Archive for the ‘The Robots’ Category

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

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

The Psychophonic Nurse Frank R Paul 1928 1928   The Psychophonic Nurse (Fiction)   David H. Keller (American)

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)

 1948   Ueno Zoo Robotized Monkey Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Osaru densha monkey train robot aizawa detail x640 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.

aizawa 1948 book 0001 x640 1948   Ueno Zoo Robotized Monkey Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

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".

 1948   Ueno Zoo Robotized Monkey Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

 1948   Ueno Zoo Robotized Monkey Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

December, 1971.

ueno monkey train 2 1948   Ueno Zoo Robotized Monkey Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

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.
ape engineer mech illus nov 1950 x640 1948   Ueno Zoo Robotized Monkey Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)
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)

Illustrated World 1916 12 titan robot 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.

electric titan 1916 prototype 1916   King Grey the Electric Titan   Vern Pieper (American)

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.


1936 – Robot Remote Controlled Train – Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

steampunk robot x640 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Aizawa's Remote Controlled Train (Popular Mechanics, Nov, 1936) article was popularised in . Sadly, Jiro Aizawa was not named as the inventor in the article.

Robot Engine Built in Japan Is Driven by Remote Control

Automatic train control is understood to be a feature of a mysterious robot locomotive model built in Japan. Streamlined, but of a design unlike any conventional locomotive, the details of its mechanism have not been revealed. It is believed, however, that it will be operated electrically by remote control and will be equipped with a braking mechanism which will stop it automatically if the rails ahead become dangerous.

How do I know it's Jiro Aizawa? Well, coincidentally I recently acquired a book by Aizawa (in Japanese) with pictures of this train. Further, I have another press-released image and caption that gives a little more description, such as his name!

aizawa train 1936 press 1 x640 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Mysterious robot engine has been developed in Japan by Jiro Aizawa. Shown above with model of engine. Complete details are not given but it is believed the engine will be driven by remote control and will have a special device to stop the engine should something happen to the rails.

aizawa train 1936 press robot x169 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Not easily noticed in the Popular Mechanics image (above-top) is the robot driver of the train, seen here from the Press image.

aizawa 1948 book 0004 x640 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

aizawa 1948 book 0005 x640 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

aizawa 1948 book 0006 x640 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Other train images from Aizawa's book. Note that I am unable to translate the captions for the photos.

aizawa 1948 book 0007 x640 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Another remote controlled train also see in image on page <3> above.

aizawa 1948 book 0003 x640 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Train bogie in Aizawa's workshop along with some of his early robots.

1936 Dreyfuss Mercury Streamliner Train x468 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Although Aizawa's train looks like an anthropomorphised armadillo by todays standards, it is contemporary with other streamlined trains popularised by designers such as Henry Dreyfuss and his "Mercury" Streamliners, 

aizawa 1948 book 0001 x640 1936   Robot Remote Controlled Train   Jiro Aizawa (Japanese)

Aizawa was also responsible for the robotized "Monkey Train" at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, but I'll write more on that in a later post. See here.

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


1979 – “Tomaton” the Robot – Lenny Schectman (American)

TOMATON robot Lenny Schectman 79 press x640 1979   Tomaton the Robot   Lenny Schectman (American)
Ft. Lauderdale – TOMATON and his creator Lenny Schectman. July 1979.
Tomaton, short for Automaton, is 6-foot tall.
Lenny Schectman became involved in robotics mainly because of his interest in technology allowing the brain to be tapped to signal function in limbs of paraplegics and quadraplegics. He wanted to enter the biomedical engineering field but lacked the proper degrees. The 33-year-old bachelor explained he made the first 14-inch tabletop robot at age 19 as a conversation piece for parties. His next was five feet tall. But because robots were not "in", he ditched it until deciding to build Tomaton in 1979.
Now the cement truck driver spend countless hours foraging in hardwarw stores for assorted wires, light bulbs, aluminum screening, copper rings and other robot-related paraphernalia.
Extract from Boca Raton News, October 3, 1983.
TOMATON robot Lenny Schectman 79 press 3 x640 1979   Tomaton the Robot   Lenny Schectman (American)
Control Box for TOMATON.

Schectman later built another robot called "Apollo" around 1983.

 1979   Tomaton the Robot   Lenny Schectman (American)
Apollo is 100-pounds in weight, 4-foot 3-inches high. Apollo rolls on wheels and its head revolves and its chest lights up. Laser-treated plexiglas gave the red and gold lights in its peaked head a prism effect. Apollo required 2,500 hours to build and cost [in 1983] $10,000 in parts.
I do not have a good image of Apollo, and very little information about Tomaton. Please contact me if you have further information.

See the complete list of early Mechanical Men and Robots here.