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Topo - a brief description

ST 040000 Robot - Topo, Androbot, USA, circa 1984

Robot, called Topo, with manuals, software and Apple IIe computer, in original packing. Made by Androbot inc. in USA, circa 1984.

Robot is a mobile unit, with infra-red communication to computer, inbuilt speech synthesizer, and internal motors allowing up to 3 hours' movement. A battery charger is included. It was used by donor's company for trade fairs and general publicity purposes. Activation of the robot has proved difficult as it is difficult to remove the casing. It is also difficult to find a replacement battery.

The manufacturer's advertisement (circa 1984) includes the following: 'You command: Topo performs. Once you've acquainted Topo with his new home, a simple computer command or joystick movement, will start him off and running. For instance, while you're in the kitchen, the keyboard command ?Topo to patio? will send him scurrying over a previously memorized route to serve drinks to guests from his optional Androwagon. A wireless infrared communications link relays information between Topo and your computer throughout your house.'

Topo was escapist technology. This type of toy glamorised robotics and distracted attention away form the real effects of robotic automation in factories.

The term 'robot' was derived from the Czech word 'robota' meaning 'work'. It was introduced by Karl Capek in his 1920s play 'Rossum's Universal Robots', but the first industrial robot was patented in 1954. Industrial robots are more like one-armed machines than people. Hollywood is largely responsible for the anthropomorphizing of robots.

Topo was innovative, as the use of infrared communication was a novelty at the time of Topo's manufacture. The manufacturer produced a special language for Topo - Toposoft, which was grafted onto an existing computer language BASIC.

What can Topo do?
It can talk, chatter, drawl, shout and change its pitch. It can ask questions, insult you, flatter you, make croaking noises, wolf whistle, laugh and go 'Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee'. It can sing yo-ho-ho, the Twilight Zone theme, 'When I'm 64 by the Beatles, various jingles and 'We wish you a merry Christmas'. It can add, subtract and say 'Hello' in several languages. It can move quickly, slowly, at different speeds, accelerate, move forwards, move backwards, turn left and turn right. It can also be programmed to do combinations of some or all the above.

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