Posts Tagged ‘Tortoise’

1959 – Sverdlovsk Cybernetic Tortoise – (Soviet)

English text translated from the original German: (for pictures and diagrams, see pdf below)

The Cybernetic Model "Tortoise"
Cybernetics – In recent years, a new science was born. It enables machines to replace with highly skilled human labor, eg by electronic calculators. These machines are very complicated in structure, and only specialists with high qualifications to deal with them properly.
To the study of cybernetics are very well cybernetic models with information stores, which the animal brain can exert partial analog functions. One such model is the "turtle" developed by the Institute of Automation and robot of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Publication of its construction in the magazines "knowledge is power" and "Radio" No. 3/1958 encouraged the study groups for robot and automatic Young engineer at the stations in Sverdlovsk region at this, even to make such a model.
Figure 11
View of the model
The present article is roughly the construction of such a "turtle" described, it is very easy as standardized components can be used.
The main task of this model is to help the students of the upper classes while the basics of automation and cybernetics studieren.1
The behavior of the "turtle"
Observed the movements of the "turtle" obstacles creates the impression that they possess animal-related reflections. Reacts to light you on audio signals and also bumping into.. Though primitive, but it has an organ of sight, hearing a , a sense of touch and memory (memory with a conditioned reflex can be briefly formed).
Here is the proof of their sensitivity to light., The "turtle" moves in a circle on their base until they discovered the source of light is the light beam detected, it moves straight to the lamp to the visual system consists of a photoresistor This photo resistor switched on.. light on the relay d 1 the control magnet (Part VII) from, so that the move can "turtle" straight. Here comes the "turtle" an obstacle, they returned a short run to move again after a little sideways rotation forward. This process is repeated as many times until a way is found to get around the obstacle.
Audio signals to the "turtle" reacts in the following way: If a whistle is given, it will stop for about a second.
The interesting thing about the "turtle" but their "memory", which is the formation of a conditioned reflex of importance. A conditioned reflex occurs whenever different, but at least two stimuli are combined. For the "turtle" the combination of sound and shock stimuli was chosen. Exceeds the "turtle" an obstacle and at the same moment you will hear a whistle, the result is a conditioned reflex. Now "suspects" the "turtle" at every whistle a
1 The "Turtle" is a principled solution for a cybernetic model that responds to three stimuli and can emerge a "conditioned reflex". There are of course also other variants, you can work with transistors that use other relays and also make the program more extensive. However, this model is to encourage the work of communities of our country to deal with such problems and also to develop new technical solutions in creative work.
Obstacle and executes the corresponding movements to bypass the obstruction. After a certain time (this time is determined by the corresponding timer) goes out of the conditioned reflex again, if not both stimuli occur simultaneously again.
Cybernetic models have generally fulfill an experimental feature. With them it is possible to simulate individual processes of the nervous activity of the living organism. Analogies are derived from the behavior of living organisms and machines for the development of automatic information processing systems is of utmost importance. This makes it possible logical actions performed by the person on the basis of information to transmit cybernetic machines or mechanisms. This has great significance for the growth of labor productivity. The introduction of automatic regulation and control in the production always leads to a significant acceleration of production and to increase the quality. Automated systems and aggregates react precisely, not tired and are less sluggish than man.
The circuit of the "turtle"
In the overall structure and the "turtle" there were the following problems to solve:
1 Recording the information (light, sound, shock). Forward to a computing element and storing the information in the formation of the conditioned reflex.
2 Realization of the output information by movement of the drive and control mechanisms. To achieve these objects both electronic and electro-mechanical units are required.
The schematic diagram (Fig. 12) shows the circuitry recording, processing and transformation of information into control operations. For a better overview, the individual units were included only in the block.
Part I
As a photo sensor resistor is used. It is also a photocell or a photo element to use, but then an electronic amplifier is required. The potentiometer 1M ohms lin is used to control the sensitivity of the photoresistor. The sensitivity
11 part
As a simple two-pole contact feeler is used. By the contact of the circuit of the left coil of the relay d 2 is closed when pushed. This is triggered by relay d 4 and d 5, the backward and sideways movement. The timer IV (Z 1) finished the operation after a short time.
Figure 13
The photoresistor circuit for Part I
24V Figure 14
Circuit of the touch probe for Part II
Figure 12 a schematic diagram for the technical operation of the turtle
Part III
As a probe microphone (single crystal microphone) is used. A two-stage amplifier where the incoming audio signal is enhanced in that a rectifier bridge in the left coil of the relay 3 d, a corresponding current flows. It is recommended that the sound frequency of the amplifier set so that only signals of a particular frequency will be processed in order to avoid interference from external noise.
Figure 12b with this circuit for the relay d 1 and d 4 maneuverability at around obstacles can be increased
is set so that the photo-resistor is not responding to diffuse light. For this reason, the use of a simple lens (Fig. 18) is very convenient.

