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
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, (admittedly, some comedic sequences were
childish) 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 were working...
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 ever end?
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
If you CANNOT see the toolbar with the MENU on the LEFT
side of this page, using a home computer or laptop, or, if you
are on a CELL phone and cannot see or click on the menu at
the top of the screen, then you can, as an option,
go to the correct HOME PAGE, www.kidbots.com
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HOW TO CLICK HERE
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