July 3, 2003

The dream of robots

On Sunday, I was online, and I met a cousin of mine. We started talking about our childhood days in Bombay. We used to visit each other’s place often. She mentioned this one occasion when she was at our home, and we showed her this robot we had made.

I remembered the robot. It was a scam robot. It would not do much —  shake its arms and keep saying I am a robot”. The body of the robot was made from old cans. The arms were built out of cardboard strips that were attached to a small motor hidden inside the body. We salvaged the motor out from an old Japanese toy. (We would go to a local flea market, looking for spare parts for our experiments.) We had a hidden tape recorder, and we had rigged the speaker to the robot. The initial plan was to have a light sensor on the robot that detects people and starts playing the tape. We never got around getting one of those light sensors, so instead, we made a trick switch”. Whenever someone stood in front of the robot, I would turn the switch on. The robot would say things like Hello, I am a robot. What are you?” or Hello, carbon-based life form”. The robot did not live for long, and we took it apart. We needed spare parts for some other experiment.

There were very few foreign programs on Indian television those days, and our favourites were Fireball X-L 5 and Jhonny Sokko and his Giant Robot. Both these programs featured robots. We used to spend a lot of time talking about robots. We wondered if one day they would take over the world. Will they?

The theme song from Fireball XL5 is such.

India Movies

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