Archive for the ‘Pre-Cybernetic Creatures’ Category

1928 – Phil the Radio Dog a.k.a. “Philidog” – Henri Piraux (French)

This is what everyone’s been waiting for – new and more detailed information on “Philidog” by Henri Piraux (sometimes Henry Piraux, of Philips France).

One of the articles to be presented tells us that the dog has gone through a bit of an evolution. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to get a date of the original incarnation.  Here’s the list of versions created:

1st was not mobile,
2nd was mobile and batteries,
3rd was mains powered,
4th mod included touch sensitive whiskers.

Mechanical dog exhibited in Denmark - 18-November-1929

Image source: Getty images

I was fortunate enough to locate an article that gives a description of operation, as well as a circuit diagram!!

The Anatomy of PHIL the Radio Dog

An ingenious device has been produced by Philips Radio for demonstrating the working of their new photo-electric cells. This is “Phil,” the “Radio Dog.” Wherever he has been exhibited, his ability to bark and to move forward or in circles at the command of his owner, has caused much speculation, Below we unveil the mystery of his anatomy.

Fig. 1 shows the radio dog deprived of his external covering [not the above pic]. The “eyes,” formed by two photo-electric cells stand out clearly, Furthermore, there are the amplifying valve’s and several relays, an accumulator, batteries, and several other electrical accessories the operation of which will be explained in the continuation of this article.
A photo-cell consists at an exhausted glass bulb containing two electrodes. One electrode consists of a metallic mirror deposited  on the inner side of the bulb, while the other electrode is a spiralised filament. The metallic mirror will emit electrons when light falls upon it, just, as in the case of the filament of a radio-valve. If the metallic mirror is connected to the negative pole, and the spiralised filament to the positive pole of a source of voltage, these electrons will be attracted by the anode so that by exposing the photo-cell a current is generated.
If a resistance is placed in the circuit, there will be a drop in potential dependent on the strength of the photo-electric current passing through it.
As the resistance is also included in the grid circuit of the amplifying valve, this drop in potential at the same time controls the amplifying valve, so that the anode current of the valve is altered in the same ratio as the current passing through the photo-cell.

Fig. 2 shows the next stage [not shown but included in Fig 4.]. For the sake of simplicity we assume that relay 1 is in direct. connection with the positive pole of the anode tension supply. A relay is an apparatus which makes it possible to close with low power a second circuit for higher power. It consists of an electro-magnet and a movable armature which, being attracted, makes and breaks contact when the magnet is excited by an electric current.

With the Radio-Dog, when the photo-cell is exposed to light, the anode current of the amplifying valve passes through Relay 1 (Fig 2), so that the armature is attracted and closes contact C. This excites Relay VII., the result being that armature AIV is changed over and motor MI switched on via contact D.
As the other “eye” can start the second motor in  an entirely similar manner, both motors will turn when both “eyes” are exposed, thus causing the dog to move forward The two motors are entirely independent of each other, so that by exposing only one of the photo-cells, one of the motors is made to turn, thus causing the Radio-Dog to revolve on its axis.
“Phil” can also bark like a real dog. Fig. 3 shows [not shown but included in Fig 4.] the circuit by which this effect was obtained. The anode current of both amplifying valves passes through relay III., which is connected in series with the anode supply of both amplifying valves. The adjustable resistance, R4, is shunted on its winding in order to regulate sensitivity. This resistance has been adjusted in such a manner that relay III. does not operate until the two valves supply their saturation current. This is the case when the photo-cell is strongly illuminated. Then armature AIII. is attracted, thus exciting relay VI.
As armature AV. is changed over, the supply of the two motors via contact F is interrupted, so that the dog stops, and as armature AVI. touches contact G, the horn is operated. Moreover, an interrupter is incorporated in the horn circuit, so that the dog does not keep on howling, but barks only at intervals.
If the above description is read attentively, will be easy to follow the complete circuit diagram of the Philips Radio-Dog, as shown  in Fig. 4. The greater part of the electric currents supplied are obtained from the lighting mains by rectifiers.

