Posts Tagged ‘1954’

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.

See other early Humanoid Robots here.

See other early Pseudo and Fake Robots here.

1954 – Pressure Suit – James Hart and Theodore Hart (American)


1954 – Pressure Suit by James Hart and Theodore Hart
Patent Name: Pressurized suit
Publication number    US2939148 A
Publication type    Grant
Publication date    Jun 7, 1960
Filing date    Dec 15, 1954
Priority date    Dec 15, 1954
Inventors    James F Hart, Theodore H Hart
Original Assignee    James F Hart, Theodore H Hart

This invention relates to pressurized suits and appurtenances thereto, especially to suits to be worn by aviators, divers, and others who are subjected to containment or perform certain duties under pressurized conditions.
Flight at high altitudes and beyond earth's environs has many advantages; but such flight has been limited heretofore, by many problems, among them, in part, the physiological considerations involved as exemplified by lung alveolar oxygen pressure, aero-embolism or "bends," and body gas expansion or "acute indigestion."
Diving to great depths in liquids has many advantages; such as, retrieving sunken military and commercial material.
Performing duties and/or containment in toxic surroundings is often required; for example, when the adjacent atmosphere contains lethal gases.
Performing duties in a fluid that cannot be contaminated by the gases required for suit occupant breathing and/or ventilation is sometimes desirable; for example, an industrial process that requires entrance by suit occupant into the processed media.
Performing duties and/or containment either all or in part in fluids that vary greatly from suit occupants temperature has many advantages; for example, as a military omni-environment suit, or the suit or suit portion may be submerged into a fluid of extreme temperature during an industrial process.

One object of this invention is to provide a suit dome with improved downward visibility, with provision for entering the dome wearing a crash helmet, the dome utilizing occupant's head to cause fore and aft movement thereby preventing a feeling of claustrophobia on the occupants part by maintaining a constant distance between occupants eyes and front of dome and the dome having a fluid-tight connection to the torso portion of the suit.
Another object is to provide a movable shoulder piece roughly duplicating the movement of the shoulder in relation to the body and joined to the torso by a fluid-tight connection.
Another object is to provide a movable fluid-tight connector between upper and lower arm in which the joint pivots about one axis only and is dependent on rotary seals which permit full twisting movement.
Another object is to provide a movable fluid-tight connector between upper and lower arm in which the joint is an integral part of the whole arm.
Another object is to provide a compensating device to assist in the movement of any joint that should inherently require effort to move due to trapped fluid volume change in the suit during joint movement.
Another object is to provide "feel" in the hand by use of novel types of glove and pressure regulating devices.
Another object is to provide a suit formed in two sections, joined across the body, which may be donned and doffed by the occupant without assistance.
Another object is to provide a closing device that assures uniform sealing of the body halves, notwithstanding the irregularity or extent of the sealing surfaces and that may be operated by one lever that entails for operation just one uniform motion.
Another object is to provide a movable fluid-tight means for rotating the torso portion of the suit with respect to the hip portion.
Another object is to provide a fluid-tight joint at the hips, fully movable in the fore and aft direction, that will permit the suit occupant to sit, stoop and stand.
Another object is to provide fluid-tight joints at the legs, movable fore, aft and sideways.
Another object is to provide fluid-tight knee joints which swing fore and aft.
Another object is to provide a suit in which body and limb members are formed of rigid sections, flexible sections with rigid end portions, or flexible sections with a rigid framework, all sections with flexible sealing means connecting them, and constructed in such a manner as not to ride up on the occupants body nor distend from occupants limb extremities when suit is pressurized.
Another object is to provide a suit that is for the most part made of rigid materials for durability and protection to the occupant.
Another object is to provide a suit with novel joint connections between body and limb sections that greatly increases permitted amounts of movement with a substantial reduction in effort.
Another object is to provide a diving suit construction that will remain habitable when internal pressures are either greater or less than external pressures and will enable the occupant to be taken from the water with a greater internal pressure, permitting last stages of decompression to occur in a decompression chamber with suit removed.
Another object is to provide a suit or suit portion operatable in toxic, non-contaminative or intemperate atmospheres.





