Robots on TV

The Lost in Space robot


With those words, The Robot on Lost In Space would begin the terrifying act of waving his (I guess The Robot was a he) arms. When those arms waved, you’d better clear the area. That meant rays were about to be shot and explosions were about to be set off as the mechanized bodyguard of the Robinsons was about to get good and mad.

We grew up with all sorts of robots gracing our black-and-white TV’s. My personal favorite was the Lost in Space model (and no, his name wasn’t Robby. Robby will rate his own future column). Of course, 1960’s TV foxes June Lockhart and Angela Cartwright didn’t exactly keep me away from the show, either.

My best buddy had a miniature LIS robot, and it was pretty cool. Additionally, on the schoolyard at recess one of our favorite pastimes was walking around in robotic fashion, waving our arms and hollering, well, you know what we were hollering. 😉

Big Bill and Oom-a-Gog on Tulsa’s KVOO

Robots were pretty easy to make. All it took was a suit made of metallic parts, perhaps even wooden boxes spray-painted to look metallic, big enough for a man to fit in. Add some battery-powered flashing lights and a robotic-sounding voice, and you had yourself a star for a kiddie show.

Thus, many of us Boomers have memories of Saturday afternoon shows featuring local TV station personnel, including, possibly, the sportscaster in a robot suit.

The photo is from the Big Bill and Oom-A-Gog show, broadcast on Tulsa’s KVOO in the 60’s. Thanks again to my buddy Mike Ransom over at Tulsa TV Memories for the image.

Channel 2 came in a little fuzzy at my house, but I still remember the name Oom-A-Gog, so I must have caught an episode or two. That robot certainly looks familiar. As Mike’s article points out, he was seen at many televised Tulsa events of the decade.

Not sure if it was Oomy, maybe a reader can help, but I recall a local TV robot singing “Bingle Jells” around Christmastime one year.

Weird, wonderful stuff.

There were robots in the cartoons, too. Perhaps the greatest of them all was Rosie, from The Jetsons.

Rosie the Robot

My all-time favorite SF book is Robert Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer. This amazing little novel details the story of an inventor who builds (and loses) a fortune based on two models of robots that assist in household duties. Indeed, the idea of a robot like Rosie, who keeps things neat and in order at her (no doubt about what gender this robot is) futuristic home seems like a very practical place for humans to some day utilize robotic technology.

Rosie had lots of attitude, like all great fictional robots. She even had a love life, of sorts, as I recall that she had the hots for another (presumably male) robot.

Nowadays, robots are commonplace in industrial applications. And shades of Heinlein’s Chore Girl, there are robotic vacuum cleaners that run all over the house on their own looking for dirt. There is even a self-willed lawnmower.

But hey, it’s the 21st century already. Where’s the bodyguard I was promised? Where is the automaton playmate that our grandkids were supposed to have? Indeed, where’s our metallic maid?

I guess we’ll have to settle for the one prediction that did come true: a computer in every home.

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