1966 – Mechanical Rat – Meredith Thring (British)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Feb 1, 1967

……..  He [Professor Meredith Wooldridge Thring, 51, professor of mechanical engineering at London's Queen Mary College] suggested a trip to one of his laboratories.
"Here you see our mechanical rat," he explained. He pointed to a gadget about the size of a boy's electric train. Before it lay a series of little alleys, making up a maze.
"Now watch," he suggested.
The mechanical rat began moving forward, heading for the maze. It took the first turning on its left and headed into one of the alleys, coming to a halt at a wall at the top of the alleys. Reversing itself, the mechanical rat moved back to its starting point, then went forward again and entered the second alley on its left. Moving backward and forward, it explored seven [more] alleys, returned to its takeoff point and halted.
"Now watch closely," said the professor.
Another scientist placed a small piece of cheese at the end of an alley. Once again, the mechanical rat crept forward, took right and left turns and then headed smack up the alley that held the cheese. At the cheese, the mechanical rat halted.
The mechanical rat was being operated by a tiny computer brain built into it.
The hunk of cheese was removed.
The robot backed up, returned to its home base, and started searching the alleys again, going precisely from left to right.

The above description is a newspaper reporter's observation, and does not necessarily accurately depict why it performed the way it did.

Robots and Telechirs – M.W. Thring, 1983.
p184-9
The control sequencer or stepping switch receives a drive signal from the limit switch of the previous movement, or from an external signal which tells it to end the movement earlier. It then goes on to the next operation. In the case of a uniselector switch such as was used in thetable clearing robot (Mark I built 1962); Mark II, built 1962) or the rat in the maze a microswitch operated by an external contact can tell it to move to the same sequence or to a different one.

The 'rat' moved in sequence down each of the eight paths taking a choice of path at each junction but when a small object ('cheese') was clamped at the end of one path it locked onto this path and repeated it continually.


The dating of this entry has been difficult. The overseas reports are dated early February 1967, and the Telechirs report suggesta a date post 1964. It would have had to existed in 1966 so, for the moment, I've chosen that date.

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