Posts Tagged ‘1948’

1948 – GE Master-Slave Manipulator – John Payne (American)


1948 GE Master-Slave Manipulator – John Payne

Patent number: 2476249 (see here)
Filing date: Nov 24, 1948
Issue date: Jul 1949

Mechanical Hands with Remote Control
The village blacksmith of Longfellow may have had "muscles like iron bands," but scientist John Payne of General Electric has done him one better; he has arms and hands made of steel, and what's more, he can operate his from the next room.
His device has an important function of course; with it he can handle remotely the hot, radioactive materials used in atomic research at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory at Schenectady, NY. His "hands" can perform delicate chemical experiments, operate machine tools and do countless other tasks involving great dexterity. In use the metal manipulators extend over a wall impervious to the harmful radiations, and reach into the radio-active area to handle the material.  The operator remains in a separate control room and atches the operation by means of mirrors.

Dexterity showing a drill brace.

Operator yards away guides mechanical hands, without usual mirrors, in putting nut on bolt.
Seven-League Hands For Hot Atoms
PS Photos by Hobert Lushest
REMEMBER the sailor in the picture "The Best Years of Our Lives"—the boy who had lost his own arms but could do almost anything you can do with his "hooks"? That sailor's hooks are now a vital tool in atomic research. As the "hands" at the ends of long steel arms in General Electric's new remote manipulator, they reach over a high, thick wall to hold deadly radioactive "hot stuff"—picking it up, performing experiments with it, and operating tools on it —all at the command of a human operator sitting yards away safely behind the wall.
It all began last year when John Payne, GE research associate, toured the plutonium works at Hanford, Wash. He was impressed by the remotely controlled devices that handled intensely radioactive materials from behind shields. But he felt something was missing: there were many special-purpose devices, but no versatile gadget that could do all the jobs a man does with his hands. That night Payne went to a movie—you guessed it, "The Best Years of Our Lives." Back in Schenectady he started figuring. The result is a gigantic yet simply operated machine that can do the things human hands do. It runs machine tools, pours chemicals, fastens screws and bolts, even peels bananas. In every atomic laboratory from Berkeley to Brookhaven it is known as The Machine that Can Undress a Babe without Pinching.
For artist's conception of remote manipulator setting up dangerously radioactive material in lathe inside hot laboratory, turn to next page.

Sketch Shows Hands In Use

Source:Popular Science, June 1948

See other Early Teleoperators and Manipulators here.

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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.

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".

December, 1971.

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.
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.

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1940 – Project Pigeon (1948 – Project Orcon) – B.F. Skinner (American)

Painting (1986) by Anton van Dalenshowing B.F. Skinner with Project Pigeon.

Project Orcon

During World War II, Project Pigeon (later Project Orcon, for "organic control") was American behaviorist B. F. Skinner's attempt to develop a pigeon-guided missile.

The control system involved a lens at the front of the missile projecting an image of the target to a screen inside, while a pigeon trained (by operant conditioning) to recognize the target pecked at it. As long as the pecks remained in the center of the screen, the missile would fly straight, but pecks off-center would cause the screen to tilt, which would then, via a connection to the missile's flight controls, cause the missile to change course.

Although skeptical of the idea, the National Defense Research Committee nevertheless contributed $25,000 to the research. However, Skinner's plans to use pigeons in Pelican missiles was considered too eccentric and impractical; although he had some success with the training, he could not get his idea taken seriously. The program was canceled on October 8, 1944, because the military believed that "further prosecution of this project would seriously delay others which in the minds of the Division have more immediate promise of combat application."

Project Pigeon was revived by the Navy in 1948 as "Project Orcon" under the guidance of Dr. F.V. Taylor. The project was canceled in 1953 when electronic guidance systems' reliability was proven.

The documentary is in error in thinking that there is one pigeon sighting the target through the three portholes. There were actually three pigeons with their own porthole.

ELECTRONIC DESIGN, November 25, 1959, p. 16

A study of missile guidance by pigeon pecking has been taken out from under wraps by the Navy. At the same time, perhaps to calm fears of guidance designers, the Navy made clear that the project has been discontinued.

Started during World War II, Project Orcon (for organic control) was a try-anything approach to solving some then-current problems. Guidance systems for homing missiles were being easily countermeasured and the Navy thought animals might have potential as a jam-proof control element. Pigeons were selected for trial because they were light, easily obtainable and adaptable. Their job was to ride inside a missile and peck at an image of a target picked up by a lens in the missile's nose. The pigeon's pecking of the target image was translated into an error signal that corrected the simulated missile's simulated flight.