Figure 15 circuit of the microphone amplifier for Part III (the tubes correspond about our EF 14)
When switching the relay relay d 3 d 6 is turned on and brought the turtle briefly to a halt. The duration of this operation is controlled by the second timing element (Z 2).
Part IV
The two timing elements Z 1 and Z 2 have a memory function. The incoming signal triggers an operation and will be for a short time (the duration is determined by the combination of C 2, R 6 set) is stored. No signal, the circuit for both windings of the relay d 2 and d 3, and C 2 is interrupted current. If a signal that flows in the left-hand winding of the relay power d 2 or d 3, and switched by the relay. Here, C 2 invites to over R 6 and the glow lamp ignites. Thus, the circuit of the right coil of the relay is closed briefly and the process ends. The circuit is therefore only briefly closed because it is unloaded immediately after switching the capacitor C through R 1 second For this circuit polarized relays are provided with zero position. However, it can be used with two windings, simple relays, however, the circuit has to be changed.
Figure 16
Circuit of the timers (Z 1, Z 2) of Part IV
Part V
The timer Z 3 is required to form the "conditioned reflex." If simultaneously on II and III, a signal, then the relay d 4 and d 6 set the grid of the tube for a short time to ground and discharging the capacitor C 10 . makes the anode current and the relay d 7 increases attracts. According to charging of C 10 drops in the tube again, the anode current., the time for charging of C 10 corresponds to the duration of the "conditioned reflex" (for the present model were about two minutes selected).
Figure 17
Circuit for the timer Z 3 in Part V
Part VI
As a drive motor an electric motor is used 24 V with the field winding. Ports 1 and 2 are for the field winding and are used to change the direction of rotation by the relay d 5 reversed. Via the terminals 3 and 4, the armature of the motor is fed.
By Relais d 6 is the exchange Contact 6b in a sound, the power supply is interrupted to the collector and the model stopped for a short time. The speed should be about 5 to 10 cm / s. With appropriate variation of the circuit can be used also a Permamotor.
Part VII
This part constitutes an electromagnet by means of which the circular motion of "tortoise" is controlled. Smaller no light on the photoconductor, then the circuit of the electromagnet is closed. This
Figure 18 look for the photo resistor
Figure 18a The turtle Elsie
On the shell of the turtle a candle (1) had been secured, a second candle (2) was placed at some distance. Between the candle and the turtle was a barrier (3). The shutter of the camera was opened and the turtle was left to itself. Your path is recorded in the photo. (4) starting position of the turtle (it starts moving toward the light source). (5) collision with the obstacle. (6), bypassing the restoration of the obstacle and movement direction of the light source. (7) The turtle happened to approach very close to the candle, the light was quite strong, the turtle was forced to retreat, they bypassed the candle. (From: IA Poletayev: Cybernetics German VEB Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1962, page 233.)
Figure 19 Base plate with drive and control
is given to the steering wheel, a rash of 20 °. In light relay drops d 1, and the steering wheel gets a straight-ahead position.
The mechanical structure
The "turtle" has an oval shape and the drive control is initially in the size of 220 mm X 290 mm. Built on the base plate. Assembly of electronic equipment should be done only when the drive and control function properly.
The chassis is composed of three rubber wheels, the diameter should be about 50 to 60 mm.
The Figure 19 shows the basic mechanical structure of the drive and the controller. For driving a double worm reducer was chosen because it allows the use of small gears. The arrangement of the worm gears and is shown in Figures 20 and 21.
Figure 20 Cross-section A A
Figure 21 section B B
7 [28004]
At the intended speed of 50 to 100 mm / s and the given wheel diameter, the rotational speed of the drive shaft does not exceed 20 to 30 U / min. In the example used with 32 and 24 teeth for a motor with 6000 to 8000 r / min and two common worm gears. If other wheels or a different motor is used, the reduction must be recalculated.
Greater friction loss can be avoided if only one wheel is rigidly connected to the drive shaft.
Figure 22 Cross-section C C
The principle of the magnetic control is seen in Figure 19 and 22. The steering wheel is located in a fork, in which a lever is attached. On this lever is effected by the solenoid, the spring, or a control stop. The stop control should be about 20 ° when the electromagnet. The steering wheel by the coil spring is held in the normal position.
Freely edited by a methodical instructions of the station Young Engineers in Sverdlovsk, published in 1959.

