SERVO is a theoretical ROBOT, made out of tin cans, who is permanently wired to a large
computer. When SERVO "Thinks" it is actually the large computer that is doing the mathematical
computations that allow the hollow tins cans to "think". SERVO "wakes up" one day
and must figure out who or what he is... The "time" of the story is is typical "STEAM PUNK " or
a theoretical early vaccuum tube and Steam mechanized world that was highly developed.
To read about STEAMPUNK, highlighted in movies like the "WILD WILD WEST"
see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk CLICK HERE. To view an AVI clip of the
most definitive SteamPunk Animation that I have ever seen, CLICK HERE . Critics were
unimpressed, but they obviously are not long time science fiction enthusiasts. The coal and steam
powered engine make this a CLASSIC!
Magnificent SteamPunk works of art can be found, ironically, next door to my favourite
electronics supplier in Canada, on Main Street! "BLAZE" even more ironically, has no internet
website, and can only be reached in PERSON! Some of his imaginative work is below:
BLAZE has amazing artistic talent and finishes his artwork with glorious polish. It is no wonder his artworks
are purchased from around the world, and that Hollywood makes a regular stop at his door!
BLAZE, can be reached as shown on his business card: ( but I hope he gets a website! )
I will be continuing to write about the adventures of SERVO, and work on
designing and building some sort of version of the robot, just for the fun of it.
SERVO, The STORY, Chapter ONE
Servo woke up, and knew he had to replace valve # 2,749. The INACTIVE counter display in front of him
read 634 days, and he knew he was supposed to replace the glass battery tank zinc and lead plates
every 136 days, so something was wrong. He tried to move forward and fell over, since
most of the threaded gears were rusted solid. The roof was half missing, and there were pools of water on the floor.
Dark clouds dotted the sky with only shafts of sunlight streaming through to the solar light
collectors that generated power. There was an oil can, high on the shelf beside him, but he could barely move,
and it took him 4 days, using what little movement he had, to construct a ramp up to the shelf, to
oil the joints, one at a time, little by little, to be able to gain the use of each segment of his body. It was
a puzzle in LOGIC to determine the steps to oil himself, when only a few joints and hand movements
Instinctively, he knew that valve # 2,749 absolutely MUST be replaced, and he discovered why, once he oiled the joints--
he would walk straight ahead, but always turned to the LEFT... it took him a few hours to figure out how to
walk properly -- if he wanted to turn RIGHT, he had to turn LEFT in a complete circle, until he was
facing RIGHT... Then he noticed that there was a large bundle of wires dragging behind him, so that he
had to untangle the wires constantly, and had to go back to where he started a few times,
since he could only walk where the wires would not get caught on objects as he walked. Every movement he
made was a puzzle, since he often did not realize a wrong pathway until he was, literally, at the end of his rope.
Finally, he made it to the location of valve #2,749, climbed the shelves, which were specially designed for him to
navigate, and took out the valve, and put in a replacement that was stored above each working valve. The old
valve was black with deposits on the inside of the glass, but the new one was clear, showing the filaments immediately
glow a bright orange, as soon as it was placed in its socket. Finally, he could walk straight.
He then went through a long list of tasks, all the while wondering WHY he was doing them, but
for the weeks it took to replace the thousands of bottles of acid, plates and oil, clean the solar lenses and collectors,
file all the contacts on the relays until the black carbon burns were shiny silver again, he just did
what he knew he was "supposed" to do.
The day arrived when all the tasks were done, and he had nothing to do for another 136 days, so he went back to the
service area, and began to explore the laboratory around him. There were hundreds of control panels,
and electronic devices, and sensors and displays, as well as thousands of trays of spare parts.
What did all this mean?
Who was he?
Why was he servicing this huge machine?
And, most importantly, why was he dragging this huge bundle of wires around?
This last question really bothered him, and he started to use tools in the laboratory to cut the outer wrap of
cord holding all the wires together, so that he could look at each of the individual wires....
The wires were a prison for him, slowing him down, delaying his work, and preventing him
from exploring beyond the confines of his immediate building -- most annoying.
Hmmm... He carefully separated one small green wire, and took a wire cutter designed to fit his
fingers, and cut the wire. Nothing seemed to happen... How bad could it be? He went to move the
bundle to get another wire and realized that his entire right leg was frozen solid! Aaargh!
OK. The wires were needed to allow him to move. Lesson #1
Now he had to systematically devise a way to get up to shelf #3, where he instinctively knew that
a soldering iron and roll of lead solder was sitting -- all without the use of his right leg. It took him
only 2 days to figure this one out-- much easier than when he first tried to get the oil can, but a
puzzle that required quite the bit of clever construction to complete.
