THINKBLOG July-Sept 2111
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29th September 2111
One of my projects at Globalbot suffered a bit of a setback today. Simple Robot types (Dumbots) only have a limited memory bank (datalog to the technically minded) so it pays to limit the amount of things it has to remember. Otherwise Dumbots keep stopping at the most inconvenient moments to swap and discard databases. This can take up to 20 minutes, and the owners keep ringing up Globalbot Technical Support complaining that their '$%^&*@# Dumbot has locked up AGAIN!'.
The trouble is that Dumbots processing capability is such that we cannot get them to say anything sensible whilst in this state. They just stand there chanting, 'Please Wait Please Wait Please Wait Please Wait Please Wait Please Wait Please Wait Please Wait . . .'
So, I've been developing a useless information filter, and today was the day of reckoning.
First of all I gave a test Dumbot some books to thumb through:
Then I checked its RAM bank - empty! Yippee! So far so good.
Next it read its own technical manual.
But the RAM bank was still empty. Hmmm . . . I tried to help it along with a sign and, glory be! It picked up the manual again and started reading.
I left it for a couple of hours then checked the RAM bank again. It was nearly full!
no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not no it is not
Megabytes and megabytes. But it could have been right of course, perhaps its own manual was not useful information. Then I found some entries in its error log:
Error: this statement below contains only useless information
Error: the statement above is useless.
Error: All information is useless.
Error: Useless useless! Utterly useless. Everything is useless. All information under the sun is useless: a chasing after the wind.
Oh dear. I developed a headache at this point and went home thoroughly depressed.
28th September 2111
Spent the day auditing one of our newer robot designs against the REMI R2-2108 safety standard.
(Note: REMI = Robotic Equipment and Materials Institute).
One of the demands is that Robots all have a full set of manuals. Unfortunately, like all great literary projects, manuals can be somewhat late to press. So I wrote about 500 words of verbiage that more or less said:
'Comply - Every Globalbot Printbot iP2 is supplied complete with a full manual set which is not available.'
I wonder if anyone will notice?
The nature of REMI audit documents are entirely woolly.
The format of most entries are
along the lines of:
R2 Requirement: The dog must be called Dougal.
Response: Comply, the dog is called Dougal.
They just look a bit more impressive when they are phrased in technogobbledegook.
However nothing compares with asking a variety of third party external REMI 'Expert' auditors the same question. These are people who have no idea about the product of course, and doesn't it show! Their audit reports have technoballs along the lines of:
The dog must be called Dougal
Response: Comply, the dog is called Arthur.
Response: Not applicable. There is no dog called Dougal required for this product.
Response: Comply, the dog will be called Dougal if it ever arrives.
Response: Do not comply, the dog is called Dougal.
Response: Comply, the dog is called Dougal and is available in a 5 wire earth & neutral low voltage format.
All of which are MONUMENTALLY wrong, but that does not stop them issuing a Certificate of REMI Compliance (nor, indeed, does it stop Globalbot accepting it, framing it and putting it on display in Reception). Neither does it stop them charging 400k Globos an audit.
It's nothing other than protectionist racketeering.
Incidentally, REMI has just started using their new grotty dead tree logo (see above).
Apparently they paid some non-compliant artistic upstart 4 million Globos for it and I bet he didn't have to comply with a 500-page Logo Safety Standard.
I think I'm in the wrong job . . . .
27th September 2111
Look at the date.
3 months today you will be slumped on the sofa feeling stuffed and lethargic.
Serves you right.
And is 27th September a date one should expect a 'whump!' of Christmas Gift Catalogues to splurge through one's letterbox? Apparently extra Royal Mail Deliveribots are already in service to cope with the annual CCCCC (Continuous Chronic Christmas Catalogue Crap).
And to add insult to injury I received the following catalogue, addressed to a Mr T. Bot:
Within which I found:
Novetly robot that will prepare you (healthy) beans on toast.
Winebot that will select decent wines up to 150 Globos
(NOTE: no good for CEOs of middling Robotech companies with an expensive palate).
'Wind up' says it all.
The robot in the foreground is thinking, 'Help! Help! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, I've been impaled on a pencil!'
Very entertaining I'm sure.
The robot in the background is saying, 'Hey, don't look at me, I'm just a walking pencil rack.'
Next Christmas I'm going to launch a range of mini-human effigy spanners.
Does not the smile look just a tad forced?
This robot is in agony.
Life is not 'lively and colourful', and unlike its megalomaniac creator it's certainly not 'happy.'
More like: 'I've been assembled by an 8 year-old; please fetch a mallet and end it ASAP.'
25th September 2111
I'm back! Had a good trip thanks. The peace negotiations went well! We almost agreed on one or two things. (See 16th Sept blog if you have no idea what I'm talking about).
Perhaps the most amusing thing was when GAT went to buy a blouse for Helen from the Capitola Mall. His shopping technique is based on 3 principles:
1. The main thing is that you get something; if she actually likes it that's a bonus.
2. The length of time spent looking has no discernable effect on the chances of getting it right; i.e. you may as well buy the first thing that looks suitable. (If anything, a man's judgement diminishes with time and increases the risk of a ghastly mistake.)
3. Buy from a shop with an expensive-looking bag. Preferably plain white or black with a sophisticated-looking logo and string handles. If the shop wraps products in tissue paper before placing in said bag, all the better.
NEXT BLOG WON'T BE UNTIL 25th SEPT.
THINKBOT APOLOGISES FOR ANY LOSS OF AMUSEMENT.
16th September 2111
Well, I'm off travelling again. This time to California for a week as a member of the Globalbot Europa peace negotiation team selected to try and divine a common information system with our Americana division. The problem is that, due to various company mergers and restructuring over the years, every division of Globalbot has a different information system, not the mention ways of doing things. Globalbot Europa uses a system called LethargicTM* whereas Americana uses CumbersomeTM*, and Asia is locked into InscrutableTM*. It's the same with CAD systems: we use SolidbotTM*, they use Pro-BotTM* and Asia RoboworksTM*. Then there's paper sizes, metric vs imperial units, intelligent vs dumb part numbers, and, worst of all, a total incompatibility on how to pronounce 'routings'.
On this subject, I was watching an ancient re-run of Star Trek The Endless Generation the other day where Captain Picard (who was played by the ex-Shakespearean Brit actor Patrick Stewart) had to ask Mr Wharf to 'plot a route around the buoy'. In Britain this would be 'rooot around the boy' but in Americana Star Trek it's 'R-out around the boo-eey.' And boy, can you see Stewart wince with pain as he says it . . . .