 See pdf of referenced chapter here

Sverdlovsk, name of the city of Yekaterinburg, Russia, from 1924 to 1991
Sverdlovsk, Ukraine, a town in Ukraine.

I suspect this Tortoise is from the Russian Sverdlovsk, not the Ukraine.


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W. Grey Walter’s Tortoises – Self-recognition and Narcissism

Self-recognition and the Mirror Dance

[Image source: An Imitation of Life,  Scientific American, May 1950, p42-45.]

7 . Self-recognition. The machines are fitted with a small flash-lamp bulb in the head which is turned off automatically whenever the photo-cell receives an adequate light signal. When a mirror or white surface is encountered the reflected light from the head-lamp is sufficient to operate the circuit controlling the robot's response to light, so that the machine makes for its own reflection; but as it does so, the light is extinguished, which means that the stimulus is cut off — but removal of the stimulus restores the light, which is again seen as a stimulus, and so on. The creature therefore lingers before a mirror, flickering, twittering, and jigging like a clumsy Narcissus. The behaviour of a creature thus engaged with its own reflection is quite specific, and on a purely empirical basis, if it were observed in an animal, might be accepted as evidence of some degree of self-awareness. In this way the machine is superior to many quite 'high' animals who usually treat their reflection as if it were another animal, if they accept it at all.

Source: p115, W. Grey Walter, The Living Brain, 1953 -see chapter 5 – Totems, Toys, and Tools

What can be seen or determined in the photo of Elsie below?  

1. tracer candle visibility;

2. low batteries (because it enters the hutch which is strategically placed to the right of the mirror).

Figure 7. Elsie performs in front of a mirror, but is probably responding to the candlelight rather than to her pilot light. [RH 2010 -Most earlier comments by others are of this rather un-clear image of the so-called 'mirror dance'.]

Prior to the release of the clearer Life image of Elsie performing the 'mirror dance' (see pic below) Holland in "Legacy of Grey Walter" describes it as follows:

Recognition of self
A pilot light is included in the scanning circuit in such a way that the headlamp is extinguished whenever another source of light is encountered. If, however, this other source happens to be a reflection of the headlamp itself in a mirror, the light is extinguished as soon as it is perceived and being no longer perceived, the light is again illuminated, and so forth. This situation sets up a feedback circuit of which the environment is a part, and in consequence the creature performs a characteristic dance which, since it appears always and only in this situation, may be regarded formally as being diagnostic of self-recognition. This suggests the hypothesis that recognition of self may depend upon perception of one’s effect upon the environment.

The below from Discussions on Child Development,  1971, see Book II 1954-56 p35-6.


