Timeline of Robots

A timeline of the history of mechanical men or robots.

Robot holding up model of planet Earth
Cultura/KaPe Schmidt/ Riser/ Getty Images
  • ~270BC an ancient Greek engineer named Ctesibus made organs and water clocks with movable figures.
  • 1818 - Mary Shelley wrote "Frankenstein" which was about a frightening artificial lifeform created by Dr. Frankenstein.
  • 1921 - The term "robot" was first used in a play called "R.U.R." or "Rossum's Universal Robots" by the Czech writer Karel Capek. The plot was simple: man makes robot then robot kills man!
  • 1941 - Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov first used the word "robotics" to describe the technology of robots and predicted the rise of a powerful robot industry.
  • 1942 - Asimov wrote "Runaround", a story about robots which contained the "Three Laws of Robotics":
    1. A robot may not injure a human, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2. A robot must obey the orders it by human beings except where such orders would conflic with the First Law.
    3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict withe the First or Second Law.
  • 1948 - "Cybernetics", an influence on artificial intelligence research was published by Norbert Wiener. British robotics pioneer William Grey Walter invented robots Elmer and Elsie that mimic lifelike behavior using very simple electronics.
  • George Devol and Joe Engleberger invent the first programmable robot arm and coined the phrase Universal Automation for the first time.
  • 1956 - George Devol and Joseph Engelberger formed the world's first robot company. Squee, the electronic robot squirrel invented.
  • 1959 - Computer-assisted manufacturingg was demonstrated at the Servomechanisms Lab at MIT.
  • 1961 - The first industrial robot was online in a General Motors automobile factory in New Jersey. It was called UNIMATE.
  • 1963 - The first artificial robotic arm to be controlled by a computer was designed. The Rancho Arm was designed as a tool for the handicapped and it's six joints gave it the flexibility of a human arm.
  • 1965 - DENDRAL was the first expert system or program designed to execute the accumulated knowledge of subject experts.
  • 1968 - The octopus-like Tentacle Arm was developed by Marvin Minsky.
  • 1969 - The Stanford Arm was the first electrically powered, computer-controlled robot arm.
  • 1970 - Shakey was introduced as the first mobile robot controlled by artificial intellence. It was produced by SRI International.
  • 1974 - A robotic arm (the Silver Arm) that performed small-parts assembly using feedback from touch and pressure sensors was designed.
  • 1979 - The Standford Cart crossed a chair-filled room without human assistance. The cart had a tv camera mounted on a rail which took pictures from multiple angles and relayed them to a computer. The computer analyzed the distance between the cart and the obstacles.