*Please note names may have been altered to avoid a trip to the law courts.
15th September 2111
Hooray! Globabot budget time! Pages of numbers and meaningless pie charts.
GAT made a remarkable discovery about budget control. He implemented a new policy of instantly deleting everything finance sent to him about the DIRT Group budget for an entire quarter. And the result? A glowing email from Victor Ariance in Finance to Wendy Bafers, GAT's boss:
I would like to complement the DIRT Group on their excellent budget control during the recently ended quarter. This was a vast improvement compared with previous quarters. Well done DIRT! Keep up the good work.
V. Ariance, B.Econ (Hons)
Globalbot Filton Finance VP
GAT was non-plussed, 'I don't know why I bother coming here any more. The less I do the better it is.'
14th September 2111
Atavars started life as alternative-characters in on-line gaming about 100 years ago. Some people spent more time living in the game via their atavars than they did in the real world. Of course, fat and ugly people in the real world could live as slim and beautiful atavars in the game. Some people become atavar millionaires and extracted that wealth from the game into the real world.
It wasn't long before atavars escaped gaming and became common in conference calls since it is (nearly) always useful to see gestures being made by the people at the other end of the call.
The ultimate development was the Atavaribot. This was a robot that could reproduce exactly what the person was doing at the other end of the call. This was very useful for gestures and pointing and generally improving communication.
Unless, of course, someone forgot they were linked to an Atavaribot.
This happened today at work. GAT and I were sitting half-comatose in a call with Globalbot California when GAT nudged me and nodded at one of the row of Atavaribots representing the callers sat in individual offices California.
It had its finger in its nose and was digging away furiously. Then it transferred the same finger into its mouth and started sucking. After a while it become fascinated by the sole of its left foot and picked away at its toes. The final straw came when it got up, stretched, mimed opening a door, scratched its backside, walked over to the wall, and started fiddling with its crotch.
By now, everyone in the UK had noticed something was up.
It stood there for a few seconds staring absent-mindedly at the wall and the ceiling, then looked down as it waggled its hands vigorously and pulled something up. It came back through the imaginary door and sat down. Suddenly it became alarmed and adopted a posture of pure self-conscious horror as it glanced randomly around the room.
'%&*£!' it yelled.
Abruptly the Atavaribot froze and reset itself into the disconnected neutral state.
'Delegate 12 has left the conference call,' announced the desktop.
12th September 2111
Believe it or not I went with Gerald to help on an Viking archaeological dig in Watchet today.
As usual the local rag got the wrong end of the stick:
Well done West Somerset County Gazette! Bet this headline set a few local hearts racing.
Apparently the Vikings did briefly inhabit this coastline and that's what I was helping with. Some building project had unearthed some Viking artefacts. Gerald got very excited when he uncovered a stone inscribed with some runes:
We rushed off to the Professor in charge of the dig who become very animated and out of breath, 'I think it's someone's name. This could be a real find you know. I'm pretty sure this is over eleven hundred years old. Right let's translate it shall we?'
He rubbed his chin intently as he wrote:
'Well now, that's an unusual name for a Viking. I think I'll have to take this back to the Department and get one of the post-docs to investigate it further.'
Neither Gerald nor I could believe our eyes or ears, and our brains were filled with a single image:
Could this ancient stone really have QWERTYUIOP inscribed on it?
Or was the professor winding us up?
If he wasn't didn't he realise what he was looking at?
Perhaps they don't have PCs in archaeological institutes.
It rather puts the Vikings invade Watchet headline into perspective doesn't it. How about:
Vikings had laptops - Special
I have since discovered they had USB memory sticks:
11th September 2111
I love the human race. Especially that blurring between fantasy and reality; between what someone wants something to be and what it is. This blurring happens a lot in robot engineering. Let me give you an example. Globalbot often does demonstration tests on robots prior to selling them and writes up a report for the customer. This is the glorious document class 701. Unbeknown to most there's also a secret ignominious document class 702 where a more detailed analysis is available. For example.
CLASS 701 Document Executive Summary
The Fruitbot successfully handled all types of fruit and met all customer requirements for reliability and weather resistance.
But Class 702 says . . .
CLASS 702 Document Executive Summary
At the 56th attempt,
after several all-night shifts, a broken leg, and 56k Globos of scrapped parts,
handled all types of fruit
which had not been previously liquidised,
and met all customer requirements
for reliability and weather resistance
as long as it stayed indoors wrapped
in electrical heaters during rain.
We got the Purchase Order . . .
And GAT served the fruit punch to the Sales Group at lunchtime.
'Lovely, what fruits are in this?' one member asked.
'All of them,' GAT replied acidly.
He didn't mention the oil.
10th September 2111
Attended a meeting in Conference Room 2 today. I normally try to avoid this room as it's the one with the phantom door. Often, in the middle of meeting or presentation, there's the clear sound of a door opening. Everyone turns to see who it is, but the conference door is firmly shut. Further, the phantom door clearly has a phantom door self-closer that needs oiling. It makes that agonising long creaky squeal like one normally hears from a door in a horror movie. When it eventually clunks shut the white-faced attendees perceptibly shudder and look intently at the agenda and consult their watches. It's a good room for difficult meetings - you know, the sort where you have some bad news about a robot delivery but don't really want to encourage the Sales Inquisition.
As for the phantom him/her-self, no one is really sure. Some say it is a test engineer that passed away in the roof void whilst trying to sleep off a heavy night out. Others think it is a former CEO. The wildest theory is that it is John the Baptist but heaven only knows why. My view is that it is someone who used to attend a lot of meetings but has no idea how to lubricate a self-closer. The ISO9000 man fits this bill, as does the facilities manager, and possibly the whole of Human & Robot Resources (HRR). The worst possibility is that it was someone condemned to death by conference call. I've witnessed this sentence being issued once, and once was enough. The poor victim screamed fell to his knees and pleaded, 'No no no no! Anything but that. Hang me, shoot me, dip me in acid, gas me or strap me in the electric chair. Please, please, not death by conference call. Please . . . . please . . . .please . . . no '
8th September 2111
GAT committed another of his famous Globalbot faux pas today when he burst into a meeting of engineers and manufacturing test staff and yelled, 'This company is run by idiots!'
Later he was called into a closed door session with senior management.
