Posts Tagged ‘1953’

1953 – Tobor the Robot – Dave Ballard (American)


From the "Captain Video" TV serial, the "I, Tobor" episodes starting the week of November 2, 1953.

Tobor (played by 7' 6" Dave Ballard) was a prototype robot designed to be a tireless worker and indestructible soldier. It bore the inscription "I-TOBOR" (a reversed image of ROBOT-I) on its chest plate.

Tobor's body featured a cylindrical manlike form, rockets mounted on its back; an antenna sprouting skywards from each shoulder; a triangular flap of metal on its chest containing a lens which shot a death ray; and activation by voice commands via a pocket-sized device attuned to the vocal frequency of its controller. Tobor also had giant claw pincers as hands.

Tobor was originally designed as a force for good in the universe, until Atar, a villainous female reset the robot's voice circuits to obey only her commands. Now in control of the powerful robot, Atar set out to conquer the solar system.

Tobor was finally rendered harmless when Captain Video, matching Atar's vocal frequency, sent conflicting commands to Tobor and disrupted its circuitry.

Months later (due to popular demand) Tobor was reactivated but this time under the guidance of Captain Video's voice. A video monitor was built into his metallic naval for closed circuit communication.

In a later episode, an evil scientist stole Tobor's blueprints and created a duplicate Tobor. A colossal battle of good vs. evil ensued with Tobor fighting his evil twin.

Tobor the robot was prominently featured in serial episodes: "I, Tobor" (1953);  "The Return of Tobor the Robot (1954); and "Dr. Pauli's Planet" (1955).

Sources: TVAcres and

The Merkin Marvel


Image source: Good Housekeeping, Oct, 1955.

Image source: The Space Age Museum.

Dave Ballard – the actor giant.


Picture Source: The Tallest Man

Text Source: The Daily News, Huntington and Mount Union, PA. Monday December 21, 1953.

TV News by F. Glenn Westbrook.
In case anyone didn't know, there's a man inside the robot on the TV "Captain Video" series. He's a fellow called Dave Ballard, a 7-foot 8-inch giant. His trouble as a TV actor is that there aren't enough roles for giants.

Tobor Trivia:

  1. Its been said that Tobor is the first robot to appear in a TV series, beginning the week of November 2, 1953. It should be noted that the earlier robots from Captain Video were from a film serial, not TV.   To my knowledge, the Superman TV serial had the first robot – Adventures of Superman: Season 1, Episode 17, The Runaway Robot (9 Jan. 1953).
  2. Other forums suggest the reason why the robot is called Tobor is due to a stencil being cut on the wrong side, hence reversed in its application. As we haven't seen an image of Tobor with his name emblazoned on his chest, this cannot be confirmed yet.
  3. A different looking robot appeared in the earlier 1951 film serial Captain Video Master of the Stratosphere and first appeared in Chapter 3 "Captain Video's Peril".
  4. The 1954 movie "Tobor the Great" was a different robot as well.

Note: Mon Jan 18, 2016, Peter Milo contacted me:-

Hi. I ran across your article regarding Tobor from the Captain Video show. I remember the first episode quite vividly: The stencil was accidentally reversed when the name was painted. Hence: I TOBOR

I also had the good fortune of meeting the entire cast in person and got to see the actual filming of an episode at the DuMont studio  (my dad was a mounted cop in that area and had many friends along his beat).   Al Hodges was really a friendly individual, as was the rest of the crew. I left the studio that evening with a bunch of Powerhouse candy bars. LOL

Hi Peter,
Thanks for confirming the stencil story. Do you recall TOBOR as having large claws as hands? Cheers, Reuben Hoggett.

Hello, Reuben. Thanks again for creating such an informative sight. Tobor had large pincer claws, which greatly added to his overall menace. A model robot, which really didn’t resemble Tobor, was used for his space travel scenes. I remember my friends debating this anomaly; they finally chalked it up to poor photography in outer space.    The episode with the rock monsters was being telecast on the evening I visited the studio. I remember being quite surprised by the special effects (a couple technicians were lying on the floor, pulling ropes). When I glanced up at the monitor, it seemed that the large rocks were moving on their own. Really cool stuff.  Best Regards, Peter Milo.

See other early Humanoid Robots here.

See other early Pseudo and Fake Robots here.