With Fig. 6 we come to some of the refinements which emerged only some time after these creatures had been made. This mode of behaviour and the next one were, quite frankly, surprising to us though, of course, we ought to have been able to predict them. Fig. 6 illustrates the situation when a creature of this type is confronted by its reflection in a mirror. It has on its nose a small pilot light, put in originally to tell us what was happening inside; it is so arranged
that it is turned off when the creature sees another light; that is, it tells us when the photo-tropistic mechanism is in operation.
In this case, the light which the creature was allowed to see was its own pilot light in the mirror. In this situation, the act of 'seeing' it makes it automatically extinguish the light which it sees. The apparent stimulus light having been extinguished, it turns it on again, then off and so on, so that you get a characteristic oscillation. You can see how peculiar and regular it is by the zigzag going up the side of the mirror. This is an absolutely characteristic mode of behaviour, which is seen always and only when the creature is responding to its own reflection. This is an example of the situation I described in the second proposition, where the reflexive circuit includes an environmental operator; in such a situation you get a characteristic mode of behaviour which occurs always and only when the model is reacting to itself.


“The creature therefore lingers before a mirror, flickering, twittering and jigging like a clumsy Narcissus” (Grey Walter, 1963, p. 115). Grey Walter interpreted this famous mirror dance as evidence of self-recognition.

The drawing of the famous `mirror dance’ in `An imitation of life’ [from Scientific American] is nothing like the regular alternation between the tortoise's approach and avoidance as shown in the photograph, being an altogether more irregular and complex trajectory. There may well have been a mirror dance that could have been argued to be a form of self-recognition, but unfortunately this photograph cannot be said to be a record of it. The brightest light visible to the camera, and presumably to the photocell, is the candle on the tortoise’s back and its reflection in the mirror. The trace is far more likely to reflect the alternation of behaviour pattern P (approach to the reflected candlelight) with behaviour pattern O (obstacle avoidance on contact with the mirror). We can be sure that Walter used this image as an example of the mirror dance because it appears in the form of a diagram in the transcript of a talk he gave in 1954 (Walter 1956b); the text matches closely the account given in `Accomplishments of an artefact’. Interestingly, the description of the mirror dance in de Latil’s book also matches this photograph rather than Grey Walter’s original description and Bernarda Bryson Shahn’s sketch.

For most people, with regards to the image above (see figure 7), one could hardly refer to this behaviour as "flickering, twittering and jigging like a clumsy Narcissus". However, you could do so to the above illustration by Bernarda Bryson (partner and later married to the artist Ben Shahn), as illustrated in Scientific American (Walter, W. Grey, "An Imitation of Life," Scientific American, May 1950, p42-45.). The above illustration is actually of Elmer, and not Elsie as is the below photo. This also gives more credence to Grey's use of the word Narcissus, being the son of a Greek god who became obsessed by his own image. [Elmer scans clockwise, the opposite of Elsie and the bump aviodance traverse therefore is from right to left. see here.]

[Narcissus : In Greek mythology, a beautiful youth who fell in love with his own reflection. He was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Leriope. His mother was told by a seer that he would have a long life, provided he never saw his own reflection. His callous rejection of the nymph Echo or of his lover Ameinias drew upon him the gods' vengeance: he fell in love with his own image in the waters of a spring and wasted away. The narcissus flower sprang up where he died.]

Although Elmer was then long gone, Grey Walter continued to use this more interesting description of self-recognition along with the below image, although it didn't and couldn't match with the sometimes erratic behaviour of the original tortoise, Elmer  and could no longer be reproduced with the newer models.

In my opinion, in the cycloidal trace seen above, the 'bottom' of the cycloid appears flattened and bright spots at the start of the cycloid 'flats' appear. To me, this is indicative of 'bump' avoidance behaviour, not self-recognition.  When I visited the Bristol Robot Labs in 2009 to see the replica tortoises, the comment was passed to me that they were unable to satisfactorily reproduce the self-recognition behaviour as described by Grey Walter.

A relatively recent , clearer image of the so-called 'mirror dance' as released by Life Magazine.