The project was revived in 1948 and carried further. In simulated rocket tests, the pigeons produced "surprisingly good results." The researchers were convinced that a pigeon could successfully guide a speeding missile under optimum conditions, compensating for his own and the missile's errors.

But after three years of equipment development and testing, the project was abandoned because the range of the Orcon system could be no greater than the range of any optical system and the system could be used only in the daytime. The trainer used target images photographed in color by a jet plane, which made picture-taking dives at a destroyer and a freighter in open sea.

Trainee pigeons were started out in the primary trainer pecking at slowly moving targets. They were rewarded with corn for each hit and quickly learned that good pecking meant more food. Eventually pigeons were able to track a target jumping back and forth at five inches per second for 80 seconds, without a break. Peck frequency turned out to be four per second, and more than 80 percent of the pecks were within a quarter inch of the target. The training conditions simulated missile-flight speeds of about 400 miles per hour.

The image was shown under a glass screen coated with stannic oxide to make it electrically conducting. Through circuitry based on the Wheatstone Bridge principle, pecks on the glass were translated into distance right and left and up and down from the center lines.

The target was moved by a small mirror controlled by a servo. The control circuits were such that if the pigeon stopped tracking, the target image would drift rapidly away from the center of the screen. This forced the pigeon to correct not only his own pecking errors, but those introduced by the yawing of the missile. It turned out that 55.3 per cent of the runs made were successful–that is, the pigeons were able to keep the target image on their screens for the duration of more than half their flights.

If pigeon guidance did not get very far in the Navy, it did have one valuable offshoot. The electrically conducting glass was later used in many radar displays. (ELECTRONIC DESIGN, November 25, 1959, p. 16)

The demonstrator nose-cone now in the National Museum of American History.

The nose cone was to be used on a glide bomb named PELICAN. (See here for further reference to glide bombs)


See pdf below on Animal Guidance Systems including ORCON. 

Source: Electronics Australia Jan 1972 reprint from Electronics World December 1971.

Source: New Scientist 8 Oct 1959.

Source: Toledo Blade 11 Oct 1959.

Source: Cumulatve Record : Pigeons in a Pelican by B.F. Skinner.

Further images can be found in the above pdf.


From Correspondence from Ronald C. McConnell, Ph.D.
Bell Labs retired, APL-JHU alumnus

mentions "George Carlton's "pigeon-pecking missile guidance project in the late 1940s. George headed the APL robot project 20 years later."

He later hinted to me that is was thought the real reason for the cessation of the project was that administrators could not come to terms with the issues surrounding the fact that pigeons had to die for the cause.

1947-55 – Baby Mechanical Elephants – Frank Stuart (British)

Ex-Tom Norgate’s Mechanical Elephant supplied by Frank Stuart.

The ex-Norgate elephant (“Ellie”) is the only known baby elephant to have a plate on it saying “Supplied by Frank Stuart”.

Above 3 images courtesy Derek Tucker.

The full history of Frank Stuart and his baby mechanical elephants (stiff legged, not the later walking elephants) remains unclear.  In the mid to late 1940’s, Frank Stuart’s business was primarily into theatrical mask making and scenic prop making. Around 1947 he finally makes an electric powered mechanical elephant, most likely for indoor theatrical purposes. He reasons that he was holidaying on the sea side at Clacton watching donkeys take children for a ride. Having an affinity with animals, his father was a vetinarian, and he was a fellow of the Zoological Society, as well as making animal props for the theatre, Stuart thought he could make an artificial substitute, saving the animal on the one hand, and believing it to be cheaper to run on the other.

Later on, Stuart makes baby elephants under contract to Macades (Entertainment) who bought the Frank Smith patent.

It appears the idea of theatric prop to making money from amusement rides starts to take shape. Maurice  Radburn, an employee of Frank Stuart’s, believes he can make a walking version of this elephant. In his spare time, he produces a working model, called “Bimbo”. Stuart develops this idea further, and produces drawings and a full size prototype called “Potsy”. At about this time, if not before, Stuart ceases to supply Macades with baby elephants, and focuses his business and staff on building the larger walking elephants. The walking elephant was announced to the world early in January of 1950, but took another 6 months before a reliable version was perfected enough to fully publicise, around July 1950.

