electric lights, fans, radios, washing machines, heaters, mix masters, and the like. His eyes are said to glow scarlett in colour.
Other claims are that he can salute, indicating an elbow action, and fire a gun, indicating a finger action. Other than a claim for a 'me too' status, I can see no evidence that Willie fired a gun. Maybe an attachment to the hand was made, or the gun was fired remotely as per the other devices. Certainly the fingers are rigid in all the versions. One image has Willie holding a recipe book, indicating that his wrists could rotate, but most likely not powered.
There are at least two versions of Willie Vocalite, mainly indicated by the number of "buttons" on the front of his suit. The four button suit Willie appears around 1937 when he took an ocean voyage to Hawaii. This version also allows his head to turn for the first time. The third version, now called Willie Westinghouse, has a modern three-button suit! He also has a neck allowing an up and down movement, as well as the sideways movement. His elbows now bend. His fingers are rigid, but there is evidence they were not necessarily rigidly fixed to the palm of the hand.
If adapted with a taste sensor (referred to as "electronyx" in one of the press articles, which is actually a highly sensitive ampere device testing acidity), Willie was also said the be capable of 'tasting' food.
How does Willie work?
As mentioned in his opening premier article above, Willie responds to syllables spoken into a telephone handset. Each syllable momentarily flashes a light source. The light shines on a photo-electric cell, which triggers the grid-glow tube, starting electrical current in his "nerve centre". The current operating relays that perform a particular function. Three syllables starts the robot, four stops him. Each command has to complete before Willie is ready for the next one.
Grid glow tubes also known gas-filled triodes or thyratrons. The tubes are comparable in application to lock-in relays, wherein a small amount of power is used to turn on comparatively large currents from a local source. I will write about these in a separate post.
Most images of Willie Vocalite and Willie Westinghouse show an electronic apparatus next to him. This is essentially the "televox" unit.
The single tube unit [detailed below] is the grid-glow tube. The rack at the right hand side of the photo is the relay rack. It is basically the same unit out of the portable "Televox" unit, marked in red in the image below.
The portable "Televox" unit as used in "Herbert Televox".
[Note: you can see the single grid-glow tube next to Willie's left arm.]
Willie at the Ford trimotor National Air Transport opening ceremony, Newark Airport, 1931.
Willie Westinghouse – 3 button suit, articulated elbow, up and down and sideways movement of head because of neck.
A glimpse into the future will be presented when "Willie" Vocalite, Westinghouse mechanical man, makes his first appearance in this city. Willie Vocalite has been, called the "scientific marvel" by electrical engineers and scientists all over the United States.
This famous mechanical man will come to this city as the guest of the Food, Home and Flower Show at the Avalon ballroom March 12-14.
As the appearance of this scientific marvel never fails to attract capacity crowds, the management is making every effort to see that every person in this territory who wishes to see the exhibition will get the opportunity.
Willie Vocalite is the latest addition to the already famous family of Westinghouse mechanical men. He is now on tour through the country, displaying his talents to hundreds of thousands of persons who are interested in seeing what steps science is taking to advance the wants of man. Makes Life Easier
"Willie" is an exemplification of what scientists are accomplishing to make life easier for man. By personifying him through the addition of a body, this mechanical man been made into a figure of popular appeal. When his operator, E. A. King gives "Willie" a command, the huge mechanical man responds immediately.
He sits down, stands up, fires a pistol, raises a flag, talks, smokes, runs a vacuum sweeper, and performs many other interesting tricks. King simply issues the command into a telephone and it is instantly obeyed.
The same system of control that makes "Willie" perform has already been used to turn electric signs on and off by the approach of daylight or nightfall, start and stop motors at predetermined times, control traffic signals, and count various colored moving objects. In addition to the presentation of this scientific achievement, a group of high voltage tricks will be given by Vocalite's operator. A three-inch electric spark will travel along ten feet of wire, eight-inch sparks will be sent from a brass ball and light a Neon tube, and a cotton wick will be lighted simply by the touch of the operator's foot. Two Years to Develop
Westinghouse engineers say that it took approximately two years to develop Willie Vocalite. The system of photo-electric cells and relays has been made in this figure to give a concrete example of the application of this kind of electric equipment. In appearance "Willie" stands over six feet in height, and weighs approximately 350 pounds. His body is made from pressed steel, which is formed into a girue closely resembling that of Ihe human body. He is mounted on a pedestal, and from that position, does his tricks. A special truck has been made to take this mechanical marvel around the country. Shortly before the first exhibition in this city, the truck will parade through the streets to give the citizens some idea of what they will see when they attend one of the performances.
