Archive for the ‘The Robots’ Category

1973 – “Robbie” the Pulpit Robot – Rev. Ron Mackenzie (British)


1973 – "Robbie" the Pulpit Robot by the Rev. Ron Mackenzie




Sunday school with a difference: Helping the Reverend Ron Mackenzie is Robbie, the robot he designed and built himself 8 years ago. Robbie was built to help attract children to church and he has proved to be an enormous success.
Pic by Colin Harvey



London, England, 29th August 1973, Two little boys study a five foot robot built by their father Peter Stanley in the garden of their London home

[Note: The above Getty image, I believe, incorrectly, says the robot was built by Peter Stanley.]


“The Reverend Ronald John MacKenzie of the Elim Pentecostal Church, Nottingham, England, introduces his robot Robbie to some local children in the garden[…] MacKenzie uses Robbie as an aid in reaching and teaching children in his Sunday School classes.”

– (AP Photo,2013)


Robbies' eyes flash and his booming "voice" is a loadspeaker. The Rev. Ron Mackenzie spent 8 months using his old skills as an engineer to construct 5 ft. high, 18-inch square Robbie. Robbie has white eyes, a red nose, and lights on the top of his head to indicate when he is "thinking".



The Demonstration: Ron Mackenzie dons a protective coat for a lively demonstration of the bible story about the men who built their houses on sand and the firm rock. Standing by to help with the tale, is Robbie the robot, designed and built by the Reverend Ron Mackenzie for a Sunday School class in Croydon south London,
Pic by Colin Harvey





See other early Humanoid Robots here.

1940 – “Roll-Oh” the Domestic Robot – (American)


1940 – "Roll-Oh" the Domestic Robot


"Roll-Oh" can grasp objects, has a retractable knife in its hand, as well as a plant watering system, a can opener, and a gas-flame lighter. Its foot is also a vacuum-cleaner.










Leave It to Roll-Oh (1940)

Tongue-in-cheek film showing a domestic robot freeing housewives of their chores (and intimating that their work is hardly necessary); actually a promo showing how relays and switches function in the modern automobile. Shown at the New York World's Fair in 1940.

This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives

Producer: Jam Handy Organization
Sponsor: Chevrolet Division, General Motors Corporation
Audio/Visual: Sd, B&W   Source: here

[Thanks to my friend David Buckley for the link to the extended video version]

'Roll-Oh" partial transcript

Cast:     Roy from Roy's Robot Repairs (R)
             Housewife (H)

R: There Miss, you see the heterodynes were feeding back into the stimulus reaction activators causing non synapse of the motor control resistor units.

H:  Oh, that's good.
R: No Lady, that's bad. But your re-generative circuits are tuned asynchronously and that causes concatenation in the intermediate amplifiers.

H: Well that's bad, isn't it?

R: No, that's good. From now on I don't think there'll be the slightest trouble with your robut. Your domestic problems are completely solved.

         Robot Controls

Answer Door      Clean House
Wash Dishes     Get Dinner
Answer Phone    Make Bed
Get Hat              Fix Furnace

See other early Humanoid Robots here.

See other early Domestic Service Robots here.

See other early Pseudo and Fake Robots here.





1928 – “The Psychophonic Nurse” (Fiction) – David H. Keller (American)

“The Psychophonic Nurse”, by David H. Keller. Published in Amazing Stories, 1928

Illustration by Frank R. Paul.

The Psychophonic Nurse
A child-care robot – a nanny bot.

“I had her made by the Eastinghouse Electric Company. You see, she’s just a machine nurse, but as she doesn’t eat anything, is on duty twenty-four hours a day, and draws no salary, she’s cheap at the price I paid.”

“…let me show you how she works. She’s made of a combination of springs, levers, acoustic intruments, and by means of tubes such as are used in the radio, she’s very sensitive to sounds. She’s connected to the house current by a long, flexible cord, which supplies her with the necessary energy. To simplify matters, I had the orders put into numbers instead of sentences. One means that the baby is to be fed; seven that she’s to be changed…”

“…When I ordered this machine … I bought a phonograph with clock attachment. It will run for twenty-four hours without attention. Then I had a baby doctor work out a twenty-four hour programme of infant activity for different ages. Our baby is about two months old. You put this phonograph with the two-month record on it in the nursery… At definite periods of the twenty-four hours the phonograph will call out a number and the nurse will do what is necessary…

Article sourced from here.

[RH – one wonders how long baby would be in soiled daipers before the appropriate ‘number’ came up?]

The above fictional robot was inspired by the then new and wonderful Westinghouse Televox of 1927, which operated in s similar fashion.

See other early Domestic Service Robots here.

1948 – Ueno Zoo Robotized “Monkey Train” – Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

The monkey with the robot engineer. There appears to be a photo-electric cell mounted on the front. Maybe this is the 'robot' safeguard required for safe operation.

Jiro Aizawa was the inventor of the robotized "Monkey Train" at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo. Its been siad that he also patented the train, but I have not been able to locate that patent.

Source: Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: The Silent Victims of World War by Mayumi Itoh
Children's Zoo and "Monkey Train"
Ueno Zoo also opened a children's zoo for the first time in Japan in April 1948. It also began the "Monkey Train" in October of the same year in order to attract visitors, given the paucity of popular animals among children. The Monkey Train, with a simian conductor carrying children in an open train, became an institution at the zoo (the handle was actually controlled electrically and was safe). Hayashi, the "idea man," designed this program and supervised the actions of the female crab-eating macaque as the conductor. This popular attraction continued until June 1974 when the zoo accepted criticisms, domestic and foreign, that chaining the crab-eating macaque to the train for over an hour, making it perform as a conductor, ran counter to the fundamental mandate of the Animal Protection and Control Law that Japan had legislated in 1973. At any rate, owing to Koga's leadership and Hayashi's creativity, Ueno Zoo recovered in 1951 almost to its wartime peak in 1940, registering 1,196 specimens of 232 species.'