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1953 – “Archie” & “Buster” Deep Water Robots – William E. Denny (American)


1953 – "Archie" & "Buster" Deep Water Robots – William E. Denny

'BILLION DOLLAR MERMAID' TO SEEK SUNKEN TREASURE—It's not a real mermaid—it's a 3,300-pound metal robot and its name is Archie. But the billion dollars is real, all right, says Archie's inventor and builder, William E. Denny. Kansas City, Kan., building contractor. The treasure is in gold and other valuable cargo in sunken ships that nobody has ever been able to salvage. Denny thinks that Archie can get it for him. Archie was built at a basic cost of $120,000 and 18 months' work. Details of Archie's construction and performance are seen in sketch at left, which shows not Archie, but his brother-to-be, Buster, a second robot that Denny is building. Archie has a big advantage over human divers. They can descend only 200 feet or so and work for for very short periods. Archie can go down 2,500 feet and work 24 hours a day if necessary. The robot can operate all kinds of tools. He can pick up an egg without breaking it and he can take a stout 2×4 and mash it into match-wood with one crunch of his powerful claw. In photo above, Denny holds a piece of 2×4 while Archie crushes it. Engineers who have watched preliminary tests says that Archie is practical. Final deep water tests will be made this summer and the first salvage attempt will be made off the coast of Massachusetts in August or September.


ROBOT DIVER–Kansas City inventor William E. Denny demonstrates the pilot model of his deep water robot, designed for salvage and rescue work at depths of 2,500 feet. Denny plans to use the $120,000 device, which is equipped with television cameras and lights, to probe for sunken gold off the Atlantic seaboard.—NEA Telephoto.

Text from a published prospectus c1954…

(Pat. Pending)
A Remote Control Mechanical Means of Deep Water Exploration and Salvage Work
DESIGNED: To circumvent the human element in extreme pressures of deep water exploration.
To propel, lift and lower itself to great depths in the sea by self contained power units.
To televise a continuous picture of surroundings to the operators viewing screen in the control room.
To operate the cutting torch and various tools required in deep water salvage work.
To operate by remote control through a conduit cable connecting Robot and control board on the mother ship.
The Deep Water Robot is immune to many of the hazards that confront the deep sea diver. The shark, the octopus, strong currents or broken air lines do not obstruct its performance. The Robot provides a safe, efficient means of deep sea salvage operations and can work twenty-four hours a day at depths far below the reach of the human diver. Tools attached to the working arms can be interchanged to perform numerous tasks, thus making salvaging operations feasible that were heretofore impossible to perform.

Robot Diver. Inc., hereinafter sometimes referred to as the "Company" or 'Robot Diver" has its office and shop at 109 Hardesty Ave.. Kansas City. Missouri. The enterprise was started as a corporation in 1952, by William E. Denny, now President of the Company, the Articles of Incorporation being dated the eighth day of August, 1952, and being signed by William E. Denny, A. A. Krogsdale, and Fred F. Bake as subscribers to the shares of stock. On the eleventh day of August, 1952, a certificate of In-corporation was issued to the Company by the Secretary of State of Missouri.
During the course of many centuries, Man has made tremendous strides in mastering the forces of Nature upon the surface of the earth, the surface of the Ocean, and in the air surrounding us.
But thus far, Man is almost impotent before the infinite power of the ocean depths. Using presently available diving equipment and current standard operating procedure, a human diver can descend only a few hundred feet under water. He must work under such tremendous air pressure and in water so cold, that he can stay submerged only a very short period of time. His field of maneuverability is limited very greatly.
As a result, countless ships lie on the ocean floors, containing untold millions of dollars of salvageable cargo awaiting recovery by the person who can devise a revolutionary method of removal. Unfathomable secrets of marine life and of the ocean floors await disclosure by the person who can invent a machine capable of reaching and exploring such mysteries.
Today, there is in existence such a revolutionary device which is capable of giving Man the same mastery over the ocean depths as the airplane has given over space. This key to such success is the Robot Diver.
The primary purpose of the Robot Diver will be to locate and to reclaim for the Company, gold and silver bullion valued at hundreds of millions of dollars which has been lost at sea during the many centuries of the past. Other types of valuable cargoes which the Robot Diver will search for are oil, rubber, scarce metals, iron and steel, etc.
Demonstrations will be conducted for the United States Navy to show that the Robot Diver will help in saving lives of sailors who might be sunk at sea in a submarine. In the recent sinking of a Turkish submarine, all lives aboard were lost because human divers could not operate at the depth and under the turbulent conditions prevailing where the submarine sank. We can also demonstrate that the Robot Diver has other uses for national defense such as underwater demolition, destruction of enemy harbor defenses. etc.
For all of the purposes mentioned above the Robot Diver is the logical and practicable means of attaining such goals.