From San Antonio Light newspaper 08 June 1930 p59  -text below

Le chien de garde electrique (electric watchdog) was the hit of the recent radio show in Paris, where its “kennel” drew greater crowds than did the blue-ribbon winner at the Winter’s dog show.
Mr. Piraux’s first canine robot merely barked and worked its jaws whenever light fell on its glassy eyes. The power for this was supplied from a storage battery, inside the wooden hound. Then the inventor put wheels on the legs and supplied them with motors to pursue anyone who turned a light on the automatic animal.
These, however, with the storage battery, made too much weight for the power and resulted in such a slow-footed “dog” as to be unimpressive.
To pep him up, the inventor removed the battery and connected his pet with a long wire to the electric light socket. This had the effect of making the “chien electrique” as quick and vicious as if he had been fed all Winter on raw meat. Being a patriotic Frenchman, M. Piraux, of course did not build his chien on the lines of the German police dog nor the English bull either, but chose the French poodle which, to his mind, is the noblest form of canine life.
In the head of the 1930-model mechanical poodle are eyes, containing lenses behind which lie photoelectric cells. As long as no light falls on these nothing happens. But, if someone lights a match or turns the rays of a flashlamp in their direction, the light passing through the lenses causes the photo-electric cells behind them to allow a current to pass through. This current is amplified by two radio tubes and several relays before reaching the motor.
One of these motors works the lower jaw and its teeth up and down and with the same action draws a phonograph needle over a steel record, producing a series of growls and barks, calculated to alarm the invader and rouse the household.
This much happens whether the light falls on either eye or both. The mechanism that sends the mechanical Towser in pursuit of the person carrying the light is more complicated.
If the light falls on the left eye, the photo-electric cell beneath sends current only to the wheel on the right side. When the light falls only on the right eye, the opposite happens.
In either case the result is to turn the “animal” around until it is headed for the light, which then falls on both eyes alike and then both wheels revolve at the same speed, causing the robot poodle to charge at the source of the illumination, barking and snapping as he goes.
Provided the sudden, noisy interruption does not scare the wits out of the burglar, he probably could avoid the jaws easily enough, because they only work vertically, but the inventor has added another feature more suggestive of the cat family. This consists of a set of long feelers, or whiskers, made of pointed steel and electrically charged.
It would be harder to avoid these, and if one touches him the intruder will find the dog’s sting worse than his bite. A bullet shot into the mechanical mutt would probably cause it to die of short circuit, but after the barking and the firing no burglar would hesitate about getting out of the neighborhood as fast as he could.
The synthetic dog cannot be chloroformed, poisoned or beguiled by meat and candy but he has other faults. He is too incorruptible. The average family dog, left to sleep downstairs by the door, uses some discretion, like a policeman. He recognizes the belated steps of the head of the house, even if they are a trifle unsteady, and known it is not necessary to betray the fact that he ia coming home at an unseemly hour.
But how is the mechanical Fido to know who is who? It might not be so hard to sell these dogs if only the man of the house would be exposed, but nowadays, everybody, including the flapper daughter, has a latch key and sometimes “checks in” a little later than she wants to advertise.
M. Piraux is ready to adapt his idea to all sorts of other forms besides the dog. In a museum, where it would not be desirable to have the electric animal charging around among glass specimen cases, he suggests on the wall a bison’s head that will bellow and keep it up till the watchman comes and opens a switch, or a suit of armor that can be made to swing a sword or battle axe.

From the French magazine Atomes Oct 1957

“Il fut présenté en 1929 au Salon International de la T.S.F. de Paris et à l’Exposition Internationale de Magic-City. Il était l’oeuvre d’Henry Piraux, aujourd’hui chef de la propagande technique à la Société Française Philips, qui doit donc être considéré comme un pionnier de la cybernétique. Sensible à la lumière, ce chien suivait une torche électrique, tournait, virevoltait autant de fois qu’on le lui commandait. Mais, quand on lui présentait la lumière de trop près, just sous le nez, il se mettait à aboyer, pas content du tout.”

“It was presented in 1929 at the International Salon of the TSF in Paris and at the International Exhibition of Magic-City. It was the work of Henry Piraux, now head of technical propaganda at the Philips company in France, who should hence be considered as one of the pioneers of Cybernetics. Sensitive to light, this dog followed an electric torch; turned and twirled around as often as it was told to do. But when the light was presented too closely, just under its nose, it started to bark, not happy at all.”

Collage by the French Surrealist artist, Andre Breton (from here).

See other early Electronic and Cybernetic Animals here.

1915 – Electric Dog – Christian Berger – (Hungarian / American)

I found a single reference to a French Electric Dog that "will jump out of its kennel when a whistle sounds". The rest of the brief article talks about Miessner's "Electric Dog".

Ingenious Mechanism – Le Grand Reporter, 30 Dec 1921 p2 

The electric dog which will follow a lantern in the dark—a mechanical curio constructed by John Hays Hammond, Jr.— has a rival in a French electric dog that will jump out of its kennel when a whistle sounds. The Hammond dog is controlled by selenium cells. The amount of electricity that will pass through selenium varies with the amount of light shining on the metal. With a selenium cell for each eye of the dog, and a small electric current operating a steering gear inside the toy. the dog will steer its course so as to have an equal amount of light on each eye, which means that it will keep its head toward any light. Storage batteries, and a motor, or clockwork, may be used for moving the dog.—Christian Science Monitor.


My next post in this category will be Piraux's 1928 Radio Dog "Philidog". This dog went through a few modifications before the one listed.

However, article suggests the 1921 dog is activated by a whistle, not a light, so it probably is different to Piraux's.

There is a patent that describes a similar contrivance, and may be the same item, so I will present that here.

Christian Berger's patent 1,405,708
Patent number: 1405708
Filing date: Nov 14, 1918
Issue date: Feb 7, 1922

Berger was originally from Budapest, Austria-Hungary. In 1909 he applied for a patent for "CONTROLLING FROM A DISTANT POINT THE OPERATION OF A MECHANISM OR INSTRUMENT. Patented in the US in Mar 11, 1913 Ser # 1,055,985.

Having an affiliation with Europe, it is quite possible that the "electric dog" mentioned is actually Berger's invention.

Pat US1279831. See here.

Berger's toy as described in The Electrical Experimenter, June 1917.


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1916 – Wireless Dog – Steinbrook

 Originally published in the Electrical Experimenter (issue unknown but probably late 1916).

This version from the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette 24th Dec 1916 p12

It is probably more a ‘electric dog’ than a creature built to exhibit phototropic behaviour and the like.  Although it has a selenium cell, it is for selector circuit activation purposes, not light following. I’ll refer to this dog again in the robots section, as the design principles are largely those used in all the early mechanical men, automatons, robots, etc.

The Wireless Dog That Will Follow You Around

And How to Make One Just Like It Yourself For a Christmas Present

He Can Growl, Scare Tramps, Follow You, Flash His Eyes, Come When Called, And He CAN’T BITE!