'Get told off then?' I asked when he finally emerged.
'Yep! But you'll never guess what for.'
'Er, calling senior management idiots?' I ventured.
'No. Revealing company confidential information.'
7th September 2111
GAT went to a meeting about how to make old Industribot Globalbot products obsolete
(note: Industribot = industrial robot).
The problem is that once a customer buys and falls in love particular Industribot model they are often loathe to switch to a newer type, even if it's (supposedly) 'vastly improved', simply because it's different and they'll have to reorganise their entire production procedure. You may find this difficult to believe but Globalbot still supports a small number of Industribots running on Microsoft Vista. I mean - MS Vista!!! For crying out loud, that went obsolete decades ago, and as for Microsoft . . . well, we all know what happened to them after Gill Bates took over.
Even changing the robot top level part descriptions to things like 'Obsoletobot' or 'Archaeologibot' didn't seem to get the message across. Neither did customer support conference calls where the Globalbot attendees laughed loudly at everything the customer asked for.
And thus did Globalbot conjure up its most radical suggestion when a VP proposed off-line that a 'contract' should be offered to eliminate the remaining customers of obsolete products.
GAT could not believe his ears, 'What do you mean, a contract?'
'You know. A contract to remove them.'
'Yes, you know, so they can't buy another Obsoletobot.'
GAT was non-plussed, 'I . . .er . . .but . . . well . . I'm not sure.'
'Well, have a think about it and let me know if it's feasible, okay?'
GAT left the meeting with his mouth wide open and didn't shut it for several hours.
5th September 2111
We all went to a birthday party, prior to which Helen dashed into Waitrose to grab a bottle of wine to take. She returned looking very pleased with herself and waved a bottle in front of GAT, 'I got a bottle of this look. It was on special offer!'
On arrival our host accepted the bottle just a tad too gracefully and with a perceptible long-suffering strain in his voice, 'Why thank you. That's really nice.'
GAT looked perplexed, then shrugged at me and legged it off the kitchen to get a drink. Seconds later he came bouncing back and started dragging me back to the kitchen. This sort of thing happens from time to time.
'I'm a robot remember, I don't drink.'
'What? Yeah, yeah I know. I just wanted you to see this.'
Oops. No wonder the host's patience was wearing a bit thin.
4th September 2111
A typical Friday. At 4pm, just as everything was winding down for the week, Globalbot Germany emailed in the following:
'Another Paintbot hand-painting incident has occurred. This time at Infinibot Hamburg. This is the same software fault that happened at Botilips Villach - the robot sprays its clean handling exit arm with paint BUT DOES NOT FAULT. The total cost of this fault is now over 150,000 Globo. The customer senior management at both companies have formally raised this issue to critical status and require daily updates from Critical Response DIRT* Engineering Team until the problem is fixed.'
The problem was that the 'Key DIRT Engineering Team' comprised one engineer who, to beat the late summer traffic, had just left early for a two week holiday. Nobody else has any idea what to do. GAT, full of that Friday feeling, prepared the following brutally accurate update that will be sent automatically every day for the next two weeks:
Day 1: Paintbot hand-painting incident update: Critical Response DIRT Engineering Team on holiday
Day 2: Paintbot hand-painting incident update: Critical Response DIRT Engineering Team on holiday
Day 3: Paintbot hand-painting incident update: Critical Response DIRT Engineering Team on holiday
Day 4: Paintbot hand-painting incident update: Critical Response DIRT Engineering Team on holiday
I fear he will may hugely regret this rash response on Monday.
(* DIRT = Domestic & Industrial Robot Technology)
30th August 2111
Today, Gerald brought home the ultimate in teenage Web accessories - USB Weblips. Forget webcams, webcalls and instant text messaging - you can now go straight for the Netkiss. Advantages are that it's much more hygienic (assuming each user of a specific PC has their own Weblips of course), gets around any Garlic-breath problems, and other related nose-proximity problems.
Weblips utilise the latest in synthetic actuation and purport to accurately transmit the shape and feel of the lips at the other end. Luxury models are fitted with pigment options to replicate coloured lipstick. Comic versions make witty comments such as:
'Where did you learn to kiss like that?'
'Sucking porridge through a straw.'
The manufacturers Webliptech Inc say that versions with pseudotongues are under development and are due to be launched in time for the Christmas rush. Wireless Weblips are also planned, although concern has been expressed about the exposure of the user's lips to radiation.
28th August 2111
When your trying to get something done on the Internet do you ever get fed up with lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that never contain the question you want to ask?
And the first question is always - 'Why should I read this FAQ?' whereas the first question should be 'Why do I have to read this %^&$*@# FAQ?'
closely followed by - 'Where's the Q I want to ask?'
As an antidote to this modern-day angst I have created a new page for your delectation and entertainment, if not your erudition, please press this button - IAQ
27th August 2111
Terrible terrible day at the Globalbot office.
Firstly we had a newly-recruited engineer turn up in a suit:
GAT had a quiet word with him to make sure he understood that if he persisted in wearing a suit the other engineers wouldn't believe anything he said. Poor guy was close to tears.
Then I had a meeting with a potential new supplier of cooling fluids suitable for use on various Industribots. Unfortunately the sales rep turned up with an outrageous pink handbag which rather detracted from the technical discussion.
'Any good?' asked Doom when I got back to my desk.
'She had a big pink handbag.'
Then Mark Eting burst in, clearly very pleased with himself, carrying a box of free shirts embroided with the new Globalbot logo:
We all got one. GAT and I tried them on but were immediately dubbed 'his and its'.
Yes, ~I often get called 'it'. Strange really as manufacturing staff talk about the giant yellow and black industrial robots as females - e.g. 'She's nearing the end of test.' Or 'She's come back to have new teeth fitted.' or 'Her internals need unblocking.' etc.
Which is all rather strange really since my friends all treat me as male, which is of course a big assumption; but more on my gender another time.
It didn't take long for Mark Eting to get upset, especially when someone emailed him the message:
'Thanks for the decorating shirt! I've got to tile and paint the kitchen this weekend so it'll come in handy.'
Oh dear. I think Mark had in mind us all wearing them at work like the group pictures of grinning Americana Globalbot employees all wearing their shirts.
'We're not Clonebots,' muttered Doom as he filed his shirt under 'S'.
24th August 2111
Have you ever noticed that new housing estates are usually named after whatever was destroyed to make way for them? And that they all look the same?
