The ‘world’s first’ stories have been shared online for years, they’re usually no more than just a picture with the claim that what it depicts is the first of it’s kind.
They rarely add any more information, even the most basic bit of background is left out and the questions from followers are ignored.
There are even social media accounts that post nothing but these claims, often not caring about if they are factual, only gathering as many followers and retweets as possible before they start posting sponsored messages or sell the account.
Don’t retweet or follow them.
This is one of those pictures, it claims it shows world’s first robot.
The robot in this picture is called Boilerplate and he’s a fictional character invented by artist Paul Guinan, not in the 1890s but over a century later.
Mr. Guinan made a model robot and created a whole website about the adventures of Boilerplate by placing him in real historical situations.
He did such a good job that it fooled quite a few people but it soon was debunked.
Still, it’s quite impressive that people to this day fall for it.
Together with co-author Anina Bennett a wonderful book ‘Boilerplate; History’s Mechanical Marvel’ was produced, there’s even merchandise and a video;
So, in short, someone found a picture from this book and in stead of doing a bit of research decided to claim it was the world’s first robot.
The photo Boilerplate was Photoshopped into is fascinating, even without a robot.
The men in it are so called Buffalo soldiers, originally members of the 10th cavalry regiment of the US Army and consisted of black soldiers.
They got the Buffalo nickname from the American Natives and it was used for several regiments of the then called ‘colored cavalry’.
Although formed after the American civil war, they saw action in several wars, including the Indian wars, the Mexican border war and even the first and second World Wars and several of the men received the ‘medal of honor’, the United State’s highest military award.
The men in the photo are members of the 10th cavalry, taking a break while escorting General Wesley Merrit in 1894.
What the real world’s first robot is depends on how we define robot, if we go for the very basic meaning of the word and start looking for the first device that can replicate human movement and function automatically one could claim that Automata were the first robots, these machines, often depicting humans or animals, could follow a pre-determined sequence of operations.
Although they are perhaps best compared to today’s animatronics.
There have been stories about automata, statues, furniture, etc. that moved on it’s own, reacted to humans, dating back to ancient times.
So if we decide that Automata are indeed classifiable as early robots, it’s going to be impossible to find out which one was the first.
And that some of these are in some cases clearly a myth, probably made up, or of dubious origin is not making things easier.
This one is not the first, but I think it shows that Automatons can be considered the first robots.
She can perform eight melodies, that’s eight more than I can.
However, if we think that a robot has to be digitally operated, with other words, as a or with a computer, then Unimate, created in 1951, was the first robot, although it was not humanoid, but “just” an arm created for factory work.
- Big Red Hair
- Boilerplate, History’s mechanical Marvel, by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett
- Paul Guinan on Twitter
- Anina Bennett on Twitter
- Buffalo Soldiers 1866- 91-Osprey Publishing, by Ron Field & Richard Hook
- History of robots on Wikipedia
- Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology, by Adrienne Mayor
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