When you wake up on Christmas morning how would you like to find beneath your stocking an electric dog that will follow you around like a faithful pup, that will growl when you want bun to growl, and glare at intruders with flame-shot eyes?
Better still, how would you like to make such a dog yourself? For, if you want him, you will have to make him, which will not be difficult if you have a fair knowledge of electricity and of electrical apparatus.
The first thing to make ie the "works".
When these are all complete and in running order they should be encased in a hollow shell of papier mache on a wooden frame, or the frame may be covered with paper and shellac.
The mechanism of the dog is described in the Electrical Experimenter by F. A. Steinbrook. It is all based upon the fact that the mineral selenium, which is not normally a conductor, becomes a conducor of electricity as soon as a ray of light falls upon it. Therefore a selenium cell is placed where it will fit into the top of the dog’s back when the animal is completed, in such a position that light rays may be focussed upon it. As soon as this happens the selenium closes the circuit to the polarized relay (8) in the accompanying diagram.
This closes the circuit to the selective device (1), and the magnet (12), which releases the rotator and this will continue to revolve until the circuit is closed.
It can stop at any one of six positions called stops.

If the light be flashed and immediately shut off the rotator turns to stop 1. This closes a circuit and starts motor 5, and the dog runs forward.
A second flash sends the rotator to stop 2 and closes the circuit to the solenoid 9. This turns the wheel 21 to the
left, steering the dog in the same direction.
A third flash, and the rotator goes to stop 8, closing the circuit to solenoid 8 and making the dog turn to the right
A fourth flash, the rotator is at stop 4, closing a circuit to the electrical horn; which is adjusted to emit a growling note.
A fifth flash and the rotator moves to stop 6, closing a circuit to the automatic flasher (7), which makes the electric lights (19) -flash on and off behind the pup’s glass eyes.
To know certainly at what point the rotator stands, a pointer should extend up to the dog’s back and move upon a dial numbered from 1 to 6.
A small aerial may be mounted on Towser’s back, and when it is desired to control the nimal wirelessly the switch 4 is turned to. point 2. This places the coherer in circuit with the polarized relay (3). A copper plate (18) on the dog’s side serves as a capacity ground. Each time the key of the radio sending set is depressed, the apparatus will work in the same manner as when operated by flashes upon the selenium cell.
The animal may be simplified by making him obedient only to wireless, or exclusively to light. Now, here is an opportunity to make a really useful, not to say ornamental, Christmas present for somebody, and there is still time to do it before Christmas. There is no use trying to buy one of these wireless hounds, because they are not for sale. If you want one you will have to exert all your mechanical and inventive genius in constructing one according to the working diagram given herewith. The wireless hound has many advantages which common dogs do not possess—you don’t have to pay a dog license for him or buy him a muzzle and he won’t run away.

HERE is a wiring diagram for the wireless dog showing relation of propelling motor, radio apparatus, selenium cell, steering mechanism, eye lamps, flasher and growl producer.

THIs sectional view shows how to build up the interior mechanism of the wireless dog.

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1912 – Seleno, the Electric Dog – Hammond / Miessner

A lot has already been published already about Seleno, try these links:
and my Addendum.

Here are some pics and excerpts showing different aspects of the "Electric Dog".

Technical articles on the Electric Dog appeared in Scientific American Supplement No. 2267 p376-7 June 14, 1919 written by Benjamin Franklin Miessner, in the Electrical Experimenter, 1915, p. 202. , and Popular Science Monthly.

Miessner described in some detail the behavior of the electric dog in Radiodynamics: The Wireless Control of Torpedoes and Other Mechanisms [Miessner, 1916].

Whilst the Electric Dog itself was not patented, certainly the technology was in terms of light guided missiles/torpedoes. Look up these in Google patents

Filing date: Jun 7, 1912
Issue date: Sep 4, 1923
Filing date: Jun 7, 1912
Issue date: Aug 16, 1921
See Fig 1. in this patent diagram. It is essentially the patented circuit of the "electric dog".

As mentioned in another post on Enabling Technologies, one of the best references is: 
Radiodynamics, By Benjamin Franklin Miessner (PDF file) – Chapter XXIV {24} (which begins on page 189 and continues through page 199) contains a description of the "orientation mechanism" that is the heart of Seleno, the Electric Dog. The entire book can be downloaded as a PDF file.

The earliest date I can find for Seleno is 1913, although Hammond was certainly exploring Selenium control since 1912 when he was looking at torpedo remote control. I tend to date on the creation of the model itself, rather than the underlying technology.

[Note: RH –  Jan 2010 – see new addendum here that actually dates "electric dog" in 1912.]

Miessner vs Hammond : It appears the the Electric Dog was developed when Miessner worked for/with Hammond. Most of the articles the include the "Electric Dog" either have Hammond or Miessner, never both.  It is unclear if they 'shared' the same dog, or the Hammond photographs are earlier than published, whilst Miessner seems to have the dog in latter years.

I have since seen a reference in a book by Miessner (1964) on "The Early History of Radio Guidance" where Miessner talks about Hammond loaning him the "Electric Dog" to demonstrate at a few lectures he was giving. At this time Miessner had already parted to work with the Navy and for further education.

[Note: RH –  Jan 2010 – see new addendum here that actually dates "electric dog" in 1912 and gives the story on Miessner vs Hammond.]


Selenium is Magic Eye Which Sees Hundreds of Miles; Controls Torpedoes and Crewless Airships
Young Scientist Predicts Marvelous Results from Experiments With Selenium—
Points to "Electric Dog" as Example of Its Possibilities.

