1954 – Thodar the Robot – Ron Hezel (American)
See story as told on TV – "Robot inventor speaks out about his journey"
Video By: Mark Repasky : 02/11/2008 – 09:36 PM
The Story of Thodar© as seen on YouTube May 2009
( Video story about Thodar© starts 2.28 minutes into the report.)
see Ron Hezel's website here.
Thodar in good company.
Updated 02/11/2008 09:36 PM
Robot inventor speaks out about his journey
By: Mark Repasky
ST. JOHNSVILLE, N.Y. — At nearly seven feet tall and weighing upwards of 280 pounds, Thodar's shear mass is impressive, but when he was built a half a century ago, it was his ability to be controlled by remote control that made him revolutionary.
“He was the very first radio controlled robot. Wireless. [Ed-see note 1 below] So I came up with his name really means Radio Operated High Frequency Transmission backwards,” said Ron Hezel, Robot inventor.
Ron Hezel came up with the name Thodar months before he came up with that explanation. Which is the way he likes to work. He call's it "reverse engineering" and it's a phrase that captures his style of inventing and his outlook on life. Growing up in Brooklyn, a child of divorced parents, his fascination with electricity was primarily for self preservation.
“I found that most people were afraid of electricity, but I had a knack for it, and I found if I was known as that strange kid, with the high voltage, he could blow you up, that the bullies left me alone,” said Hezel.
It wasn't until 9th grade that a teacher "sparked" his interest in the more practical applications. For his final project that year he built this Tesla coil. It's still powerful enough to light a florescent bulb.
His interest in robots started early, when his father took him to the 1939 Worlds Fair. He saw Elecktro. The first "humanoid" robot, built by Westinghouse for $3,000. Eleven years later he made his own robot with pieces he collected from surplus stores in New York City for $200.
They became quasi celebrities, appearing with Jonathan Winters on the Jack Paar show and in all sorts of newspapers. By the time he graduated high school, the boy who had hated school, had a full ride to NYU. And ended up teaching.
“I always had a great love for watching a kid create something and build something in the same way I did when I was a kid,” said Hezel.
Still dabbling with new ideas, Ron and his wife now run a historic inn, filled with his collections and inventions. Light bulbs signed by Edison remind him of the man who never worked with a plan just knew that eventually he would get there and then he could explain how.
Note 1: Alas, like so many inventors, unbeknownst to them at the time they were not necessarily the first in their claims. See timeline for earlier examples of Wireless robot control.