I had a fascination with robots when I was a kid. I lumped robot companions in with flying cars and bubble cities as inevitabilities of my adult life. They were not ifs, they were whens. Sadly I’m still waiting on my robot butler, but this week I thought I’d take a look at my top five robot obsessions from childhood. That’s not to say that these are the five coolest robots, just the five that I was particularly obsessed with.
1. R.O.B. – The day I got my Nintendo Entertainment System is etched in stone as one of the happiest days of my life. It was at my seventh birthday party, and it was so unexpected. I never thought I’d get a NES. This wasn’t just any NES, though – it was the NES Deluxe Set, which included a Zapper gun for Duck Hunt and R.O.B., the Robotic Operating Buddy.
The pack-in game was Gyromite, one of only a handful of games developed to take advantage of R.O.B.’s amazing futuristic capabilities. In addition to controlling the on-screen character yourself, you had to control a real life slow robot as he placed gyros into spinners and then onto plates that then pressed a button on the second controller to activate gates so that your on-screen character could pass through them. In other words, instead of pressing a button on the second controller yourself, you had to walk a robot through three slow-paced actions to press that button. Needless to say, R.O.B. was quickly retired from gaming duty and found a fulfilling retirement as a space base/other-dimensional enemy in several G.I. Joe scenarios. Regardless of his value as a gaming companion he had a great look to him, one that screamed “FUTURE”.
Also, I never beat Gyromite. How does it end?
2. Johnny 5 – HBO Free Preview Weekends were a big deal at my house. We’d get the guide in the mail and divvy up the recording tasks among the four of us. We’d fill up a few VHS tapes with movies and then not subscribe to HBO, trusting these movies to hold us over until the next Free Preview Weekend. Thanks to this aggressive recording regimen, I became intimately familiar with One Crazy Summer, Caddyshack 2, and both Short Circuit movies. I was pretty into Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. For some reason as a kid I preferred Short Circuit 2 over the first one, and as a grown up I have to maintain that preference only because it features more of a really offensive Fisher Stevens.
Anyway, I loved Johnny 5’s eye tubes, his laser gun, and most of all his triangle treads. I drew him all the time.
3. Chatbot – I never had Chatbot. I only knew Chatbot from the commercials, but from those commercials I felt like Chatbot would be a useful companion for THIS EXACT SITUATION:
4. Jinx – In 1986 I saw SpaceCamp in the theater and loved it. This was one of my dreams, being accidentally sent up into space and being forced to be an awesome astronaut. The movie’s about a shuttle that gets launched by a robot who takes everything way too literally (they keep bringing this up like it’s an actual robot issue), thinking he’s doing the right thing for his human pal. I loved the way Jinx looked:
and his voice:
5. Maxx Steele – This was the G.I. Joe Aircraft Carrier of robots, the toy that nobody I knew had and that you could convince yourself didn’t exist at all if you weren’t periodically reminded of it’s existence. Maxx Steele looked kind of like a real life R2-D2, said over one hundred words, and could use his claw (claw!) to bring you a drink or do anything else a single claw could do. I was only aware of Maxx Steele because he kept showing up as a prize for impossible feats. For example, some guy came to our elementary school and said that if we were the top earning school in the country at some fundraiser that we’d get our own Maxx Steele. For all 600 of us to share! He was also the prize in an Alpha Bits contest.
Regardless of his rarity, at the time this seemed like the closest I’d come to having a robot butler until I grew up and the future arrived.
What did I miss? What were your favorite robots growing up?