(By Kenneth W. Payne.)
Lafayette, Ind., Feb. 27.—After seeing young Benjamin Franklin Miessner's "electric dog"—a small glass-eyed box on three wheels—actually pursue his
master about the room; after hearing Miessner predict that in time men in San Francisco will be able to witness a prize fight in Australia; after seeing a flattened bullet with which Miessner nearly killed himself while perfecting a magic "thief catcher;" after hearing him say that right now he could guide an absolutely unmanned Zeppelin from a boat in the English channel on a raid over coast towns; and after—
Well, naturally, after all this voyage into the land of miracles, one is too thrilled and dazed to know how to begin writing a story in a conservative, unenthusiastic way.
Yet this story must be told, for it concerns some extraordinary experiments with the element, selenium, which are taking place right under our noses in America today, and about which, in spite of their vast significance, only a few scientists know anything at all as yet.
Let's begin at the beginning, with Selenium.
"It's one of the elements,'' Miessner explained. "It comes in bluish-gray slicks which look like sealing wax; and it costs about $3 an ounce.
"Selenium has the peculiar property of changing its electrical resistance when influenced by light. That's the simple secret of all the weird things that scientists are doing with it."
Miessner is only twenty-five year's old now, a graduate of the Huntingburg (Ind.) high school, and of Uncle Sam's navy. After serving three years in the radio-telegraphic department of the navy, he worked for two years with John Hays Hammond, Jr., at the interesting job of steering deserted ships all over Gloucester harbor from a wireless station on shore.
Now Miessner is studying for a degree at Purdue university—and incidentally telling his learned professors a few things about radio-telegraphy and electrical engineering which they never heard before.
To illustrate his experiments, Miessner called his electric dog. From an electric flash he threw a bright light in the dog's goggly eyes, and the strange object at once ambled obediently out toward his master. Wherever Miessner went, about the room with that light, he dog patiently followed, as inexoribly compelled as the moth by the flame.
"The electric dog has two cells of selenium, one behind each of those glass
eyes," explained Miessner. "When I throw the light upon him, if it falls upon either eye it reduces the electrical resistance of the selenium, as I explained before and and an electrical current is allowed to pass through, starting the motor which turns the dog's wheels. He begins to advance. But if the light comes from the right, say, it hits only the right eye, because of the projecting screen between the eyes, then the current passes through that, eye, only and not through the other. An arrangement of batteries and electro-magnets then pulls the little rear wheel to the right and that turns the dog straight towards light, whereupon it shines in the other eye also, and the current passing through this eye charges an electro-magnet which pulls the little wheel, or rudder straight again. So you understand whenever the dog sees a light, he simply has to go.
"Now, we can make our electric dog over into a 'dog of war.' By simply readjusting the mechanism, the two selenium, eyes can be made to pursue a dark object amid light surroundings.
Supposing a torpedo fitted with such apparatus were launched from shore on a bright day toward an attacking fleet.
The battleships would stand up as the only dark objects against the bright sky and the torpedo would head straight for them with infallible and inescapable precision.
"A change in the mechanism makes it possible to drive your electric dog, or torpedo, or Zeppelin, away from "you by prodding it behind with a search–light, instead of pulling it toward you."
Miessner threw over a switch on his electric dog, and then when he flashed the light on the bulging eyes, the dog promptly, almost fearfully, backed away.
The marvelous see-at-a-distance projects of which Miessner talks, are based also on the ligut sensitivity of selenium, the "magic eye." The apparatus consists roughly of a great "compound eye," composed of some ten thousand selenium cells, each cell connected with a similarly situated glowlamp on the receiving apparatus. The selenium cells are unequally illuminated "by the light which falls on them from the objects within their range of vision, thus allowing currents of varying strength to pass through, they will light their respective glow-lamps in exact reproduction of the light and shadow of the objects before them.
"By a somewhat similar apparatus photographs have actually been transmitted by wire from Monti-Carlo to Paris, and published in the papers." Miessner commented.

The selenium thief-catcher invented by Miessner consists of a selenium cell with guns, bells, a camera and flash light. As soon as the light of the burguIar's dark lantern hits the selenium eye the whole array of noise makers goes off in one grand hubub. The thing's practical, because Miessner tried it out before a meeting of the Electric club in Chicago, recently, and nearly frightened the club out of its wits, besides taking a very good photograph of himself.

(Picture caption)
This extraordinary photograph—the first selenium-snapped picture ever published in Fort Wayne— shows Benjamin F. Miessner, surprised by his own burglar-catcher. Miessner was on the darkened stage before a meeting of the Chicago Electric club. When the flashlight in his hand hit the selenium cell—the small white object on the standard at 10ft—a gun was fired, a flash of powder went off, bells rang, and the camera took this picture. Below, Miessner drawing his electric dog toward him with a pocket electric lamp.
The canine's selenium eyes arc located behind the two glass lenses, in vacuum tubes whose tops form the dog's "ears" in this picture. His nose is the screen projecting between the eyes, which prevents light falling on both unless it is situated directly in front.


An interesting article describing the possible futures of the "Electric Dog".