A comment on Time-Lapse Photographs in General:
In interpreting all the time-lapse photographs, there are several aspects to keep in mind.
As already mentioned in pervious posts on the Tortoises, the cycloidal gait makes Elsie traverse to the right as her scanner turns in a counter-clockwise direction. Elmer, on the other hand, scans clockwise and because of the trailing action of the rear-wheels, will veer to the left. I must say, though, that the illustrations suggest that with no light source to track towards, Elmer tends to move in a forward direction and not sideways.
Most of the pictures show Elsie heading towards a light, either a candle or the hutch light, sometime a light out of sight near the camera.
Where you see two identical Elsies, it is actually the photographer’s technique of photographing Elsie at the start of the run, then  Elsie at the end of the run. There are not two separate Tortoises except where they look physically different i.e. Elmer has the ‘scaled’ Bakelite sheeting shell. The single trajectory is also an indicator of only a single Tortoise being traced.

Notice also that the flame of the target candle is placed at the same height as the PEC (the Photo-Electric Cell) in the scanning turret. 

W. Grey Walter Tortoises – Picture Gallery #2

Some more photos of W. Grey Walter and his Tortoises.


BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland.


BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland.


BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland


BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland


BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland.


BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland


BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland

GW_20150904_0001 (3)-x640

BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland


BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland


Joe Engelberger looking over the then, newly restored original Tortoise.

BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland.


Image courtesy Steve Battle.

La Scienza Illustrata 1950_10-walter-tortoise-2-x640

popmechsep1950p146WGWtortoise - Copy-x640

Swindon2 016-x640

BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland. Photo by Meljay Photographers of New York.

Swindon2 017-x640

Tortoise detail. At this stage, assuming tortoise is #6, it has not yet been customised with the top-mounted spare vacuum tube clips nor the tiny spanner used to adjust the relays.

GW_20150904_0001 (2)-x640

BNI archives, courtesy of Owen Holland.

Grey Walter in America with his own #6 from the batch of 6 made by "Bunny" Warren of the BNI for the 1951 Festival of Britain. The machine in front is CORA (Mark II), the desktop demonstration model.  As suggested by others, I do not believe the desktop model of CORA was ever wired into a Machina Speculatrix tortoise. It was a very much self-contained and separate from the tortoises.

I believe the CORA (Mark I) (possibly in the image below) was probably "Elmer" converted  by adding the additional reflex circuits. The seemingly black holes are clear sections in the painted plastic shell and were probably there to see the neon lamps operating as part of the additional circuit. At one stage, there were two circuits added, each tuned to a different note from a UK police whistle (which could produce two notes separately or together. When sounded together, this is when the so-called neurosis kicked in, eventually solved by a technique favoured by Walter, leucotomy (labotomy), in this case by cutting out the additional circuits, turning CORA (a machina docilis) back into ELSIE (a machina speculatrix).  


Both photo's by (or for) Pierre DeLatil. Note the extra battery pack in both photos, weighting or lifting the shell to simulate 'bump' mode, maybe to attract baby Timothy for the sake of the photo shoot.

Dr. Ray Cooper (Dir. Burden Neurological Institute), Vivian Walter (nee Dovey) and Dr. W. Grey Walter with two tortoises c1956. Thanks to Owen Holland for correcting the names.

Unfortunately the above image is so poor that it is difficult to see any additional circuitry on what looks like ELSIE that would make it a CORA.


Image from "Future Shock" documentary.


Image of ELSIE showing shell, plastic 'antennae', and lamp at the front.

Meccano model of a tortoise.

See other Grey Walter and his Tortoises here.

See other Cybernetic Creatures here.

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1958 – Machina Reproducatrix – Angyan (Hungarian)

The model seen here is  Dr. Andre  (Andrew) John Angyan's first cybernetic model, Machine Reproducatrix, built in Budapest, Hungary.  It very much follows the Grey Walter tortoise in terms of construction and function (of CORA – Machina Docilis).  His later machines, constructed by Kretz with Zemanek, are the subject of a later post.


Image is from the December 1958 Teddington Conference on "The Mechanisation of Thought" proceedings by Blake and Uttley, Vol 2. London ,  in a chapter titled "Machine Reproducatrix" by Angyan, pp933-44 (see pdf below).

