1949-50 – George the Robot – Tony Sale (British)

The first version of "George' the robot built when Tony Sale was seventeen years old in 1949.

Compare with image below shows that this negative/print masked out the brand of vacuum cleaner.


The later version of "George" displayed bigger feet, broader shoulders, and with ears!

I contacted Tony Sale in 2009 and hopefully soon I will have a recent picture of Tony and "George" as they are now.  Tony is the same person who is responsible for building the replica "Colossus" WWII code-breaking computer from Bletchley Park. See his site here.

Date original Released : 23/05/1949  – Unfortunately there is no preview of this video available

 Duration 66ft
 Technical ORIG. NEG.
 Subset Reuters TV – British Paramount
 Location High Wycombe, England
Colourbw B/W

ENGLAND: HIGH WYCOMBE. Seventeen-year-old Terry Sale makes radio-controlled robot. High Wycombe, England SV Boys bedroom with boy surrounded by apparatus which he is soldering. CU Terry Sale (the boy). CU Pan from feet of Robot to head, showing frame built of Meccano and wireless material. SCU Robot head revolves and eyes light up. CU Pan Boy with buzzer Pan to radio short wave aerial. SV Robot walking towards, reaching to short wave signal. CU Robot arms moving. SV Boy tapping out morse, reaches down and adjusts short wave, CU Robot feet moving. BV Pan Robot walking towards boy with short wave equipment, camera Pans to boy. SCU Robot talking. CU Robot talking with smoke in foreground of screen.


Click on above image to see video clip.

Description from Video clip source:

1283.11 | ROBOT (1:15:00:00 – 1:17:13:00) 18/12/1950
Robot invented. RAF (Royal Air Force) Saffron Waldren, Essex.

C/U Robot (George) head turning, eyes light up and mouth moves. M/S Controller Pilot Officer Sale working robot. C/U Robot walking forward, moves arms and shakes head. M/S Pan from controller to robot walking, controller comes back into picture. C/U Feet of robot approaching. C/U Control set, pan up to controller's face. M/S Robot walking. C/U Control set. M/S Robot, controller walks into picture, puts down set and turns robot's shoulders. C/U Turning robot round, controller puts screwdriver inside robot and loosens nut. C/U Controller takes front from robot, showing inside.

Update: December 2010

Back in February 2010, I was contacted by the Aardman/Wallace and Gromit director about an upcoming series on Inventions. Tony Sale and "George" was one of my recommendations that bore fruit.

From the BBC News:

As reported in The Telegraph, 22 Nov 2010.

One of Britain's first humanoid robots has been resurrected after being found in a garage where it had been stored for the last 45 years.
Former spy catcher and RAF officer Tony Sale, 79, built the 6ft high robot, George, in 1950 for just £15 using scrap metal from a crashed Wellington bomber plane.
At the time Mr Sale was only 19 and his amazing man-sized model, which could walk and "talk" stunned the world as few people had ever seen a human-looking robot before.
Sadly computers were too crude and big to give George memory and intelligence so he was packed away in a garage in Bedford and left to gather dust. But now after nearly five decades Mr Sale has got the radio-controlled robot working simply by putting in two new batteries and oiling his joints.
"I dug him out of the garage where he had been standing for 45 years," he said. "I had a fair bit of confidence he would work again and luckily I was right. "I put some oil on the bearings and added a couple of new lithium batteries in his legs, switched him on and away he went. It was a lovely moment."
Mr Sale has always been interested in mechanics and built his first George the robot using Meccano when he was just 12 years old.
The instructions for making the robot were in the Meccano manual and it could walk at a steady pace by shuffling its feet.
In 1945 Mr Sale made a second George the robot and three years later at the age of 17 he improved it by making it bigger and controlling it by radio.
This new 3ft version was also made from Meccano, but was covered with a silver cardboard skin and was considered so impressive it appeared on television.
"That summer I decided to build a fourth George, which was 5ft high and had a moving jaw to simulate speech," he said.
"He caused lots of excitement and was featured in the newspapers."
In 1949 Mr Sale joined the airforce for his national service and was stationed at RAF Debden, near Saffron Walden, Essex, where he was employed to teach pilots how to use radar.
It was here he created the surviving George the robot using aluminium and duralumin from a Wellington bomber which had crashed on the site.
"I made him in my spare time. He was 6ft tall and I put light sensitive cells in his eyes which enabled him to home in on an illuminated beer bottle," he said. "He was brought out and demonstrated at all the open days at RAF Debden and featured on Pathe News."
The robot, which is powered by two motorcycle batteries can be made to walk, turn his head, move an arm and sit down. He can operate up to 30 feet from his controls. He caught the imagination of the press and was featured in numerous papers as one of the earliest humanoid robots built in the UK. George was pictured carrying the shopping, hoovering and even mowing the lawn.
"I think he really impressed people because he looked so lifelike," said Mr Sale. "Unfortunately I wasn't able to improve him any further as computers weren't developed enough at the time.
"He has no memory and there were no computers small enough to enable him to become an intelligent robot, so he was put away.
"He was left to languish until I found him again in my garage, where he hadn't been touched for 45 years."
Mr Sale, who was the driving force behind the rebuild of the famous Colossus computer, has now donated George to The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, Bucks, which he helped to found. He added: "It's lovely to have George working again and people can come along and visit him and see him for themselves."

Above: Trailer for Wallace & Gromit's Inventions series.

George as he now appears at The National Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park.

George with Colossus in the background.

"George" with his creator, Tony Sale in 2010.

To see Tony Sale and George back in the media today, check these articles from The Sun, The Telegraph and Metro:

Age Against The Machine – The Sun

Robot George: Early Humanoid Revived – The Telegraph

1950s Robot Back In Action – Metro

** Stop Press -** On 30 August 2011, Tony Sale passed away. Vale Tony.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, February 7th, 2010 at 3:48 pm and is filed under The Robots. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “1949-50 – George the Robot – Tony Sale (British)”

  1. Sheridan Williams Says:

    Tony Sale hasn’t changed a bit! He’s still going strong at Bletchley Park.

  2. George the robot is 60 and alive : socks-studio Says:

    […] Sale site. George, the robot, at Cybernetic Zoo (A history of cybernetic animals and early […]

  3. machine man Says:

    I found a Video :go to youtube
    and search for George the Robot.