My friend Jess Nevins, the extraordinary gentleman himself, offers up a history of Japanese robots and automata and the blasted gaijin who keep making off with them:
Japan’s first modern robot was created in 1928 by Makoto Nishimura, as part of the formal celebration of Emperor Showa’s (a.k.a. Hirohito) ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The robot, Gakutensoku (or “learning from natural law”), was 7’8″ tall, painted gold, could open and close its eyes, could smile, could puff out its cheeks, and at the beginning of each performance would touch its mace to its head and then begin to write.
How much do I want a 7’8″ gold Japanese robot called “learning from natural law”? RTWT, as they say, for a robot haiku by Kobayashi Issa*, an unscrupulous American magician, and intimations of occult robot conspiracy.
[Collins:] In the U.S., for instance, the War Department struggled with mountains of haphazard medical files until the newly touted method of card filing was adopted in 1887. Hundreds of clerks transcribed personnel records dating back to the Revolutionary War. Housed in Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC — the scene of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination a generation earlier — the initiative succeeded a little too well. Six years into the project, the combined weight of 30 million index cards led to information overload: three floors of the theatre collapsed, crushing 22 clerks to death.
[Hite:] Can anyone say Ascension of the Bureaucrat in 1894? Blood sacrifice to begin the Information Age? Creation of the “mass man” from data (which is to say, DNA) and crumpled flesh (of 22 people — where was the 23rd, necessary to complete the full chromosomal pairing?), intermingled on the blasphemous regicidal altar of America? The possibilities are limitless.
Do not fold, spindle, or sacrifice.
Also, there’s a nice link back to me today at Dug North’s excellent Automata blog. (Dug, I owe you an email.)
*Question: Would the great 18th century haiku master really use the word “coolness”? Answer: He would if he were writing about tea-serving robots!