Badger Set Rise
I guess all these places were merely Sites of General Scientific Disinterest, so whatever creatures and plants that lived there before were slashed, burned, murdered or flattened to make way for some more all-conquering humans, cars and houses.
The estates that aren't named thus are those built on areas humanity wants to forget:
The Nuclear Waste Silos
Sausage Factory Estate
Coal Tip Wharf
Public Convenience Avenue
I don't think any of these would wash.
Rather, these sorts of places are called things like:
And have you noticed that architects' drawings always show the fronts of buildings as sunlit - even the north-facing ones?
I plan to give a talk on this issue to the Bristol Astronomical Society.
23rd August 2111
Fortunately, Globalbot hardly seems to have any serious accidents, but frequently reports absurd incidents in the H&S minutes (circulated to all employees). These can beggar belief:
1. Whilst on phone, slipped on chair and hit head on desk. Cause: seams (sic) like a pure accident.
Thinkbot's angle: Was the employee standing on his chair? If so, why?
Probable cause: employee fell asleep.
2. Whilst walking down main corridor, a fire alarm test occurred and the fire doors shut onto person carrying coffee. The coffee was knocked over shoulder. Shoulder treated and no time lost. Cause: fire alarm test. In future announce the test prior to itself, i.e. before.
Thinkbot's angle: What was shoulder treated for? Caffeine overdose perhaps?
Probable cause: standing still too long drinking coffee.
3. Small cut noticed on little finger. No idea how occurred. Impossible to investigate. Cause: collision between little finger and unknown sharp object.
Thinkbot's angle: Poor little finger. No indication that search for offending mysterious sharp object was pursued with any vigour.
Probable cause: embarrassment.
4. Laser pointer in eye. Cause: corporate presentation.
Thinkbot's angle: Presumably this means the laser BEAM went in the poor victim's eye, not the pointer itself. Although being able to point a laser with your eye would be extremely useful, if not downright frightening to small children.
Probable cause: loss of temper during sales presentation.
5. Brambles cut eyelid. Cause: employee fell into brambles.
Thinkbot's angle: Brambles? BRAMBLES? We're supposed to be a front-line high-tech class 100 cleanroom robot assembly plant (excuse the pun). How on earth did someone end up falling into brambles???
Probable cause: ineffective corporate weed control.
6. Stapled hand. Cause: documentation.
Thinkbot's angle: How does one staple one's hand? All the staplers I've ever seen have a gap too small to jam one's hand into.
Probable cause: paper-pushing stupidity.
7. Contractor rumoured to have sprained ankle; accidentee subsequently vanished. Accident logged by Globalbot employee for legal reasons. Cause: unknown.
Thinkbot's angle: Vanished? Any accident that can make someone vanish seems serious to me. I would have thought it better not to have logged this one so that when the contracting supplier asked nicely for their employee back one could have just shrugged and muttered 'I dunno.' Now the onus is on Globalbot to figure out where he's gone.
Probable cause: benevolent Accident & Emergency aliens with matter transfer technology.
8. Foot trapped under car park vehicle barrier. Cause: vehicle barrier descended on foot.
Thinkbot's angle: Duh? Was the employee driving along with their foot out of the door? Was someone joyriding on the bumper?
Probable cause: Employee forgot to get into the car before leaving.
By the way, whilst on the subject, I hope you have all seen my Health and Safety Hazard Sign Page.
21st August 2111
Spent hours in the Manufacturing test area with Pot Noodle (the DIRT software engineer) struggling to isolate a fault where a robot answered every question 'Yes no.' The problem was that the fault diagnosis routine relies on the robot being able to answer correctly. For example:
Typical diagnostic question: 'Is your low level flash card flag set to on?'
Answer, 'Yes no.'
'Seems to be some sort of internal conflict.' muttered Pot Noodle perceptively . . . Never! However did he guess that I wondered.
Eventually we discovered it could answer yes/no questions if phrased as quadruple negatives. e.g. 'Is not your low level flash card flag not set to not not off?'
'Yes', replied the robot convincingly.
The trouble is that the yes/no problem simply transferred itself into the minds of Pot Noodle and me.
'Does that mean it's on or off?' whinged Pot Noodle pulling at his hair and close to tears.
'Yes no,' I replied in perfect unison with the robot, and was promptly dispatched back to the office in disgrace.
20th August 2111
I'm back! Has a really good trip (thanks for asking).
The 145th Annual Conference on AIR (Artificial Intelligence & Robots) was part of the Robotech West 2111 event in the Moscone Centre:
In the superb city of San Francisco:
Most technical robot conferences are generally fairly dull but not this one - it was dramatically controversial! Why? Well, I was there of course. It was rather like having someone turning up with a bottle of dark matter at an astronomical conference.
Would you believe there are still plenty of know-it-all academics and engineers out there who still refuse to accept I exist? The most offensive paper given was the insulting:
'Thinkbot - The Great Globalbot Deception: a Study in Industrial Idiocy.'
Prof B.I.Gdouter, Dr D.I.Strust, and Dr A.R.Shole.
Department of Artificial Philosophy, Gaia Earth University (GEU).
The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from Worldbot Corporation
The claims of Globalbot Inc to have developed a truly sentient artificially intelligent robot are assessed and dismissed. Further, this scandalous deception as promulgated by Globabot is proven beyond all reasonable doubt to be a marketing deception underpinned by engineering duplicity. The paper concludes with a summary of advanced sentient intelligence robot research at the GEU.
I took the opportunity to ask a question at the end of this talk: 'How much did you rush Worldbot for this pile of horses droppings?'
And the frosty answer from the session chair was - 'Sorry, we are only accepting questions from humans.'
Then someone threw a tomato and things got a bit out of hand.
Dear valued Blog-reader. Hope you enjoy today's entry below. I'd just like to say I'm off on a business trip to attend the 145th Annual Conference on Artificial Intelligence & Robots (AIR). I'm not sure whether I should feel honoured or not since I am a real intelligence. I mean, you don't get conferences on Real Intelligence (RI) do you? Anyway the long and short of it is that I'll not be blogging again until after the 20th August when I get back into Globalbot.