Although Angyan produce his dissertation paper on Conditioned Reflex in 1955, the first date of the models appearance that I can find is 1958 when he demonstrated itat the Teddington conference "Mechanisation of Thought" of that year. It may have appeared earlier as Daniel Muszka, of Szeged, Hungary, in 1956 was aware of Angyan's work in 'conditioned reflex' , and maybe even of his tortoise when he was starting to build his own labybug of the same year.

PDF from  Teddington Conference here Dr. Angyan – Mechanisation of Thought Processes 1958 describes Machina Reproducatrix in detail.

Computer Oral History Collection, 1969-1973, 1977
Heinz Zemanek Interview, December 12, 1972, Archives Center, National Museum of American History


 es. Well, I got also into the Russian environment by–I was interested in cybernetics. I …got Wiener's Cybernetics; the old professor gave it as a present to me. I have the signature in and the date, so I know when it was: [15th January 1952]. When I had read that book I didn't know what cybernetics was, so I looked further on and I found that there were three real machines in existence, namely …Walters' Turtle, Ashby's Homeostat, and Shannon's mouse in the maze. And I started to do th[em] with my students. And I guess I'm the only man on earth who had copied all the three.




 [Our] Homeostat … [is] a nice version, I happened to fall into a student who was in a plastic factory. So he could … shape everything very nicely. With the two others we did quite a development. Shannon's Mouse in the Maze we extended to have not only the information in what direction the mouse had left the field, but we added an algorithm concerning Ariadne's    thread. Which is another two bit information. And with that the algorithm became complete, [avoiding looping and able to go back from the found goal to the start.] In the other case you would not know if–well, you would have to go into detail of that thing. So that was very nice. The other development was the artificial turtle. That, as you know, was the idea of just realizing as a little moving around circuitry an algorithm written down  by Pavlov. Now I had, for some reason, the chance in 1959 to have [in Vienna] all that year a Hungarian specialist in conditioned reflex behavior, [A. J. Angyan]. And he would tell us all the stories and we would translate them, the student and I, into a circuitry, in an extended artificial turtle. On this there exists a paper in 1960 at the Fourth Conference on Information Theory in London.* … Now this was a very remarkable automaton because it had six state variables. So, in principle, it could react to the outside stimuli in sixty-four different ways. Now it didn't have all the sixty-four states. It had some forty states, but parts of them were not stable in time. They would jump back into more stable states. But still then the pattern of behavior was very complicated. But it really gave a model of the complete knowledge of the East and West school of behavioral sciences in the conditioned reflex field.


That's fascinating.


Now, this was–I may make here a remark which relates to much later work, it was my first experience with the problem of translating from natural language descriptions into formal descriptions.[*Angyan, A. et al. 1961. "A Model for Neurophysical Functions." In: Fourth London Symposium on Informatyion Theory (C. Cherry, ed.). London: Butterworth. Pp. 270-284.]

Medical people, of course, don't have very much of an algebra to describe what they are doing. So the usual situation was we should say "we have understood what you have told us, we have formalized it." Then we gave examples. "If, if, if that happens on the outside, then, then, then the following would be the direction of the machine." And it happened very frequently that he would say, "yes, yes, yes–no, I haven't said that." We had said, "you didn't say it, but it's the clear logical conclusion of what we have derived from our talks." He said, "No, that's not at all so." So we had to re-phrase the early description and step by step we came then to something which was satisfying to him. We also became aware of the remainder which is always there if you go from informal speaking to formal. In the informal way you are not very precise. You have contradictions. But you cover a wider field, because you always can operate with a part of the knowledge, which is the active working of the brain. Doesn't need that much specification but has items in it which are larger, they are not worked out, but they are contents which the formal definition then would miss. So it was from that time on that I was very sensitive to any tension between formal and informal description, which was very helpful for my later language development. Now let us return, how does it come I moved into computers? As I say, I was interested and we did a number, we did at least two bigger relay machines. One was an analysis machine for logical functions. You willcertainly remember the work done in England by [McCallum and Smith of] Ferranti.* … And we did the same. … We had telephone equipment and [on this machine LRR1,**one] could program any Boolean expression, like on a telephone switchboard. And then the machine would run through…–up to seven variables, 128 combinations–and it would [indicate and store] "yes" or "no" [for each combination].