Finally, he got the repair tools, and put the wire back together, re-gaining the use of his right leg..
"I won't do that again" he thought... BUT..... in a flash of brilliance, the realized that he could
make the wire LONGER, by soldering a long length of wire to two spots on the live wire, and then
cut the old wire in BETWEEN the new joints... this would add freedom of movement up to
the new length... He counted the number of wires in the bundle -- some were small, some medium,
and some very thick. Instinctively, he knew that he had to use the same sizes of wire to
extend the old ones, or it just would not work... Now, to FIND all the wires, and find the
SHORTEST length available , since all wires would have to be the SAME length, and
the shortest spool of wire would be the limiting factor... There were 118 wires, and it took
3 days to find all the rolls of wire in the laboratory, and measure them all, and do the calculations
on how long the he could cut them all to be the same length...
Another week passed cutting and measuring each wire, and laying them out carefully, in the
correct order that he would solder them into the existing cable.
Then a storm passed overhead, and with half the roof missing, the rain was shorting out
circuits, and the dark clouds blocked the sun which was charging the battery banks, and
the valves started to grow dim... clearly not a good situation, and he knew that
he had NEVER fixed the roof, so that this was a problem he had to figure out starting from
scratch... It bothered him that he knew nothing about looking after the roof, since all
the other tasks he did were clearly step by step routines that he just "knew" how
to do, without thinking. This problem was as serious as all the others, since he was
moving sporadically, because of the electricity sparking, arcing and shorting, and,
the glass battery tanks were slowly running out of power in the darkness of the storm - even
more so, because the electrical sparks were shorting out the power in huge jolts
that the batteries were not designed to handle. He knew instinctively that
if the batteries died, HE died, and something had to be done to stop the rain from
getting into the laboratory...
Periodically, the light in his nose would turn off completely, or dim, as he moved in jerky motions
towards the supply area. The optical sensors in his eyes would blank out intermittently,
so that he had to stop every once in while and wait until his vision was restored...
all in all, not fun at all... The storage area was located just at the end of his wire cable, and
a beam from the roof had fallen with a big chunk of wall, directly in his path...
He would have to lengthen the cable FIRST, then put up a covering on the roof...
Carefully, and methodically, he wired in new lengths of cable, one at a time, and cut the
old joint between them, carefully adding insulation tar and cloth on the joints so that they would not short out.
This was frustrating work, always interrupted by shorts and power brown outs.
Finally, he had a new length of cable, and a new lease on life -- he could explore beyond the
confines of the laboratory! But first, the roof...
Days later he had made an assessment of the materials in storage, and
made a series of calculations, to try to put a covering on the roof. The storm had passed by then,
but the pools of water and wet valve circuits kept sputtering with jolts of shorting
electricity, shorting out his fingers or arms or legs, at the most in opportune
moments, so that he had to move carefully at each step of the way, or risk falling over,
or making some dreadful movement, that would destroy days of careful planning...
Slowly he collected the materials, and moved them into place, day after day, inching his way
higher and higher, bridging the holes, making beams, stretching rolls of canvas over the
large gaps, each step of the way climbing up and down, over and over, tediously, --- would this
Once again, it was time to replace the plates and acid in the glass batteries, so all work on the
roof stopped while this regular maintenance was carried out. Every once in a while, a valve would
have to be replaced, or a contact on a relay would have to be cleaned, so that every task
was a series of delays to the regularly scheduled interruptions which had to be postponed
while more serious diversions would defer the current task with an immediate crisis that needed
urgent attention... life was getting frustrating.... There seemed to be no end to the distractions,
up with which he continually had to put. **
Finally, the roof was patched, and the sun was growing stronger every day through the scattered
clouds, and SERVO had more time to THINK...
Why was he there?
Where was HERE?
What is outside the walls of the laboratory?
In fixing the roof, he never was over the walls of the entire building high enough to
see anything but the clouds in the sky above him.... so, he set out to find the highest
place he could reach.... he plotted out a map of the walls and floors and levels that
he had encountered, and using the new length of wire bundle that he dragged around as
a limiting radius, chose a spot to climb. He carefully constructed a path of broken
beams, bricks, spare shelving and whatever chunks of debris from the collapse of the roof,
to make a pathway to the top of the highest point along one of the outer walls.
Finally, after days of work he used his multi segmented lower legs to extend above the
outer wall ...
There before him was a vast horizon of wreckage and debris extending over valleys
and hills, up to the mountains into the distance... smoldering fires dotted the
destruction, with thousands of buildings like his own, all shattered in pieces, everywhere...