Washington Post 02 May 1915 p55

Dog That Does The  Housework

[Technical World Magazine ]

He is a queer-looking dog. He has only three legs. He doesn't bark, bite, nor chase the neighbors chickens. He is even at peace with the family cat, which purrs contentedly as it ;vetches with speculative mien the peculiar antics of this unknown thing which seems to be at the beck and call of his master. Of course her feline, majesty doesn't know he isn't a reel dog. She judges so only from hearsay—that is, she heard some one say, "Oh, isn't he a wonderful dog!" – So she trusts her ears and doubts her eyes. This dog possesses none of the malicious characteristics of "Snarleyow, the Dog Fiend." Rather, he could be likened to faithful "Old Dog Tray." His cost—that bugbear word in these days of high prices and low wages—is merely nominee. As to food, that is nil. Regarding repose, like the famous detective, he never sleep's. In fact, his every action is guided by the rays that penetrate his material being.
The eyes of this melancholy-looking creature are of bulging glass, each one as large as a saucer. Hie body is an oblong mahogany box, which contains an electric motor, a storage battery, two selenium cam, two relays, and two solenoid magnets. He has no tail to speak of, but in its place is an electric switch. He is controlled by three brass wheels, two in front and one in the rear.
When the motor inside the dog is started he will do some extraordinary things. If you walk before him carrying a lighted lantern, he will follow you, turning to the right or left as you turn, although you neither touch nor control him in any way that is visible to the spectator. He steers himself briskly after his leader in a way that is positively uncanny.
The mystery is solved, however, when it is explained that what guides him is the light from the lantern, which operates upon the strangely sensitive element called 'selenium. If this light is moved to the left, the left selenium cell receives more of it and thus more stimulation than the right veil, and so allows more current to flow from the storage battery into the left-hand magnet, which then deflects the hind wheel to the left and the dog turns in that direction. For the same reason. when one turns to the right, the dog follows. If one wants the dog to go backward, all that is necessary is to reverse the tail switch. Then. when his master advances on him with the light. he will seemingly become timid and back away in a most surprising manner. But how can this annual be made useful? Welt, so far, of course, the Held has not been thoroughly explored; but there are certain household utilitarian purposes to which we might imagine he may be adapted.
Sweeping rugs and carpets constitutes one of the numerous duties of the housewife. The form of drudgery may be done away with by utilizing the electric dog. While vacuum cleaners and patent carpet sweepers have to a certain extent supplanted the old-fashioned but still efficient broom there, is yet a necessary amount of manual labor required to operate either of them_ By a very simple arrangement a rotary brush, similar to that used by street railways to sweep the tracks, could be attached to the rear of the dog. together with a pan to catch the refuse from the floor. – Then, with a pocket electric light or a small dark lantern in her hand, used as a guiding star. the lady could take her ease in a chef: and direct across the carpet the course of this faithful and tireless servant.
In flats or houses not Wired for electric lights the dog may be used to help out the housewife with her sewing. in Order to attain this result it would be necessary to have a grooved wheel. a simple accessory that could easily be attached to the mechanism of the apparatus. The latter could then be clamped to a box of convenient height, the sewing machine strap removed from the large wheel and adjusted to the grooved wheel of the dog. A pocket flashlight is installed where the operator could reach it with her foot. By pressing a button, the light could be turned on or off at will, thus starting or stopping the machine as desired.
One of the tables on wheels used for carrying kitchen dishes from the dining table into the kitchen might easily be mounted on the back of the dog. He could be made to follow the maid or mistress about as she piled the plates, cups, saucers, &c, on the top, and then follower her into  the kitchen.

Also, there could be arranged on the top of this table a receptacle for the aby, in which it could be placed for its afternoon nap. Directed by the rays, the whole apparatus; would traverse the room and a mechanism could automatically reverse an electric switch after the vehicle lad gone a certain distance, and compel t to retrace its path. In the course of erne, and with proper development, this selenium dog, with his accessories, might 3e utilized in the moving of heavy furniture, such as pianos, tables, refrigerators and trunks, and thus assist materially luring the trying days of Baring cleaning. There are various other devices in which this peculiar animal, with his sensitive attributes, could be utilized. He could. be used for a burglar alarm, in connection with an electric battery and relay. This may be wired to the alarm bell proper. connected with dry batteries, wherever it may be deemed advisable place the alarm bell—if in the home, in the bedroom of the head of the house; if in the office, the wire may lead to the nearest police station. When the gentlemanly burglar enters the room and flashes his electric pocket light, its rays will strike the selenium cell and the gong will ring. But this is not &1 that may be accomplished. If a little mechanical ingenuity is brought into play. A. revolver and a camera might be added to the equipment to complete the discomfiture of the burglar The revolver. aimed in his direction, would either cripple him or give him a good fright, while at the same time a flashlight would enable the camera, to take a photograph of him.
By mounting a revolver drum or capstan on the dog, and equipping the head of each flight of stairs with a hook, the dog could be made to pull himself from floor to floor, in order to fulfill his household duties anywhere in the structure Inasmuch as .-he would be a heavy dog, this !might be necessary. but of course, he could be made to carry loads on his back while climbing. For instance, he could take the family washing from the laundry, carry it to the stairs, and. when planks are laid, and his rope connected to the hook, he would carry it up to the floor where a was wanted.
By mounting a row of three auxiliary eyes, each with a different-colored glees in front of it, even greater results would be secured. Turning on a red light would actuate only the red cell, Inasmuch as the light would not pierce the blue and yellow filters. f some place In expected to burst forth into flame—as. for instance. a rubbish heap—the doe might be. put on watch. ready to Send an alarm if red and yellow light from an incipient fire fan upon his eyes. For ordinary household use, a lantern equipped with white, red. yellow and blue eyes could give a. variety of signals that would cause the,dog to perform a multitude of tasks.
A refinement that would immensely increase his usefulness would result if his eyes could be kept turned toward the light, no matter where he should be in the room. With such a device, and mirror opposite the doer, the dog could even be sent out of the room on errands. Truly, the possibilities for the electric dog ere endless

The following 2 images located on David Szondy's site here.