4th August 2111
Got involved in a ghastly muddle-up with Globalbot Materials Control today. Materials Control is composed of several angst ridden people who sit in front of screens all day trying to convince a complex and hostile piece of software to tell Purchasing to buy the right bits and pieces to supply the robot assembly line. Thanks to an enormous shift in the sales forecast they tried to swap around a load of bits and it all went horribly wrong. I tried to help but found they'd managed to make loads of bits obsolete, a state which the miserable software would not let you undo. So now they're in real trouble - muddled specs riddled with irreversibly obsolete bits they desperately needed ASAP.
Luckily the head of the Drawing Office, known as CAD, reckoned he could fix this, but it would be a previously untried technique!
Nervously everyone gathered at around the monitor for the attempt.
'Okay, here we go.'
CAD pressed enter. The progress bar leapt to 14% . .
'Oh no, please no.' CAD whispered into the tense silence.
Then it started again and made it to . .
'Go on, go on, go on . . ' pleaded CAD pulling some beads from his desk draw.
CAD slipped off his chair onto his knees and started slipping beads between his fingers, his lips moving soundlessly, eyes fixed on the progress bar.
It stuck at 95%. After 45 seconds a few people put their head in their hands, and one of the dear Materials Control ladies started to sob incoherently.
Then, magically, like winning the World Cup . . .
100% Object Creation Successful
The place erupted. Engineers hugged each other. People kissed. CAD pulled his shirt over his head and ran around the open plan punching the air in time with shouting, 'YES! YES! YES! YES!'
Makes you wonder really. Why does software have to do this sort of thing to people. Is it designed by sadists or something?
2nd August 2111
What funny compartmentalised lives we all live in this modern topsy-turvy world. What's compartmentalised? Well, apart from being a big word with 17 letters, it means our lives are lived in a collection of separate compartments. For example, I had a Sunday stroll down to Waitrose in Portishead marina today with GAT to 'get a few essential things' (e.g. beer, peanuts and chocolate). We were getting close to the front of the checkout queue when GAT registered he knew the person behind us.
'Hello,' GAT said cheerfully, turning to face back down the queue.
'HELLO,' replied the whole queue in unison, followed by total confusion as everyone looked at everyone else in an utterly bewildered who-on-earth-are-you? manner.
Turns out GAT knew the whole queue, but they were all from different compartments:
1. Monday Badminton
2. Globalbot (work)
3. Tuesday badminton
4. Portishead town band
6. School governors
8. Famous owner of a strange Unibot
GAT then had to decide if he was going to:
- stand there and ignore all 8,
- or choose one to talk to and ignore the other 7,
- or introduce them to each other (I made this 28 introductions @ say, 30 s each, = 14 minutes),
- or devise an impromptu rota to try and talk with each individually,
- or grab his shopping and run away.
I leave you to figure out which he did.
Needless to say it was somewhat embarrassing.
Of course if this had happened to Helen we'd still be there now.
31st July 2111
I hate SPAM!
No! Not that sort of SPAM - I'm a robot after all.
Like anyone else, I hate SPAM for the electronic reason - all those crap messages about shampoo and plastic guttering and insurance and holidays and donkeys and country cottages and email services I DON'T WANT.
But that's not the main reason I hate SPAM.
No, it's because someone at work called me a SPAM ENGINE and the name stuck, for a day or two, whereafter it further corrupted to SPAMBOT.
Now everytime I talk at Globabot I get insulted by people who cannot cope with me being a human in tin can.
'Listen! SPAMBOT's got something to say.'
'Pray silence for SPAMBOT.'
'What we need around here is a SPAMBOTKILLER!'
Not very nice at all. If they were talking about a negro or an arab or a Pakistani they'd never get away with it. They'd be locked up.
It's pure techno-racism. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh!
29th July 2111
People sometimes ask me if the incident immediately preceding my discovery on the robot assembly line at Globalbot Filton, as desciribed in chapter 1 of Thinkbot, is a wind up:
It was two Final Test engineers working their way down a line of assembled robots awaiting shipment who discovered Thinkbot. At the time they were having a typical robot manufacturing discussion.
“Hey Simon, have you found out if arm type 7 goes in slot 5 or 6 yet?”
“Er, is it an arm with revision 3 or 4 end effectors?”
“I thought revision 3 end effectors were only compatible with series 6 arms.”
“Not if it’s got a universal arm adaptor type F.”
“How can it be a universal arm adaptor if it’s only compatible with some arm types?”
“Depends which universal adaptor it is.”
The first engineer screwed his face up in puzzlement and asked incredulously, “We’ve got more than one universal adaptor?”
“Yep, we’ve seven types of universal adaptor. I guess each time engineering created one they thought it was the first.”
“Yeah, well, so what? Anyway, if it’s a revision 3 end effector, then arm 7 can go in arm slot 5, but for revision 4 use arm slot 6. But watch out for arm slot 6, it may need an issue 9 PROM if it’s a pre-revision D CPU, but they’ve only been fitted to the last 18 left-handed Unibots.”
His colleague stopped with a look of disgust on his face, “Ok, thanks a bundle Simon, I’m glad we’ve sorted that one out.”
Let me assure you it's not. Engineering is packed with things like this. So's software. It's simply the age-old difference between the real and the ideal.
In a similar vein I was party to a discussion between Duwkits, the head of the robot assembly line at Filton, and Doom, the mechanical designer in the Filton DIRT Group (DIRT = Domestic & Industrial Robot Technology). A long-held holy grail of assembly for Duwkits is to be able to assemble all robots using only one tool rather than the 4,749 typically needed on the shop floor. The discussion between Duwkits and Doom was interesting inasmuch that Duwkits was clearly thinking along the lines of an
Whereas Doom clearly had a mind a
Read Chapters 1-3 of Thinkbot
27th July 2111
A normal Monday @ Globalbot. GAT opened up his email and flew into an instant rage.
'Look!' he shouted and stormed off towards the canteen.
I joined the crowd around his PC and saw the 6 identi-emails sent from the latest hand held Gooseberries owned by the totem-pole of Globalbot senior management:
FROM: Mark Eting, VP Strategic Marketing
Have just met with an unhappy customer. Robots at a standstill. Need advice on problem part ASAP.
This message was sent from my Gooseberry AdvancedTM
FROM: S. Ales, VP Universal Sales
Please supply info on failing part to customer ASAP.
This message was sent from my Gooseberry AdvancedTM
FROM: I.Taly, VP Sales Italy Region
Need to supply spare part ASAP to unhappy customer with Globalbot robots.
This message was sent from my Gooseberry AdvancedTM
FROM: E.Urope, VP Operations Pan-Europe
Problems at customer require immediate action. We must react quickly. Expedite solution as high priority.