from "Beyond art: a third culture : a comparative study in cultures, art …, Issue 72" By Peter Weibel, Ludwig Múzeum (Budapest, Hungary – 2005)

Heinz Zemanek p327
6. Cybernetics
Electronics began flirting with biology early on in the 1930s, and there were even forerunners in the nineteenth century. Actually, electricity began with biology and Galvani in the 1930s, its main purpose was telecommunication, and its goal was to learn from biology. The 1950s became the golden age of cooperation. and there is a familiar key word for it, cybernetics. Again, I may and must begin with myself, because I am the only one on earth who has built and further developed all three basic models with my students. They are the Artificial Tortoise. the Mouse in the Maze, and the Homeostat.
The artificial tortoise looks only slightly like a tortoise and was not intended to imitate one. Rather, it is a model for the conditioned reflex the Russian physiologist I. P. Pavlov developed the algorithms for it around 1890 When a dog sees food,  the production of saliva in his mouth increases. This is an unconditioned reflex if a bell is rung at the same time (Pavlov used an electric door buzzer), the animal learns that the bell promises food, saliva production increases when the bell rings, even if no food Is visible. This is a conditioned reflex that disappears when the hope for food is not fulfilled often enough. Pavlov described the phenomenon, not as a formula but in prose. British neurologist W.G Walter recognized that this model Could be made electronically and built a little covered vehicle (hence the name tortoise), containing a lamp and whistle. Symbolizing food and sound respectively if the vehicle has an obstacle, the cover closes a contact; the model rolls back and tries again, adjusting a little more to the right or left. This creates the impression of animal behavior. The first Vienna model was a copy of Walter's model and represented Austria at the first cybernetics congress in Namur in 1956.
My medical partner for the next step was Hungarian neurologist and psychologist A.J. Angyan. He traveled with a more complex model of Walter's tortoise to a conference in London, the Mechanization of Thought Processes, in 1958  and stopped at our institute in Vienna in order to improve his somewhat poor model (at that time, cybernetics in the communist countries was still a bourgeois, decadent quasi-science, and Angyan could not obtain proper components). On his return trip, he decided in Vienna not to return to Hungary. but to apply for an American visa. During the waiting period, which lasted longer than expected (a good opportunity for us!), he not only cooperated with us as a team member in developing an expanded model for two connected conditioned reflexes but also obtained a grant from the Rockland State Hospital in New York City, which permitted him to live in Vienna and contribute a little to the costs — in return, the Hospital received one of the two models built. The student assistant was Hans Kretz. Altogether, we built more than five models of the tortoise in Vienna. The Rockland State Hospital was satisfied with the result, and, after Angyan finally got the visa for the U.S.A., he captured the interest of Warren McCulloch, who liked to support immigrants and took him under his wing. Angyan's further career was guaranteed.
Another variation, fully transistorized, was built in Vienna by a student, H. Bielowski. Interestingly enough, it turned out to be bigger, not smaller — that would be different today. This model was shown in the Austrian Pavilion at the World Expo in Montreal in 1981.


HANS KRETZ: An Interview Conducted by David Morton, IEEE History Center, 25 July 1996

Interview #283 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

PLACE: Vienna, Austria
DATE: July 25, 1996

Education and Cybernetics

I was born 1930, in Linz, in Upper Austria. After primary school and high school in Vienna I went to study telecommunication and electronics. In German we said "technique of low currents," a rather old-fashioned expression. I studied at the Technical University in Vienna, and graduated in 1960 as Diploma Engineer. My thesis was on a Cybernetic subject called the "artificial turtle." It was a model of neuropsychological functions. This is the more scientific description. I was engaged about two years to talk with a neuropsychological physician from Hungary. He told me what more or less simple animals are doing if certain stimuli are applied. And I made a block scheme out of his different remarks and descriptions. And afterwards I made the technical realization in the form of a small battery operated self-running model. It operated on different preconditions. I "taught" the model to build up so-called conditioned reflexes, as Pavlov's dog has done. From time to time it would "forget" something it had learned in previous periods and it could be shocked by strong stimulus, and so on. Afterwards I built two models. One for the young Hungarian who immigrated 1960 to the States and demonstrated his model at MIT, for instance. And people were very impressed but said the model was too small.


