Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The First Humanoido Lab

GOING RETRO: It's interesting to visit the past. The first Humanoido Lab was established in 1955 with the study of science and work in Astronomy and Humanoid Robotics. It was the year Albert Einstein passed away, like the setting of a brilliant sun, a new sun was born.

Typical modern version of 1st Lab
The first Lab had its own wood house - approximately 12 x 8' in studio fashion, with a picture window, door, wood burning stove and the first small library.

In the summer time, a tent was pitched next to the Lab to provide more space for experiments.

The original building was possibly a chicken coupe from the 1940s which was remodeled into a storage shed and then a club house through the years. It was repainted white. 

Original photos will be posted from the 1950s photo album when they are accessed. For now, the supplied photo shows the approximate size. The roof was probably one slope towards the back of the building.

Similar wood stove
The wood stove was added specifically for Lab function during the cold winters. In the winter, small pieces of leftover construction wood were hatchet cut to fuel the stove for heat. The wood scraps probably came from a deck project which was constructed around the same time. The wood stove was a very small steel drum. It was designed as a camping and ice shack fishing warmer. Hatchet cut wood was trimmed into even smaller pieces to fit the small stove, lit with crumpled newspaper. A pile of wood fuel was made and set next to the Lab building for the winter. Unfortunately, late into the winter at the coldest peak, the tiny stove could not keep up, and it overheated at the metal pipe roof stack connection and caught fire on the wood shingles. The slow amber burn of the surrounding few wet shake shingles was immediately put out with handfuls of snow and the building was fine, but it was the end of using the small uninsulated stove for safety reasons.

The Lab was run by at least four people, inclusive of the founder/ director, a military mechanics specialist and technician, and at least two investors.

The first lab experimented with and studied in the fields of Marine Biology (Brine Shrimp & fish), Botany (plant species), Entomology (Insects), Astronomy (Telescopes, Planets, Moon), Osteology (Bones), Mechanics (motors, materials), Sci-Fi Makeup Artistry, Fossils (cave-man tools, fossilized dinosaur and oceanic sea urchins) and Humanoid Robotics.

Study was heavy into Inventing, collecting Fossils, practicing Scouting, Exploring the Earth, developing Collections, working with Microscopy, developing Mechanical projects, studying Computers and building Robots. The Lab specialized in performing scientific experiments and collections.

The Lab also published, sold and distributed a small newspaper. The mechanical printing press worked with a rotating drum that held rubber type face. It used homemade ink, cut recycled paper, and text set in news font rubber type. The Bindery process used metal staples to hold the newspaper together. The mode of delivery transportation was by bicycle. All articles were authored by Humanoido. Each issue was sold for five cents though many were delivered FOC.

The Lab launched its first black powder rocket early on during the first summer. About 200 rockets were launched in all. The launch site was located a mile out of town. Estimated altitude was from 200 feet on up. Parachute black powder rockets were also launched and retrieved. Other rockets followed with different types of propulsion - a vinegar and baking soda liquid fuel rocket, and a water pressure powered rocket.

The first talking humanoid Can Man was invented and built. Computers were only studied and not built. Remember, ENIAC - Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator was in the news at this time and the popular microcomputer was not yet born - not until until twenty years later in the 1970s. The humanoid's upper body torso, face and head were made from metal Campbell's soup tin cans. The head was attached to the torso with wire run through holes punched into the metal. The torso held the speech mechanism to generate 16 spoken words with phrases, names, nouns, adjectives, and verb commands. This was the first speech device which used all mechanics. The single resonating speaker was cut from of piece of flat cardboard and tension attached and regulated with a rubber band.

Mr. Machine robot

The Lab collected many functional robot toys for study through the early years. These included a commercial Mr. Machine robot made by Ideal, Robert the Robot, Big Loo Giant Moon Robot from Space, Robot Commando, and others.

Mr. Machine came assembled with numerous plastic gears. When it was disassembled, adequate instructions for reassembly could not be found! This was ok as many of these gears became parts in the Lab for new robotic construction projects.

Catalog prices near 1960
Another robot that saw a lot of action was the Robot Commando. A hand could be inserted int the robot's back to activate main controls.

Robert the Robot was the most popular robot. B&W TV advertising and ads in the Sears catalog introduced it across the USA. Robert had many functions and was motion controllable with a hand paddle connected to the robot by a steel cable. It was modeled after robots on science fiction movies. The original Robert from the 1950s and replicas made in the 2000s can be found at auctions today.

Big Loo Giant Moon Robot
Big Loo was possibly the most amazing robot toy ever created. It's sheer size was fantastic and the number of functions it had was remarkable. It could roll along on wheels, bend at the torso to pick up things, it had a gripping hand, could shoot missiles, canon balls, had two dart launchers, a navigation compass, alarm whistle, Morse code keyer with Morse code language on the back, lighted eyes, a signaling bell, base storage compartment, a moveable arm that could throw a grenade, a centrally located squirt mechanism to shoot out water, and it could speak many different phrases. Big Loo saw so much action, the winding lever to control the speech wore out. Two slits were made in the performance of head surgery to repair the mechanism with silicone and restore the robot's voice. The voice mechanism used in Big Loo was almost the same as used in Robert the Robot.
Tom Swift book
The library began by checking out all books from the local library in the fields of various science, twelve at a time. This progressed to owning subscriptions to magazines and purchases from the local book store. The little library held books about scouting, crafts and lore, science experiments, microscopy, computers, and robots. It had collections of Weekly Reader for news and inspiring stories. One of these issues still remain in the Lab with an article about the design of a new American space shuttle. The library branched out to include science fiction because SciFi held better ideas and innovations than science fact in the 1950s.

The Lab housed several collections of scientific items for study and shelves with various parts.

The focus was on computers, robots, plants, brine shrimp, microscopic studies, study of the Moon and planets (Venus), lenses, motors, bones, printing, gears, insects, and creating make-up special effects.

The Lab had its first professional article and photos published in a trade magazine.

Hardware and instruments included robots, a printing press, forming jar, entomology net, a 300X optical microscope, and a telescope.

A design was drawn showing a large scientific business, building, and inventory that would exist in the future. This view from 1955 seems to match the view of Humanoido Labs in 2013, nearly sixty years later!

What remains from the early Humanoido Lab? Here's the list of common items now in the new Lab's Showcase. Weekly Reader, Telescope, Professional Publications, Printed Newspaper, Tom Swift & His Giant Robot Book, Original Robot, Photos.