The fascinating newspaper cutting (right) was sold recently on eBay. It tells the sensational story of a robot by the name of Alpha made by Harry May. The Walla Walla Daily Bulletin, of Washington, USA, was just one of many newspapers which rather exaggerated the story:
“Brighton, England, Sept 19 – “Alpha,” the electrical mechanical man invented by Harry May, had made good his threat today to wreak vengeance upon his inventor. During a demonstration of the robot at an electrical exhibition yesterday one of May’s hands was severely burned by the premature discharge of the gun the robot fires. May was inserting the cartridge in the gun, during which the robot says: ‘Look out or I’ll blow your hand off!’ As it uttered the words the gun was fired. May was unable to explain how the accident occurred unless somebody in the audience said something which affected the iron man’s mechanism.”
The robot in this story has already appeared on this blog in part three of the feature ‘Marvels of the Mechanical Man‘ where he was shown rather more innocently smoking a pipe.
The wonderful Pathe News archive, accessible through YouTube, has a 1934 film showing Alpha in action. The robot was apparently voice (or rather noise) activated.