Special-snowflake Bots: A List
February 21, 2009 1:36 AM   Subscribe

60+ One-Of-A-Kind Robots From Science Fiction. "You'd think a major advantage of robots is you can mass-produce them. They're just metal-and-circuit bodies. But science fiction is full of one-of-a-kind bots. Here are all the bots for whom they broke the mold."
posted by taz (40 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The accompanying bot-silhouettes illustration (which I luuurve), btw, is a t-shirt design.
posted by taz at 1:42 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

...and also features a lot of mass produced robots, like the cannibal-tastic WALL*E.
posted by Artw at 1:46 AM on February 21, 2009

yeah, the t-shirt art wasn't actually designed to go with the article, so not necessarily all one-of-a-kind.
posted by taz at 2:03 AM on February 21, 2009

Dammit, I was all ready to call them out for including Data, Lore and B-4 from Star Trek: TNG as "one of kind", seeing as there are three of them, but then I read rather than skimmed and noticed that they explain:

Two of the most iconic robots on this list actually both have twin brothers, and one of them even had a separate prototype. But since all five of these robots were the product of individual roboticists and never meant as part of a larger production line, we're still including them. Plus, this list would be simply incomplete without them.

Way to give me geek blueballs. I guess you could make the case that Dr. Soong's* androids are "one-of-a-kind" in that they're not mass-produced, and much is made of Data's uniqueness in TNG. One of the greatest episodes focused entirely on it ("The Measure of a Man").

* My childhood pediatrician was also named Dr. Soong, which is awesome.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:06 AM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Bender IS the evil twin.
posted by Artw at 2:10 AM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

The list is bound to be debatable and not comprehensive. At first I thought it must be a list of robots from film/tv only. But it includes R.Daneel Olivaw, who hasn't been in any film so far as I know. Yet it doesn't cover all of Asimov's unique robots (how could you leave out Lenny the baby-brained robot, for example?).

But it's a nice list, and rather than debating the details, I prefer to luxuriate in the opportunities it provides for nostalgia. In particular, it was nice to see a mention for Robert the Robot, from Fireball XL5. Robert had a deep impact on me as a small boy. One day in a toyshop, I saw on a high shelf a really good perspex model of him, complete with accurate internal works (so far as I could judge) and standing about 18 inches high. I never saw it again, but somewhere deep inside I remain convinced that my life would have been nobler and better if I could have owned the thing. I was sure at the time it was in some sense a real robot - at least a bit above the Robo Sapiens standard, although that was quite impossible at the time.
posted by Phanx at 2:29 AM on February 21, 2009

This list includes Ultron, The Vision, and Jocasta. I approve, though I wonder why M-11, the Human Robot, didn't make the list. (The secret ingredient is LOVE.)

Also: Ultron is awesome. That is all.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:58 AM on February 21, 2009

I read this the other day, and I thought it was kind of cheap when they threw a bunch of Futurama robots. I agree they should have included more Asimov bots. There was a series of stories that included a couple of test engineers that always had run ins with crazed robots.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:02 AM on February 21, 2009

Where's Herbie the mind-reading robot from the I, Robot story Liar?
posted by localroger at 8:15 AM on February 21, 2009

I'm pretty sure all the people in Asimov stories are robots too.
posted by Artw at 8:17 AM on February 21, 2009

Decemberboy: where are you reading this? All I am seeing is a very bare bones list of names, dates of appearance, and so forth.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:20 AM on February 21, 2009

I like the story with the artist whose friend fixes their robots faulty brain settings as a surprise present, only it turns out that the eccentric robot was the one creating the art all along! Then the artist fiddles with the brain settings again, and creates a robot obsessed with THE ART OF MURDER! (I may have tacked on that last bit)
posted by Artw at 8:24 AM on February 21, 2009

Phanx, I did a search for Fireball XL5 scale models and there are some really nice ones out there. I don't remember seeing such nice toys in toy stores when I got to be an older kid. I guess all the made in china super mass-produced toys started edging out the better ones.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:35 AM on February 21, 2009

I'm pretty sure Asimov was a robot too.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:37 AM on February 21, 2009

I didn't think to try that, Thoughtcrime, but now I have I see what you mean. I have to say though, that this model was by far the best-looking toy robot I'd come across then. The only toy robots you saw in those days were the old square tin ones.

