Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Mechanical Man of the Future (1928)

On December 9, 1928 The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden City, Utah), along with many other papers, ran a syndicated story about the mechanical man of the future. Much like the insistence that giant robots would soon fight our wars, this article clearly must be taken with a grain of salt.

The mechanical man, brazen-lunged creature of dreadful portent is among us! A few years from now you may rub elbows with him in the subway, turn out in the street to let him pass upon his ruthless way, or even, if you are a malefactor, find yourself pinioned in his grip of cold steel and compelled with unreasoning inflexibility toward a place of confinement.

What can the mechanical man do? Plenty! He can walk, and he can talk. He can stand, sit, bow, and otherwise comport himself after the fashion of a human being. But he can do more than that. He can shake hands and breathe, telephone, operate practically any electrical device, and perform any number of duties advantageous to mankind.

See also:
Gigantic Robots to Fight Our Battles (Fresno Bee, 1934)
Mammy vs Robot (Charleston Gazette, 1937)
Donald Duck's "Modern Inventions" (1937)
All's Fair at the Fair (1938)
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)


Dave Barrett said...

Of course it is only in hindsight that we see that the combination of anticipation and dread about a future filled with mechanical men was misplaced.
What predictions are we reading today filling us with similar anticipation/dread that are just as unlikely to occur?
My guess about predictions that will not pan out:

1. Soon medical advances will allow us to live much longer than people have been up to now. [People love to predict this and have been doing so for many years now. Will not happen.]
2. Soon computers will understand spoken human language allowing computers to do all kinds of things they cannot do now. [They started predicting this more than 50 years ago soon after computers were invented. Has not happened and will not happen any time soon.]
3. We will soon be sending human beings in space ships to Mars and beyond. [When I heard that people studying the problems involved with long space flights were suggesting duct tape as a way to deal with someone who goes crazy in space I knew that the moon was as far as we were going any time soon.]

Unknown said...

Sounds like someone needs Old Glory Robot Insurance!

Austin said...

I beg to differ with Chris Barrett.

1. Yes people have been predicting longer life spans for humans and they are right. Just looking at the last hundred years we have seen a great increase in Human life expectancy. The average life expectancy in the United States was 45.6 years for men and 49.9 years for women in the year 1907.

2. Computers understand my spoken language on a daily basis. When I call to pay a bill most of the time I speak to a computer and here in the Bay Area we have a traffic report system called 511 where all communication is handled by computers that understand spoken language.

3.Despite the problems with long term space flights Nasa and the current administration have stated that they are planning a manned mission to mars with the first step being a return to the moon in 2018.

Jhhl said...

I hope you Boingers noticed that these mechanical men sport the logo R.U.R., Rossum's Universal Robots, the original source of the word robot, from the eponymous play by Karel ńĆapek.

Anonymous said...

I for one pledge to insert the term "brazen-lunged" into an office conversation today. I hope I don't end up being labeled a malefactor and then get pinioned.

Great stuff, Matt!

Odon said...

"The scientist is providing the robot with a mate…" Well at least it's more respectable than the lascivious desires that clearly fueled the creation of later pulp femdroids.