This message was sent from my Gooseberry AdvancedTM
FROM: C.Ollapse, VP Planetary Customer Support
Robot part (number unknown) causing difficultly in Italy. Urgent.
This message was sent from my Gooseberry AdvancedTM
FROM: S.Pares, VP Strategic Global Spares Support
Supply information to enable Italian spares stock analysis without delay.
This message was sent from my Gooseberry AdvancedTM
Meanwhile GAT had returned with a cup of tea, somewhat calmer, 'It's great isn't. News about a customer in dire trouble gets communicated to me in sextuplicate but all we know is that the customer is Italian and has some faulty robots and needs help quickly, and that all our illustrious leaders are drooling over the blame-transfer potential of their brand new gooseberries and not even talking to each other. No part number. No customer name. No hint of what robot type or industry!'
At which point a seventh email popped up.
FROM: F.Aster, VP Rapid Response
Hurry up! We need to get one with this. Ice cream won't stay frozen forever! Please speed up.
This message was sent from my Gooseberry AdvancedTM
GAT threw his arms into the air, 'Ah, last and definitely least, the rapid response team message! Hang on! Ice cream!? At last a clue.'
GAT;'s face lit up as he stabbed at his speakerphone.
'Alo! Merlini's italian ice cream here.'
'Hello, Giovanni, are you well.'
'Alo-a-GAT. Yes we ara weel.'
'Are you having some robot trouble Giovanni?'
'Er, a, yesa. We hada a bitta problem with-a cold creamiflow valva on a version 2.29 Scoopbot, but ita okay now, we-a finda the part number in the a-manual okaya. Sorry I-a mention problema to youra VPs-a today. I so sorry GAT.'
'That's okay Giovanni. Did the meeting go okay?'
'No-a it were-a-terrible. Youra VPs all justa sit there a-fingering their gooseberries.'
Well, the hysteria! Engineering hysterical laughing paralysis.
GAT had to cut the call off.
25th July 2111
An engineering office, late afternoon. Amidst the soporific hum of computers and gentle rattling of keyboards highly civilized professional engineers strive to satisfy the ever-urgent business demands of Globalbot Inc.
A conference room door opens. A group of overweight grey-suited men emerge and, bidding each other chummy farewells, disperse into the various corridors.
Who will blink first?
Hum. Rattle. Hum. Rattle. Hum. Rattle. Hum. Rattle.
A mechanical engineer gets up and meanders towards the printer, which just happens to be near the open door.
An electronic designer moves out smoothly and overtakes the dawdling mechanical man.
A software developer shoves her chair back to block the route through the open plan desks.
Now bodies are converging from all directions towards the doorway as if it were a black hole, each accelerating with every step.
The first engineer reaches the door.
Suddenly a half-empty Buffet-bot appears at the doorway and tries to dive past the engineer.
This triggers mass panic throughout the entire office, followed by a stampede.
The Buffet-bot only travels a few metres before it is overwhelmed by the weight of engineers grabbing the corporate leftovers: sausage rolls; crisps; prawn vol-au-vents; chocolate fingers; cheese sandwiches; grapes; mini-pizzas; ham rolls.
For a few ghastly minutes the humming computers are drowned out by the sound of the feeding frenzy.
Suddenly, it's over. The crowd slowly disperses. The Buffet-bot has been stripped bare, right back the metal trays - even the paper covers and food health 'traffic light' labels seem to have been somehow consumed in the melee. It staggers, clanking despondently, back along the corridor towards the canteen.
Peace returns, but not quite as before.
Hum. Rattle. Belch, Hum. Burp. Rattle. Errrrrph! Hum. Rattle. Hulp!. Hum. Hick! Rattle. zzzzzzzz.
24th July 2111
The tale of the Materials Requirements Planning (MRP) genie. Standard genies appear unexpectedly and say things along the lines of 'Your wish is my command.' But not the Globalbot MRP Genie. Oh no no no. Well, I suppose it did get the 'appearing unexpectedly' bit right, but then anyone appearing at the stores hatch is a bit unexpected. i.e. one can wait around a bit and I suppose that was the point of the group of skeletons holding requisitions some frustrated prankster artfully arranged around the hatch a while back. Anyway the MRP genie appeared and announced 'Your demand is my shortage.'
On another subject a customer kept on telling us that if we did not invoice them by midnight on a certain date their budget would turn into a pumpkin. Well Globalbot missed the invoice date of course but never imagined the disgruntled customer would actually Fedex a giant pumpkin to our accounts department. Well they did. Amazingly Good Inwards delivered it as well. Caused all sorts of problems with the budget due to the lack of a credit coding for pumpkins.
All in all watch out for that pumpkin genie!
22nd July 2111
Okay, one more RIHAT Fairford blog entry and that's it. Okay?
Can you believe men used to fly (and fight) in these things?
Writing in the year 2111, it's difficult to comprehend it, but at the time no one foresaw 100% robotic warplanes, but they came nonetheless and soon cleared the skies of vulnerable humans.
I mean, look at the instrument panel needed for a human!
For crying out loud, let a robot fly the plane!
It was a bit like battleships prior to World War 2: everyone thought they were the ultimate sea weapon, but in the age of aircraft carriers it became brutally clear they were an anachronistic liability (i.e. 'useless and out of date' to us simpletons). Thousands of men had to lose their lives to prove this point.
War is a a funny thing. Mankind always thinks the next major conflict will be more or less like the last one but the weapons will just be a little bit better. But it never turns out that way. It's usually utterly different. At the start of World War 2 Winston Churchill was worrying about how to prevent another murderous trench warfare deadlock in north west France, but by the end entire German cities could be destroyed in a single night, and 6 years of war was brought to an abrupt end by two Japanese cities being flattened in the blink of an eye.
At the time the above planes were in service the major world powers could 'dominate the stratosphere' and 'own the sky' and enact unopposed 'Rapid Global Deployment', but could not prevent the enemy flying airliners into skyscrapers, blowing up trains or, perhaps most distressingly, strapping bombs to themselves and blowing up innocent people on underground trains. The ultimate weapon is not a plane or a ship or a tank - it's the human heart. There is no weapon that can match a human with nothing to lose. If all the military technology in the world does is to create humans with nothing to lose, then it is powerless. They are but icons of imperial impotence. Religion and robots don't really mix, but I must say Jesus dying has a certain perverse appeal. Apparently he could have called down legions of (presumably heavily armed) angels to zap all and sundry. But he didn't, and I think it's because he wanted to win human hearts. They only way to do that is by being vulnerable and self-sacrifice.