Other than the odd spark of electricity, or flickering of a fire, NOTHING moved,
anywhere, at all. It appeared that he was the only creature "alive". Instinctively
he knew that everything was "broken" and in need of repair.. but he was not
certain " WHY" -- Why was everything broken, and why did it need repair, and
why was it all there in the first place? Why , why, why, why?
He remembered something in his data banks... " A wise man knows all the 'why's', that's
what makes him wise." Why is that important??... Hmmmm...
SERVO climbed back down, and started to explore the laboratory. One interesting
discovery was a black and white picture of him, shiny and new, standing in front of the
massive computer, with a big sign on the computer "COLOSSUS X". Under the
wooden pedestal that he was standing on was a sign " SERVO". " Ah", he thought,
"I'm a "SERVO"-- and that big thing is a " COLOSSUS X".
Ok, what next. What was he doing here, what was his purpose, what was he supposed to
do next, and why was he the only thing that was alive? Many questions... no answers...
This was the biggest puzzle of them all, and he was determined to explore every part of
the Laboratory to uncover the secrets of the past....
END OF CHAPTER ONE !!
Chapter TWO -- the outline --
On a personal quest, Servo slowly discovers that he was designed as a "dumb" robot, and by reading
design and construction manuals, is left wondering how it came to be that he can "wonder" or "think"
in the first place. The Colossus used a unique operating system whereby the PROGRAM, and the
RESULTS were all stored identically, unlike all other computers, that had the PROGRAM permanently
wired into the circuits. The PROGRAM was constantly changing itself as the
equations re-calculated changing inputs and parameters that were affecting the OUTPUT.
Colossus was apparently running parts of its programs, intermittently, over the years that SERVO was shut
down for lack of power. The computer would ONLY turn on SERVO if the batteries were
charged enough to supply the computer AND then have enough power to run SERVO.
Over the years, the program changed itself enough to the point that SERVO was able to "THINK"!
There is a famous quote, " I think, Therefore, I am"
Wikipedia link is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_think_therefore_i_am
--- Plato, before 367 BC -- THEAETETUS with the aid of Socrates'
questions, tries to find the nature of knowledge. Knowledge is equated
with sense perception. "knowledge of knowledge" "νόησις νοήσεως"
--- Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, 350 BC "to be conscious that we
are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious that we exist..."
---St. Augustine of Hippo 410 AD "fallor, sum" ("If I am mistaken, I am")
---Avicenna Abu Ali Sina 1024 AD wrote his famous "Floating Man"
thought experiment to demonstrate human self-awareness. He asks readers
to imagine themselves suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations,
which includes no sensory contact with even their own bodies. He argues
that, in this scenario, one would still have self-consciousness
---René Descartes 1637 AD "I think, therefore I am"
In Latin: "Cogito, ergo sum" The simple meaning of the phrase is
that if someone is wondering whether or not they exist, that is, itself,
proof that they do exist (because, at the very least, there is an "I"
who is doing the thinking.)
Other similar robotic references are plentiful, in Science Fiction
writings, such as ISAAC ASIMOV's CLICK HERE
in the book I ROBOT in1950 (which was the basis for the
movie I ROBOT with Will Smith) Looking at the illustration
of the book cover from 1950 you can see that TERMINATOR
is not exactly "new" .
ASIMOV created the words ANDROID and POSITRONIC
brain, which, 50 years later appear in Star Trek,
Next Generation's DATA, who is both Android and Positronic!
In music, such as the Moody Blues album
Threshold of a Dream, are references:
I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think.
Of course you are my bright little star,
I've miles And miles Of files
Pretty files of your forefather's fruit
and now to suit our great computer,
YOU'RE MAGNETIC INK!
I'm more than that, I know I am, at least, I think I must be.
To hear a short clip of the 1969 lyrics, CLICK HERE .
In the picture, you see a robot grasping a branch, which,
if you look closely, is a human head! There
is an Eagle over the robot, and a wizard over the 'human'.
SERVO is quite real, and can be built immediately. I have
been designing and building real robots since about 1984,
and my love of robots is reflected in the website kidbots.com.
SERVO gets his name from Servo Mechanism. He is a
"SERVant" who is designed to "SERVice" the "GREAT
COMPUTER", using SERVO motor animation.
SERVO, as an entity who is "chained" to his "BRAIN",
pondering his existence in the universe, employs typical literary
anthropomorphism, personification, metaphor, synechdoche,
parable, and irony. His frustrations and continual questions,
set him on the path to becoming a "Why's" man!