What was his name?


Andrew Angyan. Later on, he was a physician in Los Angeles. Now I made another model for my university, the Technical University of Vienna. This model later on came to the Technical Museum of Vienna where my model can be seen together with a picture and a short description of myself. In this technical museum you can also see another cybernetics thesis, e.g. a model of a "mouse in a maze" after the principle developed by the Greek myth of Ariadne's thread, and also the famous "Mailuefterl." It's the first fully transistorized mainframe computer in Europe. Made at the technical university under the chief management of Professor Heinz Zemanek, a pioneer not only in Austria but at least in Europe of cybernetics and as well in computer questions. One of the most experienced in that respect. I myself was half a year afterwards a scientific assistant in this scope at the university. I had lectures in London at the Royal Academy and in Karlsruhe at the Nachrichtentechnische Gesellschaft. And later on there were several publications on this specialty. On the other hand my job meant to handle most modern topics.

——–end excerpt—-

[7] Kretz, H. 1961. "Vollständige Modelldarstellung des bedingten Reflexes" [Complete model of the conditioned reflex]. InLernende Automaten, NTG Fachtagung, Karlsruhe 1961, Munich, R. Oldenbourg, pp. 52-62.
[8] Kretz, H., A. J. Angyan and H. Zemanek. 1961. "A Model for Neurophysiological Functions,"Fourth London Symposium on Information Theory, London, Butterworth, pp. 270-284.
[9] Kretz, H. 1962. "Kybernetik-Brücke zwischen den Wissenschaften" [Cybernetics–bridge between the sciences] and "Modelldarstellung biologischer Verhaltensweisen" [Models of biological behavior].Umschau, pp. 193-195 and 240-242.

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1957 – Machina Versatilis – Ivan Sutherland (American)

Ivan Sutherland with M. Versatilis.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University Archives

Machina Versatilis , pictured above and below, was so named due to the versatile modular plug-in boards. M. Versatilis was the final of three models built, and at least two of this model were supposedly built. The first version, see blog post here, was originally built in Spring 1956 by Ivan Sutherland's older brother Bert (William Robert Sutherland) and his then class room-mate Malcolm "Mac" G. Mugglin.

That model had shortcomings and was abandond. Later that year, Ivan took charge of the project and produced a second model. This model used a cast aluminium plate, easily removeable wet battery, and plastic bumpers. It still utilised vacuum tubes [valves] at this time. The third and final model was primarily built by Ivan in September 1957,  was fully transistorised and used only dry-cell batteries. 

To my knowledge, although Grey Walter had said he had built a transistorised tortoise in a letter dated Jan 1957, this is the first cybernetic animal to utilise transistors that we have proof of.

Another first was that a second M. Versatilis was built along with a light mounted on a rolling platform to be pushed around as a toy. Ivan later describes his idea on improving M. Versatilis even further with a direction-guiding gyroscope to enable a game of soccer to be played.  This effectively is the first ever mention of the concept now known as robo-soccer.

The pdf below, along with the letters published here give a good all round description of M. Versatilis.

There is a video clip featuring the Sutherland brothers giving a talk on their lives. There's a brief mention of the robots about 19 minutes into the clip titled "mom loved him best" .

Electro-Mechanical-Animal Sutherland-  a pdf of the below article

Although thought to have been #6, the stamping clearly shows a '5', contradicting WGW's and Sutherland's correspondence.





Documents showing schematics of plug-in modules.

There are not many references to Machina Versatilis. Unfortunately one of the more recent tomes on the history of A.I. (Boden: Mind as Machine) incorrectly credits the Sutherlands' as the builders of Edmund C. Berkeley's "Squee" of 1951, rather than M. Versatilis.

See other Cybernetic Creatures here.

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