The first salvages by the Robot Diver will be made upon ships sunk during the war in the Gulf of Mexico. There were 350 ships sunk containing oil and other merchantable cargoes. We plan to raise, by means of the Robot Diver, small enemy craft sunk during the war for the salvage of copper, steel and other metals.
The first gold salvage by the Robot Diver will be made upon a steel ship which sank some thirty miles off the coast of Rhode Island, while carrying gold bullion valued at three million dollars. About two years ago, human divers made an unsuccessful attempt to salvage this gold ship, but conditions which the Robot Diver can overcome caused the human divers to fail.
The next salvage operation will be on the H. M. S. Hampshire off the Irish coast. The ship contains $9,260,000 and lies in 450 feet of water. Next will be the Santa Cecelia, off the Juan Fernandez Islands. It had $5,000,000 aboard when it sank. The next two salvages will be the liner Merida with $5,000,000 and the S. S. Central America with $7,000,000.
That will make a total return to this corporation of $29,260.000 for the first five gold salvages. The operational cost will be very small and the time consumed would be short and fast moving. Then we will move in to salvage such as the $121,000,000 off the coast of Brazil. Of course those will be more difficult but we will have the experience of the easier and more shallow water salvages.
However, the sunken treasures and merchantable cargoes that are salvaged will not be the source of most of the dividends paid by this corporation. The Marine insurance business that the Robot Diver makes possible will run into billions of dollars in insurance premiums. In the near future when a ship sinks, this company will be able to raise and return the ship to its owners by means of the Robot Divers. In the meantime, the ship owners will be paying billions of dollars to Lloyds of London for insurance premiums, which will be underwritten by this corporation. So the returns from one share of stock in this company will be enormous.
We plan to use an LCI for our operations ship. It is 158 feet long and has a 4000 mile cruising range. It is a 400 ton vessel and will weather any storms of the seven seas.
The engineering and technical aspects of our entire operation are practical and sound, which seems to indicate success in this enterprise. We do not expect to be entirely free from obstacles to this success but such obstacles will not be insurmountable or even severe. The most difficult part, that of the original development, fabrication. testing and revising the original design as a result of the test, is complete. We expect to be engaged in our first salvage operation at an early date.
Mail inquiries to Robot Diver. Inc., 516 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

The 1953 "Archie" & "Buster" Deep Water Robots by William E. Denny pre-date Hughes underwater MOBOT concept by six years.


Deep water MOBOT concept from Hughes 1959 brochure.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

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1953 – G.E. “O-Man” Manipulator – (American)

ge-o-man-1953-life-1 - Copy-x640

1953 – G.E. "O-Man" Manipulator

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Source: Popular Science, March 1964.

G.E,'s Handyman is seen here mounted under an O-Man.


Source: Meccano Magazine, February 1963.

Perhaps the world's most powerful mechanical arm was developed several years ago in America. Named "O-Man" (for Overhead-MANipulator), this 15-ton remote-controlled giant makes possible the assembly or dismantling of large machinery by the twist of a knob or the flick of a lever. This mechanical "Tarzan" was built as the answer to the need for a device with several times the lifting power of existing mechanical arms, yet with equal verstility.
By comparison, if a man were as strong as "O-Man" he would be able to carry 5,000 Lb. on his back, lift 3,000 lb. from the floor, hold 1,000 lb. with his arm extended horizontally, or lift and manipulate a piano with is forearm and wrist.
"O-Man's" chief job is to pick up heavy parts, position them and fasten them into place. It can drill and tap holes, use power wrenches, hammers, or riveters, and if need be, can handle a sheet metal saw.
While its grip lacks the flexibility of human fingers, it otherwise posesses the same degree of motion as the human hand and arm, plus the ability to telescope its "forearm" and revolve its wrist.
In a special test, it twisted an iron bar into a corkscrew then tied it into a neat knot. Yet, although not intended for delicate tasks, "O-Man", with its twin steel fingers, can whip up, slice, and serve a cake or pick up and pour a glass of water, so refined can its touch be made.
Resembling a gun turret, the big device operates from a crane bridge, its vertical manoeuvrability ranging from floor level to the height of the crane bridge. Power control is supplied by means of 140 separate wires in multi-festooned cable. The heart of the control mechanism is a system of 8 amplidynes–devices that provide automatic control giving smooth operation and limiting all motions to prevent damage to equipment.





