Mechanical Men’s Issues

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An interest in mechanical men (and women) has been percolating since the start of the industrial revolution. Probably before, if you consider knights in armor to be the prototype of the mechanical man. (I do.) It is interesting how this vision of the future (and remnant of the past) has evolved from the primitive creatures of fantasy past into the robots of today. Here is a small collection of mechanical characters and the personalities that even sheet metal and iron bolts cannot hide. And don’t forget about Electro …

Visions of the future.

The archetype Tin Man. That’s where my funnel went!

Electro the Smoking Moto Man from the 1939 World’s Fair.

Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Boiler man can fix his own leaks.

Characters for Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett.

Fortunato Depero’s mechanical man from his Ballet 3000.

Fortunato Depero’s mechanical workers from V&D brick company.

RIV Ball Bearings man (Italian).

A German scientist designs a mechanical man to do dangerous work (1934).

Fritz Kahn’s industrial man (Industriepalast, 1926).

Italian fascists bred the New Man, aka automaton.

Italian fascist legions were little more than mechanical troops.

Woody Allen in Sleeper as a robotic butler.

Anne Francis reunites with Robby the Robot in 2007. They starred in Forbidden Planet in 1956.

Toyota’s mechanical trumpet player.

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About Steven HellerSteven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →