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.