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t3knomanser's Fustian Deposits

Elektro

How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy

run the fuck away

Mad science gone horribly, horribly wrong(or right).

Elektro

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run the fuck away
At the 1939 World's Fair, Westinghouse displayed a walking, talking, humanoid robot named "Elektro".

Given the rather obvious technical limitations they were up against, the engineers did an amazing job with it. Remember, this was well before the transistor- the computer system that powered it was made from mechanical relays. It could do primitive voice recognition, could talk by using sampled voices on a bank of record players. By 1940, he had a robot dog Sparko, and Elektro could give commands to Sparko.

I first discovered Elektro when Minna and I were researching the 1939 World's Fair for an RPG setting. We were so fascinated by him that he became the plot hook for the story. It seems that our fascination was shared by one other person: James Weeks, who over the course of 30 years has found and reassembled the robot. What caused his dedication?

Well, you can read the article, but it doesn't truly convey the awesomeness. You see, young James Weeks's father worked for Westinghouse. When the Elektro product went into hibernation during WWII, his father brought the robot home and stored it in his barn. Young James got to play with the golden robot. Oh, the electronics didn't come with it, but this young kid in the 40s got to play with his own personal robot. How awesome is that? It's like a real-life Iron Giant.

Follow through that narrative. Elektro is built, and sees fame as a technological marvel. War comes, and he's forgotten in a barn where he becomes the friend of a young child. A long period of debauchery ensues, as he becomes first a roadside attraction, and then a prop in the 1960 film Sex Kittens Go to College. That's his nadir, and a short time later Westinghouse has him disassembled. The parts get scattered around and he's forgotten to history. Except one little boy (now a grown up), through sheer chance, stumbles across the robot's head. A thirty year quest ensues, and the little boy who grew up with a robot has rescued his friend from the junk heap and restored him.

Somebody get Pixar on the line! They do good with robots. This story is practically made for them.
  • just a thought the 1939 worlds fair was also the unveiling of another technological marvel, Philo T. Farnsworth and David Sarnoff convinced the President of the United States to appear on the first broadcast of Television. dont know if this helps your research as well but that TV is on display at the home of FDR in Hyde Park NY...
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