Albuquerque Journal 25 Dec 1938 p22
The imagination of both children and grown-ups is inhabited by many strange creatures. One of the strangest monsters ever described by the pen, the "Golem" of ancient Hebrew transcript, is reproduced by science in the shape of Willie Vocalite, a mechanical robot for the performance of tedious or difficult jobs. Willie talks and acts by means of photo-electric tubes and he tastes foods with an "electrynx" so sensitive that it will record the acidity of fruits to one millionth of an ampere.
Scott Schaut's excellent book on Westinghouse robots ("Robots of Westinghouse – 1924 – today", 2006) gives a lot of detail and more pics which I wont include in this post.
Above: Mr. 'Rastus Robot, the most lifelike of mechanical men, conducting a conversation with S. M. Kintner, assistant vice-president of the Westinghouse Co., Mr. Robot needs some prompting, it is true; that is given by the flashlight in his interlocutor's right hand, which controls the "sound-on-film" conversation previously rehearsed.
Here we have 'Rastus playing the role of the junior Wilhelm Tell. He has a rather strained air; and the shot will bring him to his feet with an exclamation of dismay. However, the shot will be made, not with the arrow itself, but with a beam of light. (Photos Westinghouse Electric & Mfg. Co.)
The above two images and the Radio-Craft article courtesy of Linda Paulsen, Thomas Mittelstaedt , and Mark Durenberger from the Pavek Broadcast Museum http://www.museumofbroadcasting.org/
Radio-Craft February 1931 (p469,509)
Mr. 'Rastus Robot
During the electrical and radio exhibitions of the past season, the increasing perfection of those mechanical servants, now popularly called "robots," has been the most spectacular feature. One of the finest yet produced, for human appearance and versatility, is "'Rastus," who is illustrated on the opposite page. He has the powers of speech, of using his hands, of rising and sitting—although, to date, the complicated maneuvers of walking seem to have been a little too much for biped automatons.
(Continued on page 509)
The signals, from which the talented gentleman from East Pittsburgh takes his cues, are given by means of light. The operator who directs his motions is armed with a control tube containing a neon lamp, which is modulated at audio frequency. Throwing the light from this on the proper photo-cell operates the desired relay in the robot. Within its figure is a miniature talking-movie equipment; that is to say, a 16-mm. projector, containing film with appropriate speeches in sequence on the sound track. This is operated at the proper time, and gives 'Rastus a very copious vocabulary- in a rich, baritone voice. A green light operates this sound apparatus, and a red light the motor equipment. This talented performer made his debut before the A.I.E.E, under the chaperonage of L. W. Chubb, research director of the Westinghouse laboratories.
Built by Dr. Phillips Thomas and S. M. Kintner in 1930. He moves (stands up or sits down, bows), talks (6 word vocabulary or sequences), and a photo-electric cell in his head , when activated by a light, in this case a beam from the arrow, is triggered, a gunpowder charge blows the apple off his head. His skin was made from rubber.
The picture above is one one the sharpest I've seen of Rastus. Quite a bit of detail can be gleaned from this. The photo was found on Jim Linderman's web page. The apparatus behind him is the "electric-eye" fire extinguisher.
[Note: The above article spells Kintner's name incorrectly as Kitner .]
from San Antonio Light 06 Sep 1931
The cells can be usedf to start, stop or blow up anything at any distance to which a beam of light or shadow can be thrown, Mr. Kintner performed a modernized version of William Tell and the famous shooting of the apple from the boy's head. In this case the boy was the dummy of a negro; and instead of shooting the arrow, he merely had to point it at the dummy's head. There was a lamp on the arrow which directed a beam in the direction it was aimed. As soon as that light fell on the eyes of the "boy," in whose hollow skull were photo-electric cells, the apple blew off his head by an explosion of gunpowder. The point of the William Tell story was the danger of missing the apple and killing the boy, but with Mr. Kintner's contraption there would have been nothing to it, he could not have missed.
Syracuse Herald 06 May 1935 p3
……………….Rastus Robot, the mechanical man, is the star performer of a demonstration and lecture in charge of Dr. ? Maxwell, of the Electrical Circus. This circus, which amazed throngs for two seasons of the World's Fair, opens with the manufacture of 250,000 volts of artificial lightning, zigzaging from a generator across insulators on a dwarf power transformer tower. The flash has a duration of five-millionths of a second. In a modern version of the William Tell legend, a beam of light shoots an apple off Willie. Jr.'s head—Willie. Jr. being a mechanical boy similar in his mysterious workings to Rastus Robot.
[Note: another occurance of Willie Jr and Rastus from 1935. It's one of two articles I've seen that ever mentions Willie Jr, the boy similar to Rastus. So Willie Jr is another Westinghouse robot only just discovered! There is a possibility that Telelux was eventually called Willie Jr.]
Another article (1930) refers to Rastus Robot as Doctor Thomas' "mechanical slave". Maybe by 1935 Rastus Robot, the negro mechanical slave is becoming politically incorrect already.