General Mills later made the O-Man called Model 700 Manipulator.



Other GE Manipulators (not CAMS):

 1950 – GE Manipulator – Manual or remote control

See other early Teleoperators and Industrial Robots here.

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1953 – “El Chispas” (Sparks) Robot – Antoni Gual Segura (Spanish)

Thanks to Antonio Gual of Barcelona, Spain who notified me of his father's old robot.  The text is also by Antonio.

1953 El robot del meu pare / Dad's robot

Als anys 50, el meu pare, l' Antoni Gual Segura i els seus companys de Radio Vilafranca del Penedès van dissenyar i construir "El Chispas", un robot que movia els braços, parlava a traves d'un altaveu i tenia un ull de bou al melic on es veien saltar espurnes. Va ser un éxit a la Festa Major d'aquell any!
Fa uns deu anys, visitant la ermita de Torrelles de Foix vam poder trobar-hi com a rector el mateix mossén que havia casat els meus pares el 1956, i que encara conservava el robot en un racó de la rectoría.

In the 50's my father Antoni Gual Segura and his job mates at the local radio station Radio Vilafranca designed and built "El Chispas" (Sparks). It moved its arms, spoke and had a window at its navel where you could see sparks. It made a big sensation in the Fiesta Mayor of that year!
Ten years ago, visiting the rural church of Torrelles de Foix we had the occasion to meet the priest that had married my parents in 1956, he still had the robot in a corner of his house.

Antonio has provided an update to say  "…the wires in the head could produce a travelling spark. The robot stood some weeks at the window of my father's radio repair shop, and the sparks were seen as dangerous by the people passing by so they were finally confined to the peephole.
Another curious information is the body has a wood structure and the skin is wood sheet of the type used to line furniture. The body was made in a carpenter shop!"

See other early Humanoid Robots here.


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1953 – “Creakyfoot” Power Suit – E.R. James (British)

In the Cute Fun Album for 1953, the story 'Champion Robot' by E R James features totally enclosed eight foot high powered suits for use on farms and in factories. The hero robot 'Creakyfoot' belongs to a boy, Andrew, who climbs through a door in its back into 'the soft cushioned space inside. Creakyfoot fitted him like a suit of clothes. As the door closed behind him he looked out through the robot's big glass eyes…The metal man became alive as Andrew's legs began to walk. The metal legs strode forward, driven by the robot's own great power, but following each small or large movement made by the boy inside.'

Andrew did not have position or load sensors attached to a master exoskeleton, but 'The mighty metal arms lifted as Andrew lifted his arms inside them. The blows of the steel fists had all the power of the robot behind them, but it was Andrew's brain that directed their aim. They worked together.'

See the full pdf here  .

Thanks to David Buckley who identified "Creakyfoot" in Champion Robot, Ernest Rayor James' 1953 story on the idea of a human-operated robot being published prior to Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers power suits in 1959.

Further, I add an extract from an article published by Parallax on how Creakyfoot kicked-off David's interest and career in robotics.

How I Got Started in Robotics by David Buckley

David Buckley is the master of the tilt/stride walking robot design.
When Parallax began plans for Toddler Robot, they consulted with David Buckley, adapting one of the most unique and servo simplified walking mechanisms in the history of hobby robotics!
When I was very young, two of my Birthday/Christmas presents were books with robot stories. One had huge robot warriors with death rays shooting from their eyes. They were tied in with 3-inch high robot toys on sale which I could never persuade my mother to buy; and the other was much more exciting. The robots were what we would call exoskeletons. Humans climbed inside and the 'robots enabled them to do heavy lifting. The story was called Creakyfoot, a boy had his own worn out robot which eventually won a race and was refurbished. Shortly after, in a comic, there was a picture story with a giant steam powered humanoid robot attacking a castle. This enthused me to build my first meccano robot – no motors, no gears, it didn't move! But it looked like a humanoid robot and I remember telling them at school that if I had a few gears and a motor I could make it walk. I was about 9.