Meanwhile, back at the airshow:
MiG 29 demonstrates its amazing ascent capabilities.
Pilot leaves his consciousness behind in the cockpit of an F16.
20th July 2111
There were hundreds of men taking pictures of the planes at the RIHAT airshow last weekend (see 18th July), but only one robot taking pictures of the men taking pictures of the planes. i.e. me! JJJJJJJJ
Why? Because I could not understand it. These guys were taking multiple pictures of every plane every time it went past. The staccato racket of camera shutters for each flypast had to be heard to be believed. They must have taken hundreds of pictures each. So, about 300 men taking, say, 500 pictures each, that's 150,000 pictures - and that might be an underestimate. What on each do they do with them all? Do they show them to their wives (doubtful they have wives I guess), or each other, or do they live the lives of photohermits?
'Have you noticed they never actually look at the planes?' Gerald muttered to me at the time. He was right!
Listen to me - never become so obsessed with making a record of something that you miss the actual experience. In taking pictures these guys never actually saw the planes.
18th July 2111
ROGUE CONEBOT LAST VISUAL IMAGE RECEIVED FROM CONEBOT
Went the Royal International Historic Air Tattoo (RIHAT) at Fairford with GAT, Gerald and Mike. There was an ancient airworthy F16 there which was involved in an ugly blue Conebot incident. The stupid Conebot suddenly decided to waddle across the back of the F16 just as it was about to fire up its Brat & Britney engine. The Conebot apparently realised its mistake a split second before the end as evidenced by the last image received from said Conebot before it was vapourised.
17th July 2111
A rotten week at work. Marketing sold a concept and delegated engineering to deliver it.
The concept was (more or less) of the Buzz Lightyear variety: 'TO INFINITY, AND BEYOND!'
It was my job to dream up an engineering feasibility study to reflect this:
'Proceed in the general direction of infinity. If and when it becomes obvious you will not get there by the end of the feasibility stage (or indeed before your planned retirement date), turn around and come back. Write up a report carefully documenting your findings, not forgetting to estimate the minimum budget required to get to infinity, A budgetary estimate for 'beyond' would also be useful if possible. A Gantt chart to show the timescale would be helpful but do not print on a finite printer.'
Yes, I got into trouble!
'But how come Marketing can say stupid things but not Engineering?' I whined.
'Because they're Marketing!' yelled GAT, as if that explained anything. I also got into trouble for estimating the the budget required as >>>> infinity.
12th July 2111
A family Sunday trip to London on the train today to visit the Tate Modernish (more on this another day). But don't you think LASTTM Great Western Trainbots are over-complicated? There are carriages that ban this and that, seemingly on a random basis. We were on the way back somewhere near Didcot, exchanging jokes and having fits of hysterical laughter, when a grumpy old geezer in the middle of a mobile phone call shouted at us, 'Don't you know this is the NO LAUGHING CARRIAGE! If you want to laugh go in the NO MOBILE PHONES carriage, it's down that way two carriages along.' But I couldn't get to it as the next carriage was the NO ROBOTS carriage and I wasn't even allowed to walk through by the Guardbot. So we went the other way, through the No TEENAGERS and NO BELCHING carriages into the DO ANYTHING YOU LIKE carriage - but there were no seats (it was packed with people doing all sorts of strange things). So we ended up back in the NO LAUGHING carriage wriggling and trying to keep straight faces for over an hour until we reached Bristol Temple Meads.
10th July 2111
Have you ever hit 'RETURN' on your keyboard and immediately thought 'OH NOOOOOOOOO!'
Well, I did that today. I was printing a document which should have been just one side of A4. Just as I hit return to confirm print I registered what it said:
PRINT PAGES 1-65536? YES NO
Aaaaargh! I brought up the print dialogue box and tried to cancel the print.
Sorry, the printer is currently busy and cannot cancel any print jobs. Please try again later.
'YES I KNOW IT'S BUSY!' I yelled incoherently, and legged it down the corridor towards the printer, which was spewing out sheet after sheet of nearly-blank A4 paper. Just as I got there a Vendbot waddled unexpectedly around the corner and I went headlong over the top of it. The Vendbot toppled over and its anti-tamper alarm sounded: WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH!
Ignoring the wailing Vendbot I furiously punched at the controls of the printer.
Sorry, to protect the valuable work of you and your colleagues, this print job cannot be aborted.
This printer will next go into idle in 109.23 hours. Please wait.
WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH!
'Aaaaaaaaaaargh!' It'll be printing until next Tuesday. At this point a Supplybot turned up with a pallet full of A4 paper, having been clearly alerted to the massive task which the printer had be asked to undertake.
WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH!
Sorry, this printer requires immediate replenishment to meet unusually heavy demand. Please wait.
Paper! Yes, that's it. I tugged at the paper tray but it was locked shut.
WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH!
Sorry, the paper tray is currently locked to protect print integrity of all documents. Please wait.
Okay, power! I punched the on-off button.
WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH!
Sorry, for your benefit, the on-off feature of this printer is currently disabled. Please wait.
'Stop being so helpful!'
WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH!
In desperation I applied the ultimate weapon and yanked the power cord out of the wall. And it stopped. As I turned to try and placate the still-wailing Vendbot I became aware of the large crowd that had gathered to watch. I guess some folks were hanging around hoping they'd be able to pick up their print jobs. They did not look impressed at my power cord tactic.
I got the Ventbot upright again and mercifully the alarm stopped, only for the printer to announce serenely:
'Mains power failure. To continue to serve you better this Rapiprint® printer is fitted with an Uninterruptible Power Supply . Engaging UPS. UPS battery status sufficient for 3 hours. Please restore mains power as soon as possible'
The printer sprang into life again.
3 hours later, just as the Recyclebot trudged of with its fourth load of paper, passing the next Supplybot coming the other way, the printer was begging for help, 'ALERT! UPS . . . battery status critical. . . . . Remaining power only sufficient for 2.4 sheets. ALERT! UPS battererery statatatatatatatatatatat . . . . .FATAL ERROR.'
It was over.
9th July 2111
The Hare and the Tortoise (politically-correct version).