Soon after, it is believed that Stuart is charged with infringing the patent now owned by Macades (Entertainment), who are in business to make money in the amusement game. Clearly Stuart was about to muscle in on Macades turf big time, which is why it was most likely Macades that sought the patent infringement.

Stuart therefore targets his elephants for export only, given that the Macades patent was for Great Britain only. Initial orders were fulfilled, but Stuart geared up for larger orders coming in. Unfortunately for Stuart, his creditors get nervous or see that the production rate is too slow, for whatever reason the receivers are called in and Stuart eventually declares bankruptcy mid 1952.

Most likely Stuart had spirited away some walkers and a baby at the time the receivers were called in, and was now using these at Paignton and Scarborough during the summer season, at least in 1952, and possibly up until 1955, at Paignton.

The era for such amusements was, however, in decline, and Macades themselves also disappeared off the scene.

Jenny II with coach at Paignton, 1955.


The original and larger Jenny.

Source: The Argus (Australia) 13 Jan 1950.


Filling up at Ramsgate, 1972.


Lot 382 Brooks Auction – Toys and Models 28th Sept. 2000. Sold for Pound 450. (Image courtesy Stuart Cyrus). Notice the Engine display window has not been cut into the side of the howdah in this image.

Amazing Wilhelmina the Mechanical Elephant

Wilhelmina is for sale by John Hornby-Smith, England [or was in 2000].

He provides the following details:
Wilhelmina the mechanical elephant is nearly 50 years old and getting ready to celebrate the millennium. Built by Frank Stuart in the early 50’s, she served her time giving children rides on the promenades of famous north country seaside towns and later in the Belle Vue Zoo Manchester (England). Recently restored, now sparkling with gold decoration, she is ready for more and FOR SALE.

Extract of details:
4 children can ride on the howdah. Wilhelmina is propelled by a J.A.P. 4 cycle petrol engine (shown below) with centrifugal clutch. She is steered by an adult walking along beside her. Her head nods as she moves. She is constructed of papier mache and canvas over tubular steel frame.

See full page article here.

**Stop Press** as at 29 Jan 2011, ebay has one for sale!  As Larry Gavette pointed out in the comment posted, this is Wilhelmina being sold again – see Wilhelmina above.

Ebay Item number: 280621953395


Sold for GBP 1,600.

The Orrows now own Wilhelmina and are lovingly restoring her.

**Update** Jan 2012 – During the restoration, Derek Tucker noticed that Wilhelmina, too, is the same construction as it his “Ellie” above. The manufacturing plate is missing, but the mounting holes line up.

NOTE: RH 2011 – My research suggests that the Macades elephants, who bought the Frank SMITH patent, all had the J.A.P. motors and were manufactured by both Frank STUART and Luneside Engineering. Macades may have made some themselves.

Is this the electric version built by Frank Stuart?

Update: No, it was converted from Petrol-fueled engine.

1948-9 – “Bimbo” the Mechanical Elephant prototype – Maurice Radburn (British)

Whilst it was Frank Stuart that gets most of the credit for the famous British Robot Elephant, it was in fact Maurice Radburn, an employee of Frank Stuart's that toyed with the idea of building a Walking Elephant. Frank Stuart had already built a stiff-legged motorised elephant but wasn't entirely happy with it. Maurice Radburn presented his boss with a model prototype, then soon after produced an electric-powered model, complete with hide, dressings, and a model Mahout riding it.

Thanks  to early research work by Larry Gavette in the late 1970's and early 1980's we do have pictures and a captured British "Blue Peter"  T.V. program that featured Maurice and his models.

Video contains British "Blue Peter" T.V. programs dated December 1975, then a follow-up program on 5th April, 1976. Video Courtesy Larry Gavette.

Maurice Radburn.

Stills from video clip.

Maurice Radburn with "Bimbo", the mechanical elephant prototype. All Photos courtesy Larry Gavette.

The same Bimbo that was shown on the "Blue Peter" program 5th April, 1976.

Letter from Maurice Radburn to Larry Gavette (1980) showing the wire-frame model sans masking.

Note: You can see from Radburn's letterhead that he was skilled in Theatrical masks and Costumes, Model Theatres and Puppets. The Craftmasks business was post Frank Stuart's Mechanimals Ltd as a result of Stuart's bankruptcy in the early 1950's.

Maurice Radburn letters to Larry Gavette – 1979-81.