See other early Underwater Robots here.

1954 – Teledoctor – Hugo Gernsback (American)

teledoctor-1954-gernsback-x640  teledoctor_1954-x640

Gernsback, Hugo "The Teledoctor", Television, Feb. 1955 pp. 22-24.

Hugo Gernsback's 1954 solution to the doctor shortage was the ultimate in bringing the patient to the overworked physician: an updated version of the 1924 Radio Doctor called the "Teledoctor."


Delivered to your front door on a rental plan, this melding of television and diagnostics was supposed to be capable of measuring blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and even had a built-in stethoscope.

But it wasn't just a remote monitoring device with a two-way television attached, it also incorporated the latest in remote-controlled robot hands (or claws in this case) that allowed the attending physician to administer tests, write prescriptions, give injections, bandage wounds, and even perform minor surgery from the comfort of his office.

All this television interchange, data traffic and robot-manipulation signal was transmitted through an ordinary phone.   It's interesting how the television apparatus pictured here looks the right size for 1954, but the mechanical arms and such take up surprisingly little room even by today's standards.

Notice also that the mechanical arms on the patient's end have elbows, but the doctor's control rods don't, which would have made it a bit like performing surgery in a pair of arm casts.  Above images and text sourced from David Szondy.

The hand controls on the doctor's master arm are reminiscent of John Payne's 1948 manipulator arms.

It wasn't until 1954 that Ray Goertz developed his  Electro-Mechanical Manipulator. As well as offering force-reflection (force-feedback), it was acknowledged to offer the capability to operate the slave remotely from the master (because it is  electrically coupled, not mechanically coupled). This extended remote control materialized with Goertz's Remote Servo-manipulator in 1958.

See other early Teleoperators here.

1954 – ElectroMechanical Manipulator – Ray Goertz (American)


1954 – ElectroMechanical Manipulator by Ray Goertz (pictured)








An early experimental model – this one also showing the head-mount camera controller


Atomic energy exhibit in the US pavilion

Atomic energy exhibit in the US pavilion

Brussels Exhibition – US Pavillion demo.


Model E4a Slave unit.


Diagram by Goertz showing the various control modes of Master-Slave arms.

Patent information:

Publication number    US2846084 A
Publication date    Aug 5, 1958
Filing date    Jun 21, 1955
Inventors    Goertz Raymond C, Olsen Robert A, Thompson William M
Original Assignee    Goertz Raymond C, Olsen Robert A, Thompson William M

Historical Significance:

Goertz first described the force reflection manipulator in 1952 – Goertz RC, ‘A force reflecting positional servo mechanism’, Nucleonics, Vol 10, Part II, pp43-45, 1952. Other remote manipulator systems of the time were either mechanical, hydraulic, or electro-hydraulic, needing to be closely coupled. Sixty years later we are still seeing ideas that this invention spawned. Ideas such as telepresence in areas such as underwater and outer-space.

From 1960, Ray Goertz, who invented electrically remote manipulators for the nuclear industry, together with his team at Argonne Nuclear Laboratories (ANL), were engaged by NASA to specify teleoperator configurations for the Lunar space program. The result is illustrated above.

It should be noted that floating vehicles share one problem. This is their inability to stay immobile relative to the object on which they must act. Hence, they are equipped with docking arms, other than the manipulator(s) directly intended to execute the task, to attach them to the object of their task, whether this is another satellite or an underwater oil platform.

Earlier 1949 Mechanical Manipulator by Goertz.




Ray Goertz with his prototype manipulators.




See other early Teleoperators, Exoskeletons and Industrial Robots here.

1954 – “Homko” Robot Remote-controlled Lawnmower – (American)

Want to lie in your hammock and mow the lawn in repose? The Homko Robot mower can be maneuvered by a remote control panel, one lever for forward, stop and reverse, and another for right and left. Since the cord that attaches this brain to the mower is 40 feet long, you can mow 40 feet in any direction without getting up. You get exercise just the same—mental-from trying to keep the thing from cutting its own cord.
Text Source: Kiplinger's Personal Finance, April 1954.

See other early remote-controlled and robotic lawn mowers here.