Of course, Fireball XL5 hit me at the impressionable age - I still think that's what a real spaceship ought to look like :)
posted by Phanx at 9:10 AM on February 21, 2009

My favorite robots were three of a kind: Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

(Link goes to Robots of the Silver Screen)
posted by pracowity at 9:15 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

richochet biscuit: where are you reading this? All I am seeing is a very bare bones list of names, dates of appearance, and so forth.

It's part of the intro, top of the page.
posted by nax at 9:36 AM on February 21, 2009

Like fully half of these are from Futurama.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:50 AM on February 21, 2009

How in the fuck did they miss this one?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:39 AM on February 21, 2009

No Gort?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:45 AM on February 21, 2009

No Iron Giant?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:45 AM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

No Twiki?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:47 AM on February 21, 2009

No more than scratching the surface?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:48 AM on February 21, 2009

This is good, but please call me when they have pictures of these one of a kind robots being fucked by dinosaurs.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:35 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Leave Asimov alone! I was there at the dawn of SF: you would not believe what was published as science fiction before him and a few other authors).
posted by francesca too at 11:37 AM on February 21, 2009

Kryten, from Red Dwarf, does not appear? Really, "One-of-a-kind Robot" list, go get your geek on and come back when you're done!
posted by Avelwood at 11:55 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Meh. It would be nice to have more than just a list. Also, I think their criterion for uniqueness is kind of broken: they're blatantly missing the robots who started out factory-standard and developed their own personalities. It's hard to take this list seriously when it doesn't have R2-D2 and WALL-E on it! (I also have a soft spot for Andrew Martin, as much as Bicentennial Man may have been forever tainted by Robin Williams.)

BitterOldPunk, I suspect M-11 is too new and unknown outside of the Marvel geekset to have permeated to the authors of this article.
posted by bettafish at 12:12 PM on February 21, 2009

No Boilerplate, or any of the other Robots of the Victorian Era?
posted by jfrancis at 12:45 PM on February 21, 2009

No Ranxerox?
posted by jfrancis at 12:48 PM on February 21, 2009

bettafish: M-11's first appearance was in Menace #11 in 1954! (OK, OK, we never got his origin story until Agents of Atlas in 2007... and that first appearance was as an unnamed killbot in a four-page filler story. Point conceded.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:26 PM on February 21, 2009

No Promo the Robot?
posted by pracowity at 2:09 PM on February 21, 2009

No Bob Dole?

Yes, I traveled from the distant past just to tell that joke.
posted by orme at 2:43 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Why is Johnny 5 on the list? He's not a unique robot. Notice the "5" in his name? It's there for a reason, jokers. He's the fifth in a line of identical robots; he just happens to be malfunctioning (hence, the title of the movie Short Circuit).
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:22 PM on February 21, 2009

Oh God, Heartbeeps. I had forgotten ... I had forgotten ...
posted by wobh at 3:35 PM on February 21, 2009

While I'm recalling things I had hoped to never think of again, wasn't C.H.O.M.P.S. a test unit, unique for the duration of the movie?
posted by wobh at 3:51 PM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was there at the dawn of SF

Well, 'War of the Worlds' was written in 1908, and I don't think he was the first sci-fi writer.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:16 PM on February 21, 2009

Excuse me, 1898.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:44 PM on February 21, 2009

I don't think any of the robots in Futurama are unique. They all seem to be variations on a few basic models, it's just that it makes for better gags to have a bunch of different robots each with some ridiculously specific purpose (Hedonism Bot, the Robot Devil, The Crushinator, etc.). For example, the episode where Fry downloads Lucy Liu off "Nappster" into a "blank robot", creating a Lucy Liu-bot. Futurama is just meant to be funny and not internally consistent to SciFiAspergian standards, though, so this kind of analysis is kind of pointless, but I won't let that stop me.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:31 PM on February 21, 2009

Needs some Stanisław Lem.
posted by Quonab at 2:15 PM on February 23, 2009

Flagged for "A mad inventor throwing shit together".

That's the sort of bigotry MeFi doesn't need! And if you fools disagree I will destroy you all!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:39 AM on February 24, 2009

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