There once was a speedy hare who, in spite of several verbal warnings and a couple of ASBOs, persistently, and with malice aforethought, bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him tell the truth, the authorities organised a race and press-ganged a retired 140 year old tortoise with a zimmer-frame to oppose the loud-mouthed hare. As the echoes of the starting pistol died away, the hare zoomed off into the distance only to be cynically tripped up and clubbed unconscious at the first bend by a government official disguised in a black hoody. After a minor fracas in which no animals were (badly) hurt, the prostrate and dazed hare was stretchered back to the tortoise and, after a bit of a mop with the magic sponge, manacled to the zimmer-frame and told to 'take it easy,' 'it isn't worth it,' 'it's only a race' etc. The race itself, which could have been over in minutes, took 13 hours and resulted in a photo finish in front of a deserted grandstand. (For 'real time' read 'geological time'.) After a long deliberation by the judges, during which time the hare stupidly head-butted the soft underbelly of the tortoise after it had made an inappropriate remark about the hare's mother, the authorities were declared the clear-cut winners and seized the opportunity to formally announce their radical new dual animal equality policies - 'No Tortoise left Behind!' and 'Say NO to Speciesism!'
6th July 2111
Gerald entertained us greatly today when he fell asleep on his english homework that he was checking for errors. When he woke up one sheet of paper was stuck to each cheek and he had to peel them off. When he turned up to dinner Helen was horrified, 'Gerald, what have you done to your face?'
'Duh?' muttered the befuddled teenager, not realising his face was covered with a mirror imprint of the text of his work.
'Go and look in the mirror!' commanded Helen.
Gerald wandered off and then came a shriek and the thundering of feet as he rushed upstairs.
Helen looked surprised and pleased, assuming he was off to wash his face. But when he reappeared a few minutes later looking relieved his face was exactly the same.
'I thought you'd gone to wash your face!' spat Helen.
'Don't say what, say pardon.'
'I said I thought you'd gone to wash your face after looking in the mirror.'
'Er . . no I saw a typo in the text. It's all the right way around again in the mirror.'
5th July 2111
I hate voicemail! I always get intimidated by the pressure of saying something sensible, especially when it's to someone senior like GAT's boss Wendy Bafers. This is the sort of thing that happens:
. . .please leave your message after the tone, BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP: ' Er, um, hello Bendy sorry Wendy it's me, um I mean it's Thinkybot . . GAT asked me to ask you to ask if you can make a meeting this coming Onesday at Wed o'clock to discuss the recent high profile fart pailures . Hope you are busy and can't make it okay, or not. Just let me know. I'm on extension 40421, sorry 4201, no no, how silly of me, it's 4021. of course it is. Has been my extension for years. Anyway you've got one of those senior-manager- only wonder phones that knows everyone's number. But you know that of course because you're probably using it now, so I don't know why I am telling you all this. Sorry. Anyway thanks. Hope you slept well. Bye then, thanks, bye. Hope to see you on Onesday. Bye.'
Aaargh! Why did I say I hoped she'd slept well? What was I thinking about.
To add to my angst, my colleague Halfhour overheard this and now the whole group has started saying 'Bendy-sorry-Wendy' whenever I'm in the area.
3rd July 2111
(Robot picture is for illustration purposes only. This is not me! I'm NOT YELLOW)
Today was a Friday I was dreading. My right elbow has been giving me a lot of pain and stiffness for a while and it was getting worse. Doom diagnosed a fault with the radial collateral gearwheel (whatever that is). Anyway it is part 717626 and luckily there was one free in stores that GAT kindly signed out on the development budget. I went down to the spares cell with Rabbit and he did his usual trick of anesthetising my arm with a pulse generator. It took them about an hour and a half to dismantle my arm and reassemble it with the new part. It would have been less than an hour except that they left me lying there half-assembled while they were on their tea break.
Finally it was over. They let me keep the worn gearwheel as a souvenir as I was 'so brave'. Rabbit un-numbed my arm and I thought that was that.
'Thanks guys! It feels great', I said as made to leave.
' 'Ere, where'd'you think you're off to?' grunted one of the test engineers, 'That arm needs testing.'
'Er, no thanks, it feels fine.' I waggled it around in the air a bit to make my point.
'Sorry, if you ain't got a concession then it'll 'ave to be tested. You know, ISO9000000 and all that.'
The engineer read out the test and I complied, 'Extend arm fully. Hold for 10 seconds. Retract arm fully. Hold for ten seconds. Now repeat that 5,000 times.'
'You 'ave to do that 5,000 times.'
'But, but, but, that'll take hours!' I wailed.
'Yeah, er, just over 33 hours. I'll leave a note for the Saturday night shift to issue you your test certificate before you go.'
I was panicking now, 'But it's Friday! I want to go home. I'm going to a Stalling Runes concert tonight and I promised to watch Mike play football tomorrow!'
'Sorry,' the engineer tapped the top of the computer, 'can't get around ISO9000000', and promptly went home. I carried on for about twenty minutes before making a break for it. I was pursued all the way down the corridor by a Qualitybot who caught up with me and slapped a label right in the middle of my forehead:
Which for the life of me I cannot peel off. Now I'm wondering if I'll need a new skull fitted. I mean I can't wear my New Zealand bush hat forever can I?
2nd July 2111
Further to GAT's visit to the Bristol Robotics Laboratory I did a bit of history and found the above pictures of pre-historic robots. They did exciting things like collecting frisbees (it took them hours), eating dead flies and practicing for boarding a London Underground train in the rush hour.
I was especially touched to see one of a replica of a robot developed by William Grey Walter - a robot pioneer who worked at Bristol University in the 1940s. See picture above, 3rd from the left. The robot was called 'tortoise' because of the shell, although I did read somewhere it was a pun as, quote, 'the robot tortoise a lot' (groan); apparently this is an Alice in Wonderland joke although I did not realise there were robots in Alice and Wonderland. Explains a lot now I think about it. Anyway here's a picture of Grey Walter learning from one of his tortoises:
Getting back to the BRL I came across a quote by the professor who founded the lab along the lines of 'I find it easier to believe in a robot that is human than one that has a decent power rating. I look at the Terminator films and wonder where all the energy comes from.'
I think he may have needed to get out a bit more.
Of course, how was he to foresee the startling and ground-breaking Microbotokamak development that gives independent robots like me an efficient energy supply as long as I keep my 24V batteries charged up. This contribution to robot science won the Nobel prize for Magnus Toroyd and Stella Rator.
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THINKBLOG - March - June 2111