Popular Science Monthly March 1916.

It didn't take long for other students at the time to be inspired…

Moberly Daily Monitor 14th May 1915 p3ElectricDog
(no pic)

Electric Dog Is Faithful
That engineers do not lose interest in animal life by dealing with machines is proved by the fact that the electrical engineering students of Highland Park college, Des Moines, Iowa, are making a dog which will follow his master all over the place.

This dog consists of a small box shaped like the animal with two rather prominant eyes in its head.

The eyes are made of metal Selenium . Thin mechanical dog moves his head around until he sees a light; when he at once fixes his eyes intently upon the light toward which be moves rapidly.
It in only necessary for the dog's master to carry around an electric light, a pocket search light, or something of the kind to cause the, dog to follow him. The inside of the dog, made entirely by students of Highland Park college, consists off wires, Motors,  and other electrical elemients. If this mechanical dog loses his master, he stands still and moves his head around until he discovers the light again.


See other early Cybernetic Creatures and Models here.

1911 – Toy Beetle – Adolph Weigel – referenced by A.J. Lotka

When one reads through documents and histories on cybernetic and cybernetic models, one of the earliest models refered to is the Toy Beetle. The key reference is A. J. LOTKA. Elements of Physical Biology. Baltimore, 1925.
Normally you see it in simple diagrammatic form, but after many hours on patent search engines (pre Google patents at the time!!) I finally found it.

First of all, here's C. Judson Herrick's version of the Beetle and how his interpretation of it as a 'reflexive' machine or model.


Second Printing November 1029

CONTROL of events is the main business of all mechanisms. This control is exorcised in part upon what is going on outside control of
environment and in part upon the internal processes within the mechanism itself self-control. This applies throughout the mechanistic realm, and the fore. going chapters are full of illustrations of it.
The living body has greater capacity for self-regulation than any other kind of mechanism on earth. On a still bigger scale the astronomers give us equally impressive instances in their accounts of celestial mechanics.
The living body grows, it repairs its own wear, and it reproduces its kind. If mutilated, not too severely, it can repair the damage. A salamander or a crab can grow a new leg if one is cut off. Men cannot do that, but they can grow new nerves to supply sensibility and movement to an arm that has been paralyzed by cutting a nerve trunk, though this sometimes requires the help of a good surgeon.
The living body also in the course of time can change its own inherited pattern of internal organization in adjustment to changes going on in its surroundings. It makes itself over to suit new conditions. This is creative evolution.
These are the familiar properties common to all living bodies which set them off over against all nonliving mechanisms. They employ mechanistic principles in ways determined by their own organization, the same as other machines do in their own ways in each individual case. The efficiency of the vital processes may be measured in terms of the pattern of this control over the flux of energy and material which is exercised by the living body.
The apparatus of control is familiar to us in all inorganic machines. The "controller" of a street car enables the motorman to make the car do what he wants it to all the time. This is because the workings of the internal mechanisms of the car are controlled by the levers under the motorman's hand. The controls of an airplane or an automobile work the same way. This control which is exercised from the outside works out properly because the internal mechanisms of control are appropriately designed and constructed.
Many people think the human body is controlled this way from the outside. This is not necessarily true, for much machine control is wholly automatic. I t works without a motorman or a pilot; it is wholly internal. A big gyroscope may stabilize a battleship wholly by internal control. A typecasting machine when once started goes on about its very complicated business of turning out a's or b's all day long without any supervision by the operator.
A well-known mechanical toy described by Lotka is made in the form of a beetle which when wound up will move in a straight line across the table. It
"walks" on two toothed wheels, one of which is an idler while the other is rotated by the spring (Fig. 8). In front of these there is a third toothed wheel smaller than the others and placed at right angles to them, transversely to the direction of forward movement. This wheel is running idly until the toy approaches the edge of the table.
The beetle has a pair of feelers projecting forward. One of these has. a curved tip which slides along the
FIG. 8.-Diagram of toy beetle. (From Lotka's Physical Biology, by courtesy of Williams & Wilkins Co., 1925.)