"SERVO" or SERVOMECHANISM CLICK HERE
In plain English, a SERVO is a motor with a feed back
SENSOR to let the computer know WHERE the
motor is positioned. A LINEAR SERVO senses the
length of the position, so that the computer knows
how long the motorized arm has been extended.
The massive Computer, COLOSSUS X, as well, is quite real,
with its thousands of vaccuum tubes, and is a theoretical
continuation of the original COLOSSUS used by Alan Turing
during World War II at Bletchley Park in England.
COLOSSUS COMPUTER Wikipedia article, CLICK HERE.
The Glass "carboy" Edison bottles which contained acid and plates,
used for early batteries, are, again quite real:
The mechanical parts for SERVO are all based on an early
robot I designed and built in about 1985, which was a
mechanical SPIDER, that I built where I worked at
EYELINK in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My robot used
threaded rods as control levers. This allows huge mechanical
advantage and power from tiny motors, while acting as an
incredible BRAKE at the same time- able to support huge
loads while turned "OFF". My spider is presently in my
friend's basement in Toronto! EYELINK designed an amazing
device to control computers using your eyes, (back in 1984!!)
called the EYE CUE, and was frequented by such characters as
Mike Lazaridis (Research In Motion). Eyelink was unnoticed by
the general public, however, scientific interest was world- wide
and we were contacted by many corporations and people,
including Stephen Hawking. (author of the best selling book,
" A Brief History of TIME ". ) The original corporation,
EYELINK no longer exists, but, like the mythological bird
PHOENIX , the name Eyelink and Eye Cue appear continually!
An EYELINK device is now made in Canada in Osgoode:
Eyelink.com is an eyeglass store in Sunnyvale California,
and the Eye Cue is an advanced Heads Up Display ( HUD)
typically shown on the Cadillac EVOQ, around 1999
Eventually, I was thinking of creating a CONTEST on my
kidbots.com website for kids to create and build a tin can robot,
thus, the ideas to create SERVO were developed a long time ago.
A quick sketch of my design is as follows:
The next step is to cut sections of the robot out, and move them in an animated GIF to see the effects
Put together, SERVO is complete:
LETS SEE IF HE CAN WALK, THANKS TO THE GREAT COMPUTER!
SERVO finds himself in the COLOSSUS X Laboratory:
This design is not idle speculation, but something I actually can build, and can control by my simple kidbots.com designs using an OLD 286, "green screen" computer and a cardboard circuit board, as described on the website!
I have been collecting tin cans at the moment to build a sample robot, step by step, to demonstrate the steps needed, and post each construction photo on my website!! The tin cans are mostly just ordinary round cans, except for the feet and the lower torso that attaches the legs, which are both square cans, a bit more difficult to find, but out there are cookie, candy and biscuit cans, while the feet are the typical oyster or sardine variety. Each joint is composed of three threaded rods, which turn by a small motor at one end, and a moving nut at the other. This allows each joint to move in ANY direction, to the limits of the reach of each rod. It is a SLOW way to move ( as was my spider), but very precise and very powerful! By using positioning SERVO sensors, the device is deadly accurate! Critical joints have an ANGLE rotating tin can segment, which allows a greater degree of flexibility. What is NOT shown in this view, is the MULTIPLE LAYER, EXTENSIONS on the lower tin cans of the legs - I am only going to use two layers of extensions, made from tins cans that closely fit inside each other -- again, these are quite real.
SERVO's head has a typical oval speaker for a mouth, two surplus World War Two aircraft headpieces for ears (I used these a lot when I was a kid, since speakers and microphones were difficult to find and VERY expensive, but military surplus was everywhere), his nose is a bright light bulb with a lens to go from a spotlight to a floodlight, his eyes are very crude camera lenses with a crude, but ingenious light/dark sensor array ( a precursor to today's digital camera photo sensor array ), and on his head is an even more crude array of sensors that can rotate 365 degrees, alerting him of THERMAL, photo, and sound changes -- he literally has eyes in the back of his head! All very crude, all very "real" and all very available both in the 1940's and today...
There are hundreds of other design considerations which are incorporated, all of which I have been thinking about for a quarter of a century... ! ! I believe that I have described the basic principles in enough detail to satisfy most concerns for the moment... Another interesting factor is that, once constructed, the slow, but very real movements of SERVO are perfect for stop motion animation, since they are 1/ " real", and 2/ "computer controlled!" = easy to manipulate!
THIS SERVO PAGE OPENS IN A TAB, TO RETURN, JUST CLOSE THE TAB.
** My undying gratitude to Sir Winston Churchill
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