While robots are still struggling to become common place in modern culture (largely due to the uncanny valley, more on that tomorrow), they are a staple in popular culture. References to ‘robots’ are seen as early as the 3rd century BCE. Boston Book Bums writes on the origins of robots in literature:
We can go back to the 3rd century BCE to find the guardian of Crete, Talos. Possibly the earliest metal man, Talos a bronze guardian of the Mediterranean island. Featured in the epic poem Argonautica, Talos circled the island three times each day with mighty strides to guard against pirates. His weapon of choice to crush the seaborne invaders? Giant rocks hurled by the humanoid bronze guardian.
Talos was later depicted on film in Jason and the Argonauts, but by no means was he the first robot on film. AMC Filmsite has complied an exhaustive list of Robots in Films, beginning with their first depiction on film with the robot (or more correctly ‘android‘) Hadaly, in the 1896 French film L’Eve Futur. As always, Wikipedia provides an even more exhaustive list of robo-depictions in pop culture. Gawker offers a guide of robots on television, and adds videos! Robots are particularly popular in science fiction, and Slippery Brick has a list of 54 memorable sci-fi robots (the list needs some updating, but is still a good jumping off point), and Buzzfeed offers the 10 most important robots in fiction. Many of the robots depicted in science fiction are bent on rising up against humanity, and io9 has made a list of 10 robots with good reasons to do just that. In the spirit of making lists, below are 10 of my favourite robots/androids from popular media (no particular order).
- Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Cylons from Battlestar Galactica (re-imagined series, specifically 6, 3, and 8)
- G.I.R. from Invader Zim (and why you should like him too)
- Bender from Futurama
- R2D2 from Star Wars, Episodes IV-VI
- DRD 1812 from Farscape
- Rosey from the Jetsons
- Mr. Butlertron from Clone High
- Optimus Prime from Transformers (cartoon only)
- Daleks from Doctor Who
Popular media frequently depicts robots (androids) in human form with great accuracy, in reality this is a much more difficult task. Which brings about the topic for the next post, the uncanny valley.