Toy Beetle
Toy Beetle

table top. Having reached the edge of the table, this tip drops down and allows the front end of the toy to drop a little because this end was formerly held up by contact of the feeler with the table. When the head of the beetle is lowered in this way the small transverse wheel comes in contact with the table. This makes the toy turn and changes the direction of movement until it runs parallel with the table edge. It is kept in this direction by the curved feeler whose tip is dropped over the edge and so prevents the beetle from turning farther away from the edge.
This little automaton has a sense organ or "feeler" which warns the mechanism of the approach to the edge of the table. Then the internal control apparatus operates reflexly to change the direction of locomotion so that the machine is not wrecked by falling off the edge. The design is clever and very simple.
This toy automatically controls its own behavior so as to avoid self-destruction by falling over a precipice. Many of the tropisms (turnings) of lower animals and many of the reflexes of our own bodies are equally automatic. Their machinery is much more complicated but in some of these cases it is understood nearly as completely as we know the apparatus that controls the movements of the toy beetle.
One of our most complete accounts of these is Sherrington's study of the scratch reflex of the dog. A flea-bite anywhere in the "receptive field" that can be reached by the dog's hind leg calls forth a scratching of the exact spot bitten in a very precise way. The details of what happens and of the mechanism that is working are very minutely and accurately described. The nerve centers involved are in the spinal cord. The brain has nothing to do with it.
This reflex in its simplest unconditioned form is wholly unconscious. Of course, consciousness of what is going on may be added, and in this case the brain is linked up with the spinal cord and an additional cerebral mechanism is now called into play. I may, for instance, teach the dog not to scratch in the house. The unconditioned reflex is checked by training, that is, it is conditioned by memory of previous experience of punishment or scolding, so that now the dog either endures the irritation stoically or else goes out of doors to scratch.
The mechanisms employed in these tropisms and unconditioned reflexes differ from those of our toy beetle not only in being much more complex, but also in the way in which they were made. The toy was designed by an ingenious mechanic and was manufactured as a commercial enterprise. The idea is so clever that one hopes the inventor made a lot of money out of it.
The live beetle grew into its present form naturally. It can control its behavior so as to take care of itself in more different ways than the toy, and it was designed by a natural process that we call "organic evolution." It made itself and it runs itself. This ground we have already covered. Biological control of behavior is self-control from start to finish.
Of course this power of self-control is not unlimited either in the case of the toy beetle or of the live one. The toy beetle's control is limited to making only one kind of a turning in one particular situation, that is, at the edge of the table. The live beetle can make many kinds of turnings or tropisms. These have been accurately described and shown to follow their stimuli mechanistically. The mechanism is correspondingly more complicated. But the live beetles cannot control their behavior well enough to avoid destruction in countless numbers by the ordinary hazards of their precarious existence.
All of the different kinds of tropism that the live beetle shows can be imitated by mechanical or scien-
tific toys, and have been turning toward or away from the light (phototropism), turning toward or
away from particular chemical substances (chemo-tropism), and all the rest. But nobody has ever as-
sembled all of these in one machine as they are in life.
On the other hand, the behavior which expresses
p312. itself as biological reproduction has not been duplicated by any man-made machine. We have not learned how to do it, and present indications are that we are not likely to for a long time to come. Live beetles and all other living things can do it and have been doing it for hundreds of millions of years. We have not yet learned how to control vital processes so completely as to be able to make a live animal out of dead stuff the way God is said to have done in the Garden of Eden, though the newspapers insist on ascribing such marvelous powers to eminent biologists every now and then.
Yet we can control the course of events in living bodies in ways that are very useful to us. And the more we learn about vital processes and their mechanisms the greater is our ability to control the course of life in our animal neighbors and in ourselves. "As the twig is bent the tree is inclined." We can bend the twig. We do this with children too. That is why we send them to school.
We can control the course of heredity in any animal or plant stock in a large variety of ways. This is how faster race horses, better milch cows, fatter pigs, and hardier grains have actually been created by agriculturists. This means that we can control the course of evolution, for many of these artificially produced strains breed. true and when they are thoroughly bred into a stock we have a new species. This is the way new species are made in nature, and natural species endure as long as the conditions that called them forth endure. Artificially created species may also persist as long as the conditions devised for their production are maintained.
The ancients taught that the control of human destiny rests in the lap of the gods. We believe now (most of us) that part of it rests with us. It is ours if we will reach out and take it. Some control of the courses of our lives is our natural birthright. This we share with all animal kind, but we do it differently from other animals.
In human control, whether of our environment or of our own behavior, we must recognize that mental acts with the related bodily changes are the most significant features of the causal complex that is operating. Man controls his environment by the same biological methods that ants and beavers do, and he carries the process much farther by new methods of intelligent observation and experiment. He also has himself under better control, again partly by reflex and other unconscious mechanisms and partly by intelligent attention to it.
The mechanisms of conscious control are so different from those of all kinds of unconscious control that very different results are secured. When the mechanisms of consciousness reach the grade of organization that permits the formation of general ideas and of ideals of future conduct, these ideals of what I want to do, to be, and to become are causative factors in determining what I do now.
I now shape my present conduct in view of possible future events and in view of the effect which my present act may have on the future. I see several ways of reacting to the request of a friend for the loan of five dollars and my decision whether to accommodate him or not is based on my look into the future. Will I
p314 have enough left to see me through to pay day? Will he be able to pay me back? Will he actually want to pay the debt when he gets his own pay check or will he be more likely to spend it for a week-end at the country club?
This conscious forecast of the future effect of a present action is certainly a causative factor in determining whether I lend the money or keep it. It is a function of my brain, and the decision arrived at is the result of countless causal factors in the situation, some of which are unconscious and some deliberate intelligent judgments. It is mechanistically determined and yet it is a real choice. The fact that I know why I choose one or the other ways of deciding the question, this knowledge and this prevision of consequences, are by no means negligible by-products of the situation. They are the key-factors, and they set this kind of a choice over against that of a locomotive which when the switch is turned leaves the main track to enter a siding and does not know anything about it.
