Category Archives: Entertainment

Collecting robots on postcards – 9 – Enigmarelle

Enigmarell-post-card-front
This unusual, and admittedly rather creepy looking, postcard came up for sale recently on eBay. The “robot” on the left is Enigmarelle who was, according to the card, “the rage of London”. I was inspired to research a little further, and found an excellent article on the website cyberneticzoo (click here for article). As you may have guessed, it seems that there was a man inside the automaton with a false head on top of his own. That man was the unfortunate Alba Root, who lost both his legs in a railway accident when he was younger. Alba was able to ride a unicycle with artificial legs, and there a photographs of Enigmarelle riding a bicycle on stage.

I also discovered the following news story in a 1905 edition of The Entr’acte & Limelight.

The Entr'acte & Limelight masthead

Saturday 26 August 1905

“Enigmarelle” Again

Mr Garrett was engaged on Friday, at the West London Court, in hearing summonses taken out by Sub-Divisional-Inspector Crocker, T, against Mr. E. H. Dobson, manager of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire Music Hall; Mr W. A. Bennett, Press representative at the hall; Mr. F. Ireland, and George Dee, for being concerned in causing an obstruction in Goldhawk Road by parading a mechanical figure called “Enigmarelle,” which had been exhibited at the hall. Mr. Philip Conway represented the defendants. Inspector Crocker stated that on the 8th inst. a coach and four, driven by the defendant Dee, drew up in front of the music-hall. A crowd of from 1,500 to 2,000 persons gathered. The coach waited some fifteen minutes, and then from a side entrance of the theatre emerged the mechanical figure, controlled by Ireland. The figure walked across to the coach in the centre of the roadway, and remained there nine minutes. By this time the crowd had increased to 4,000 persons, and witness requested Ireland to take the figure away. The coach was accordingly driven away, but it returned, and then the figure came out again, and by means of a ladder ascended to the box-seat of the coach and, taking the reins in its hands, drove off, followed by an immense crowd, which completely blocked the roadway. Mr. Dobson and Mr. Bennett both assisted the figure up the ladder, and apparently it drove off by itself. Previous to the occurrence witness had received a letter from Mr. Dobson announcing that it was proposed to make the experiment with the figure, and witness had an interview with Mr. Dobson and Mr. Bennett, who assured him that they would take the responsibility in the matter. Mr. Conway suggested that it was trifling with the procedure of the criminal law to summon Mr. Dobson and Mr. Bennett for aiding and abetting in such a trivial offence. Every information was given beforehand to the police, and arrangements were made for the observance of public order. It was not the fault of these gentlemen if a large crowd gathered. The Magistrate observed that there was no question that an obstruction was caused, and the common-sense view of it was that the defendants wished to advertise the mechanical figure. The larger the crowd the better the advertisement, and the object of the defendants was “to cause a crowd to assemble.” He fined Ireland 40s., Dobson and Bennett 20s. each, and Dee 5s.

In the same newspaper, on the front page, there was an advertisement proclaiming Enigmarelle as “the rage of London!” announcing that the mechanical figure would be appearing at the Empire Theatre, Nottingham.

Enigmarelle the rage of London

It is hard to believe that so many people were fooled into thinking that it was possible to create a mechanical man as sophisticated as Enigmarelle, and especially one capable of controlling a coach and four. There was even an article in the January 13, 1906 edition of Scientific American, headed “A clever mechanical and electrical automaton” in which they stated that Enigmarelle “is seemingly a mechanical and electrical combination. The figure stands exactly six feet in height, weighs 198 pounds, and is composed of 365 distinct and separate parts … the figure contains seven motors, which are of special design … there are fourteen dry storage battery cells of small capacity … at the back of the figure is the switchboard containing the rheostat, fifteen switches, three single levers, and three automatic brakes …” The full article can be read on the Cyberneticzoo website linked to above.

Enigmarelle postcard back

 

 

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Christmas is coming, why not treat yourself?

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, now is the time to think about presents . . . and while you’re about it, why not treat yourself too?

I have a great suggestion; why not invest in a subscription to Robot magazine? My first paper copy has just arrived here in the UK. It is the January/February 2016 edition, so I reckon that is a pretty good service as the magazine is printed in the USA. Digital editions are also available, for instant download.

Along with comprehensive news pages, this edition features an eight page ‘Holiday Gift Guide’ including Robot Kits, drones, engineering kits, a Star Wars app-enabled Droid, Lego mindstorm education kits, PCBs and a robot arm.

There is a full review of BB-8, featured on the magazine cover, this is the mini version of the ball droid that will be in The Force Awakens due out in December.

On the more serious side, we have an interview with Martin Ford, the author of Rise of the Robots. Here is the first question and answer from that article by Rebecca A Hill:

Tell me the premise of your book, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.

The main premise of the book is that technology in the form of robots and artificial intelligence is gradually going to displace more and more of workers who are doing routine and repetitive work.

Read all about Robot magazine at their website www.botmag.com

Collecting movie stills – 3 – Lost in Space

OK, I know this version of Lost in Space wasn’t actually a movie, it was a television series . . . but it sits rather nicely in my collection, and there is some interesting connected trivia to read below. The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes in total, between 1965 and 1968. Here we see the robot, who was the star of the show for me, with young actors Angela Cartwright (as Penny Robinson) and Billy Mumy (as Will Robinson).

Angela Cartwright was born in Altrincham, Cheshire, England in 1956. She is perhaps best known as a child actress for her role as Brigitta Von Trapp in the film The Sound of Music (1965).

In 1998, Angela made a cameo appearance as a Reporter (number two) in the film Lost in Space. She still works as an actress today, alongside her successful career as a photographer. Official website.

Billy Mumy, known as Bill today, was born in the USA in 1954. He works as an actor, voice over artist and musician.

He occasionally still goes into space, and doesn’t get lost any more. For example, from 1994 to 1998 he appeared as Lennier in the TV series Babylon 5, and in 1998 he played the part of Kellin in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Official website.

Angela and Bill have been working on a book together which will be out soon, entitled Lost (And Found) in Space, which includes 200 pages of personal remembrances of their years filming the series, and is packed with rare and never before seen photographs. Book website.

City Scape Wide Desktop Background

There will be a 50th anniversary reunion for four of the Lost in Space stars on 23rd to 25th October, 2015 at Chiller Theatre. Official website.