Source: Far Eastern Economic Review, September 27, 1974– Page 13

 Should monkeys drive trains?
Since 1948, happy trained monkeys have been regularly driving a three-car train around a 164-metre track inside Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, carrying an annual average of more than one million passengers, mostly children. They pull a lever, when the human station-master whistles, maintains an even speed with a hairy paw on the brakes, bring the train to a smooth halt at the end of the line, and spring out to salute the dismounting passengers. The working schedule for each monkey is less than two hours, with a union lay-off of two hours.  The zoo authorities insist that the monkeys which are taught to drive are happier than caged monkeys, which jabber excitedly and point enviously as the train speeds by and the driver waves to them with tolerant superiority.
However, the Japan Animal Welfare Society (JAWS) rejoined the Japanese SPCA in protesting against the unique practice. A new Japanese law, JAWS says, demands that "animals should be handled in a proper manner with respect to the natural habits." Jiro Aizawa, chief director of the Japanese Children's Culture Research Institute, who invented and patented the monkey's train, opposes the animal lovers' campaign. "These adults", he argues logically, "must be persons who have never experienced the joys of playing with toys."

The new "Monkey Train" was based on the then new Bullet Train.  The monkey was now only a "passenger".

December, 1971.

Due to public criticism, Ueon's "Monkey Train" was stopped in June of 1974.

The idea of using primates in attractions was still alive in 1950, although the orangutan is not actually driving in this case.
Mechanix Illustrated, November 1950.
Ape Engineer Ling Wong is a baby orangutan at Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago. Placidly wearing an engineer's cap, gloves and goggles, Ling squats on the Diesel engine of the "Zoo Line," the kids' own train, and it would be hard to say who's having the most fun. Ling used to work for the Chimpanzeelvania Line.

See Aizawa's other Robot trains here.

See all the known early Humanoid Robots including Aizawa's Robots here.

1916 – “King Grey” the Electric Titan – Vern Pieper (American)

I first saw this mentioned in David M. Earle's interesting book titled "Re-Covering Modernism: Pulps, Paperbacks, and the Prejudice of Form", but John Ptak's recent post reminded me of it. I have used his image of the prototype walking machine.

The model of King Grey, the Electric Titan.  Although called "Electric", the motive power is by two large 40 H.P. automobile engines. A smaller engine will generate electricity to be used for sensors and controls. See below article for further details.

Another source.
The Colac Herald [Victoria, Australia], 30 Jan 1918
It is highly improbable, as we have said before, that military "Tanks" will stop where they are. The invention is too revolutionery not to excite the interest of engineering experts, and, moreover, the field is so sure and promising that it must attract the creative. The ironclad commenced its career in much about the
same way. It was just an old wooden hulk cased in the railway rails of the day. The Tank is merely an armoured plus-motor-lorry on caterpillar wheels, which were originally devised for agricultural purposes.
Here is an invention, due to an American electrician, Mr. Vern Pieper. He has devised a wonderful walking giant! At the present moment, he has completed only the model, but the real giant-a nine foot marvel of steel plates, knuckles, and cog wheels-is now in the process of being forged.
The movement in the feet and legs in the little model is so perfect that his steps appear natural; he may be stopped standing on the toe of one foot and the heel of the other, or in almost any natural position that would he assumed by a human being.
When fully grown King Grey-as the inventor calls him-will be 9 feet tall; his weight will be 750 pounds. His anatomical proportions will be: distance from hip joint to the ground, 4 feet 9 inches; distance from toe of boot to rear of vehicle, 21 feet; foot 16 inches long; 7 inches wide; step, 42 inches. The legs will be weighted with mercury to maintain a low centre of gravity.
The chief achievements of King Grey will be drawing a vehicle weighing over 1,500 pounds, containing four persons, any distance desired. That is the hope of the inventor, and the hope is not beyond the realms of possibility.
An intricate mechanism is required to direct the movements of the giant. Besides the two 40-horse power automobile type engines required as propulsive force, a small 2-horse-power engine will be used to govern an electrical nervous system. This small engine will operate a set of feather clutches, controlled by the movement of an electric plumb-bob in the giants head. The bob, moving in accordance with the slope of the ground will cause the giant to lean forward when ascending a hill and backwards when descending.
King Grey will be caused to turn corners by shortening the stroke of the inside leg and lengthening the stroke of the outside one.
He will be connected to the vehicle he draws by two steel shafts, 5 inches in diameter and 8 feet long, bolted to his body at the hips; his hands will rest on the ends of the shafts, and it will appear as if he were a live man of extraordinary size, pulling the vehicle after the manner of a horse hitched to a dog cart.
Four sledge-like runners will be mounted under the car, one at each wheel, and at the slightest sign of a mechanical derangement that might tend to cause a wreck, the runners will automatically drop to the ground and the wheels at the same instant, rise from the ground. The car, thus converted into a sledge, will act as an enormous break and bring the machine to an instant stop.
The nation, says Mr. Cracker, that could put into the field a legion of steel mechanical giants-filled with men armed with guns-charging down over the hills, smashing with their huge feet through the feebly obstructing barbed wire, leaping the trenches, and massacring the helpless defenders, would, especially if the thing could be done by surprise, demoralise, and even rout a whole army. Other scientific miracles have been frequent. Why, it is asked by our authority, may not such a monster as the Electrical Titan be part of the mechanical equiptment of the armies of the future ?– "Popular Science Siftings."

See all the known Steam Men and early Walking Machines here.

See all the known early Humanoid Robots here.