These hulking hunks of real steel were long on imagination, short on capability, yet remain awesome.
During the 1950s, robots were all the rage and movies like Forbidden Planet had every boy fantasizing about the day he’d get his very own mechanical man. Of course, junior would be happy to order the machine to help mom around the house, or maybe lift the car if dad got a flat tire. None of that was to be. By the 1970s it became clear that it would still be a long time before robot butlers would be gracing our homes.
Even today, the closest thing we have are Roombas, and although some people really like them, for others they make better cat toys than domestic helpers. Robots of the ’50s weren’t all simply men in suits made for the movies, though. Some scientists were trying to build machines capable of simple human tasks. One such robot, named Cygan, recently sold in a Christie’s auction for almost $30,000.
Cygan was a hulking beast, built in Italy in 1957 by designer Ing Fiorito and then brought to the U.K. where it was renamed Gygan. The machine was 8 feet tall, weighed 2,000 pounds and contained about 300,000 parts, mostly switches, motors and components for the shortwave radio through which it could be controlled. It could “walk” by shuffling its wheeled feet, move its head and arms and even supposedly respond to simple voice and light commands. Unfortunately, the electronics once housed in this piece of history have been lost, so it’s difficult to pin down exactly how everything worked. Check out this YouTube video for a firsthand look at the robot your cat would definitely not want to play with.
While Cygan at least looked like some giant version of a child’s toy, Electro looked like his day job involved packing human beings into freezers as food in preparation for the coming alien invasion. He even smoked cigarettes.
While the robots being produced today are far more technologically advanced and capable, there is no denying the charm these mechanical forefathers possessed.