androbot

Once upon a time, the was a company called Androbot

Androbot Inc – Nolan Bushnell, Bob, and Topo

Androbot was revolutionary for many reasons!

Most importantly, it was not only a robot, but it was the first consumer autonomous vehicle – a Drone AND a Droid!

It was founded by the founder of the original Atari, Nolan Bushnell.

Article by Tim McGuinness, Ph.D.,
former Asst. Director for Corporate Research Engineering, Atari Inc.
and consultant to Androbot 1983/84

The company was founded with the dream of creating a consumer robot, for education and simple household tasks.  Models were designed to fetch a beer from its proprietary Androbot cooler, and also was designed the first robotic vacuum cleaner.

Nolan Bushell put together an outstanding team of engineers, some from Atari and other Bushell companies, and consultants (such as myself).  Unfortunately, Androbot was far too much ahead of itself, and the technology was just not ready to allow it to meet its goals.  In 1983, the technology in processors, software, and sensors was just not ready for the idea of a true autonomous robot.

Androbotageddon – in an ironic twist this is where Androbot ended up!

While Androbot’s fate was tragic, it did start the wheels turning on an eventual revolution that is just now arriving.  Today, Androbot is a distant memory along the path to the robotic present.  However, without it, perhaps a whole generation of roboticists would never have taken up the mantel of the impossible and succeeded.

Gallery Of Androbots:

Photos Courtesy of: http://www.smallrobot.com/pictures.html

According to Rick Rowland, and Androbot Historian:

The History of Androbot® by Rick Rowland

In the fall of 1981 a group of ex-Atari engineers came up with the idea of a robot company. The group was lead by Walter Hammeken and included Jack Larson. The company started sometime early in 1982 by Nolan Bushnell. This is the same person who had sold Atari and brought us Chuckie Cheese Pizza Time Theaters. Androbot was part of Catalyst Technologies, a group of companies that were looking to be another Atari success. Nolan wanted a real friendly robot, Hammeken left because he was interested in industrial robots. Tom Frisina came on as the company president with a strong background in consumer electronics.

January 1983 at CES I saw B.O.B and I wanted one. By March of 1983 they were ready to show the world. By this time over 1 million dollars had been invested in Androbot. Other competing companies were Heathkit with HERO and RB Robot Corp with RB5X (the only one still in business). No one had the promised power and looks of Androbot! New York cities Macy’s was already taking orders for TOPO. Predictions were that by 1990 the Personal Robot would be a $2 billion a year industry. Some Androbot engineers doubted they could create such a product in six years.

In May of ’83 TOPOs were shipped and may were dead on arrival and then some developed problems. A local computer store here in Las Vegas purchased one and could not sell it. I bought it for pennies on the dollars. BOB was to go into production in April of 1984 and by September he should have been coming off the assembly line by the thousands or so we were told. At this time everyone was excited about Home Robots, but no one knew what to do with them. Even Frank Jones, Androbot engineer, asked “do the people want it?” Some wanted electronic pets, other wanted servants, some wanted security, but in the end no one wanted them at all except for schools. Our local school district had two, but today they are lost. Nolan Bushnell states;”Can anyone really envision the year 2000 without robots running around the home?”

In July of 1983 Androbot was to go public. Shares would be $12 for a company that had only sold about $45,000. That would be about 4 dozen TOPOs, since FREDs were never sold and B.O.B was not out yet. TOPOs price was $795.00 and Fred was to sell for $295.00 B.O.B was going to sell for $2500.00. Merrill Lynch was to make this happen the first week of August.

Due to the softening of Electronic stocks it never came about. At this time Androbot had 105 employees. By the end of ’83 bad pizza had take its toll on Chuckie Cheese and I agree that is why I did not go back! A massive layoff at Androbot came about and most of the other Catalyst companies were in the dumps.

January 84 most of the founders of Androbot were gone, FRED never left the lab and Androman was sold to Atari for 1 million and then that deal fell apart. Non working, prototypes or incomplete TOPOs were sold to hobbyist for $125.00.

Well April of 84 came and BOB was due on the market. His price was to be $2495 with three 8086 microprocessors and three meg of memory. The first option was to be the Androwagon for $95.00. Well TOPO I was sold for six months and about 1000 were sold. Later in 1984 TOPO II came out and the price was to be $1595.00. The new TOPO was more than a radio controlled body. It could talk and was expandable. It appears that only a couple of hundred were sold. A TOPO III was apparently made, but I have only seen pictures. Androbot finally died a silent death and with it the hope of the Home Personal Robot, maybe!

From: http://www.theoldrobots.com/bob6.html

The First Commercially Manufacturer Consumer Robot Once upon a time, the was a company called Androbot Androbot was revolutionary for many reasons!

Androbot! I can’t wait until we can all have robut chums.

By the way you’re right, that guy has really high expectations on friendship. Only if you save his life do you get accepted into his inner circle of buds.
Personally I’m much more relaxed. Move your chair in a bit to give me more space when I walk past a table and we might as well be bonded by blood.

Museo All About Apple, auguri con l'androbot TOPO

La cartolina di auguri del museo All About Apple è decisamente la più bella ricevuta nella mia inbox. Ritrae, infatti, un Androbot TOPO. Lo staff del Museo ha riportato in vita, con un paziente lavoro di restauro, questa meraviglia dell’elettronica degli anni ‘80, comandata da un personal computer Apple II dello stesso periodo storico, suscitando stupore ed ammirazione nel pubblico di tutte le età. Pur non avendo sensori, il TOPO poteva essere programmato e mosso direttamente dall’Apple II. 

All About Apple è il museo Apple più fornito al mondo e si trova proprio in Italia, a Savona, ma è al momento chiuso a causa di problematiche burocratiche. Si spera possa riaprire nel 2014, nel caso non mancherò di farvelo sapere e di invitarvi a visitarlo al più presto. Tenerlo chiuso è un vero peccato.