1957 – Machina Versatilis – Ivan Sutherland (American)

ivan southerland versatilis 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

Ivan Sutherland with M. Versatilis.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University Archives

 

IES Mversatilisp1 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

Machina Versatilis , pictured above and below, was so named due to the versatile modular plug-in boards. M. Versatilis was the final of three models built, and at least two of this model were supposedly built. The first version, see blog post here, was originally built in Spring 1956 by Ivan Sutherland's older brother Bert ( Willian Robert Sutherland) and his then class room-mate Malcolm "Mac" G. Mugglin.

That model had shortcomings and was abandonded. Later that year, Ivan took charge of the project and produced a second model. This model used a cast aluminium plate, easily removeable wet battery, and plastic bumpers. It still utilised vucuum tubes [valves] at this time. The third and final model was primarily built by Ivan in September 1957,  was fully transistorised and used only dry-cell batteries. 

To my knowledge, although Grey Walter had said he had built a transistorised tortoise in a letter dated Jan 1957, this is the first cybernetic animal to utilise transistors that we have proof of.

Another first was that a second M. Versatilis was built along with a light mounted on a rolling platform to be pushed around as a toy. Ivan later describes his idea on improving M. Versatilis even further with a direction-guiding gyroscope to enable a game of soccer to be play.  This effectively is the first ever mention of the concept now known as robo-soccer.

The pdf below, along with the letters published here give a good all round description of M. Versatilis. 

There is a video clip featuring the Sutherland brothers giving a talk on their lives. There's a brief mention of the robots about 19 minutes into the clip titled "mom loved him best" http://www.computerhistory.org/events/index.php?id=1090276799 .

IvanSutherland M Versatilisp2(1) 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

 

Electro-Mechanical-Animal Sutherland-  a pdf of the below article

 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)


 WGW Sutherland 0002 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

WGW Sutherland 0003 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

WGW Sutherland 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

 

WGreyWalterElsieJ10p2 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

Here's a picture of '#6" from another source. If you download it and zoom in, you can clearly see the '6' stamping on several of the chassis parts .


 

 

IvanSutherland Stabilityp1 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

IvanSutherland Stabilityp2 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

IvanSutherland Stabilityp3 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

IvanSutherland Stabilityp4 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)


Versatilis 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

Versatilis 0001 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

Versatilis 0002 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)


 

 

Versatilis 0003 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

 

Documents showing schematics of plug-in modules.

Versatilis 0004 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

Versatilis 0005 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

Versatilis 0006 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

Versatilis 0007 1957   Machina Versatilis   Ivan Sutherland (American)

There are not many references to Machina Versatilis. Unfortunately one of the more recent tomes on the history of A.I. (Boden: Mind as Machine) incorrectly credits the Sutherlands as the builders of Edmund C. Berkeley's "Squee" of 1951, rather than M. Versatilis.

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