This intelligent choice is not an uncaused action, and yet the choice or decision that I make is far removed indeed from all forms of unconscious adaptive behavior. A weather vane turns with the wind. It has no choice in the matter. A moth flies into the candle flame and sears its wings. It apparently has no choice about it; its phototropisms work this way. automatically. Under natural conditions these tropisms work out beneficially more often than injuriously. If it were not so the tropism would not be there, for the individuals having the destructive tropisms would all be killed off without propagating
p315 their kind. Candle flames are not the sort of hazards to which a moth has to adjust in the natural environment within which the tropism was established.
We have only to recognize that thinking in general and especially thinking ahead and planning for the future are natural functions of my body to see that this foresight is one of the causes which determines my present behavior when I am asked for a loan of five dollars. There is nothing unnatural about my ability to do this. It would be unnatural for a moth to do it because the insect has not my kind of a brain. He has not the mechanism for foresight and for my kind of a choice.
In every case where there is conscious foresight of the probable results of an action this mental act becomes a causal factor in the present behavior and the total situation is radically changed. It is now a choice as we ordinarily use the word. This act is purposive or intentional, while that of the weather vane or moth is not. And yet it is not uncaused.
Right here is where many people are likely to jump the track in following this line of thought. They have always considered purpose, choice, self-control, and character-building as implying some mystical and unnatural powers that cannot be fitted into a mechanistic scheme, and they are unable to use these words at all without loading them with some supernatural implication.
But it is a fact that we do make decisions and choices and that we make them in view of the probable effects of the choice upon future events. There is nothing supernatural about this. Now having shown that every choice is a natural function of a natural
p316 body and that it has causes and results, that it is part of the mechanistic system, we have not changed in the least the enormous difference between the unconscious tropism or reflex and the conscious choice made deliberately with foresight of its probable consequences. Nor have we altered the fact that these conscious choices give us humans an apparatus of control of conduct that none of the beasts possess. The beasts do not make our kind of choices and so they cannot show our kind of control of present and future conduct.
It seems to be quite impossible to get some people to see this simple fact. We are so accustomed to think of choice or purpose as due to the intervention of some external and unnatural mystic power, a "spirit" or ghost, that we cannot use these words at all without immediately invoking magic, some undefined power that breaks into the natural causal sequence and disrupts it.
Now, of course, the author might meet this inveterate tendency of people to clothe his words with mystical meanings, which he has expressly and most emphatically disclaimed and excluded, by avoiding altogether the words "choice," "self-control," and the like and using some more vague circumlocution. But why do this? Why say "electron-proton interaction" when you mean choice ? Choice is a perfectly definite thing. We all know what the word means because we all make choices every day of our lives.
Though these common human choices and purposes are not uncaused, they are nevertheless really different from the discriminative reactions of toy beetles, moths, and human reflexes. There is a mech-
ansim working in each case. The mechanisms are different and the control of behavior effected is correspondingly different. Our choices are real choices, and they are our choices, choices made by our bodies, not by some mystic power that controls us from the outside the way the motor car is controlled by the driver.
Prevision of future contingencies, then, does actually participate in the control of human conduct in a natural way. It is a determining factor in what I do now. Indeed, it may go further than this. I may foresee the effect of the choice, not only on the course of outside events and the actions of other people, but also on my own character, my own inner nature. I may need that five dollars myself and I may have serious doubts whether my impecunious friend will ever be able to pay it back. Nevertheless I may lend the five to him with a smiling face and mentally kiss it goodbye. Not perhaps because he is really in hard luck and I am sorry for him, but because of its effect on myself. I have noticed a tendency to become closefisted and selfish. It will be good for me to loosen up a bit and give my generous impulses a little exercise.
Here is conscious, deliberate effort directed toward a change, not in my environment, not in the interest of my bank account, but in my personality, my character. Without thinking it out very critically perhaps, I am nevertheless really changing myself�for the better, I hope. And I am doing it with my eyes open. I have already some ideals of what kind of a man I want to be. I have decided that I do not want to be a tight-wad. Occasionally yielding to a generous im-
pulse gives me more pleasure than a fat bank account. I recognize this and I deliberately cultivate generosity.
The laws of cause and effect have not been violated, but they are certainly working in a very different way from that which we see in the locomotive when it takes the siding or in the unconscious conditioning of reflexes in a worm or a rat. Both the unconscious and the purposeful exercises are creative. Both create habits, in the one case blindly, in the other intentionally. What is the difference? The difference between a cog in a tiny wheel of the toy beetle and the intelligent designer and maker of that clever mechanism.
Our toy beetle exhibits real internal control of behavior. The live beetle more of the same and better control. I myself control my own behavior mechanistically just as truly as the toy. The range of that control is greater. I can reach out more widely into my environment and make it useful to me in more ways than the toy or the live insect can do. I can even reach out in imagination into the future and use possible contingencies as causal factors in shaping present conduct. And in the course of this adjustment to environment I can change my own inner nature and control the course of my own future growth in knowledge and character as the toy cannot do at all and as the insect can do very little. Yet the control is as natural and as lawfully systematic a process in my own case as in the others. The laws are different and so the results are different.
Since mental acts are natural functions of our natural bodies, they are real determiners of conduct and character the same as are all the rest of our acts. They are part of the biological machinery of regulation and control as truly as are our reflexes. Self-control by voluntary effort is a bodily act; hence it can be strengthened and cultivated by training as truly as muscular control in riding a motor-cycle can be trained, and for the same reason. It is the body that is trained in both cases.
This control is worth something to us. It is worth cultivating and it can be cultivated. Do not let anyone swindle you out of it by claiming that it is a myth or by trying to foist upon you some makeshift substitute warranted to be just as good and easier to live up to. It isn't. Nothing can replace it without sacrifice of your birthright as a human being. It is the most real and valuable bodily function that you have. It is worth holding on to and working for with all your might. There is nothing magical about it. It is bodily work, and hard work. It tires you out more completely than anything else you can do.
JOHN DEWEY. Human Nature and Conduct. New York, 1927.
R. G. GORDON. Personality. New York, 1926.
A. J. LOTKA. Elements of Physical Biology. Baltimore, 1925.
C. S. SHERRINGTON. The Integrative Action of the Nervous System. New York, 1906.

Here's the patent diagram:

U.S. Patent No 1,017,066

Toy Beetle
Toy Beetle

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