Randy Robot

From Archive of Vintage Robotics & Technology Companies
Randy Robot Promotional Image

Randy Robot was a prototype robot line created by Jack Becker in 1984, which notably reused the Topo I ABS plastic shell.[1]

It is unclear whether this was officially granted for use by Androbot Inc., or was a bootlegged design stolen from the Topo robot. It is also unclear if this line was ever sold, or what became of Jack and his company outside of the brief mentions in magazines.

History[edit | edit source]

Beginnings[edit | edit source]

Jack Becker was a radio control enthusiast, who was commissioned by Walt Disney to produce 29 robots for Disneyland in 1967, alongside 31 more for the opening of Disney World 3 years later. It is unclear which robots he worked on, as none are mentioned.

In 1978 he would pitch to Atari a Randy prototype, which was rejected for being "ahead of its time". He would instead try his pitch to Heathkit, whom then began the HERO 1 project in October 1979 based off his concept[2], presumably with him onboard. HERO 1 would release later in 1982.

Jack would continue with his Randy prototype, hiring Ari Burman, Gord Goebel, Paul Shields, and Jim Butterfield to help design and program the robot. Notably, these people were featured in TPUG magazine, which is also the only source of Randy information, likely meaning the team and TPUG were closely involved with the project and its promotion.

Stolen Prototype[edit | edit source]

Jack Becker after discovering his Randy Prototype had been stolen, February 1984.

In early February, 1984, thieves would break in and steal a prototype Randy Robot from Jack. It is unclear if this was the only prototype available, or if this set back production at all. By this point, Jack had already acquired many ABS shells of Randy for production.[3]

Production[edit | edit source]

As of May 1984, production was scheduled for 10,000 robot line for the first year. 500 robots were committed to an unnamed Arizona businessman, whom additionally invested in promotional appearances for the robot. Jack stated by this point that $500,000 had gone into the production of Randy. No other sources past this point however detail what happened in production, though due to the lack of sources and second-hand Randy units appearing online, it is likely production was limited and or nonexistent.

Randy Successor[edit | edit source]

In February 1985, TPUG magazine would announce its Fourth Annual TPUG Conference set for May 25-26, 1985. Jack would be scheduled for a robotics presentation at the event, stating:

"Meet Randy's successor, and hear about his future. Randy can transmit a picture to your TV or audio up to 100 miles (wireless)."[4]

No documentation of the event has been recovered. It is unclear what became of this unit, or what its relation was to the presumed failed production. No further information on Jack Becker or Randy is found past this point.

Stolen Designs[edit | edit source]

None of the sources mention the reasoning for the Randy Robot reusing the original Topo ABS shell. In the magazine interview it is even stated "As far as Randy's appearance is concerned, the builder has adhered rigidly to his concept.", suggesting this design was built by Jack himself.

While the assumption could be made that Androbot Inc. was actually the one to steal Jack's shell design due to him pitching Randy to Atari back in 1979, a prototype Topo design named Azza from 1982 clearly depicts an earlier iteration of the Topo shell that is drastically different, yet still iterative, from the final Topo. It is clear Jack's shell is the actual bootleg.

Whether this was allowed by Androbot Inc., or if they were even aware of it, is unknown. Its also unclear if Androbot Inc. had any say in the production of Randy never panning out due to this breach of patent.

Specifications[edit | edit source]

  • Main Processing
    • VIC 20 CPU, upgraded to 32k of ROM and 32k of RAM.
  • Speech Recognition
    • 16 bit Nippon Microprocessor, Upgraded to 32k of ROM and 64k of RAM
    • Can run up to 8 differently tuned vocal models simultaneously. Running all 8 will result in 80% response rate, while just one (with the appropriate speaker) will result in 100% response rate.
    • No restriction on number commands it can recognize outside of ROM space.
    • Can respond to finger snaps and other sounds for commands.
  • Voice Module
    • Z80, with 32k of ROM, and 8k of RAM
    • 1290 pre-programmed words in vocabulary, but 60k more words can be added.
  • Motion Detector Camera
    • 180 Degree Vision, 30fps.
    • Multidirectional, effective in 100 foot range
    • Can classify human, animal, and inanimate objects at "similar range".
    • Can greet by name if recognized.
    • Can ask for password. If ignored, will attempt to follow and capture identifying photos at 30fps. Photos stored in camera memory bank. Presumably audio is captured and stored in sonic memory bank. Telecommunications processor is used to notify police.
  • Memory Banks
    • Camera memory bank
    • Sonic memory bank
  • Telecommunications Processor
    • Small circuit board with radio telephone link. Interfaced with Command, Logic, & Voice Modules.
    • 200 available radio channels for sending and receiving data.
    • Some channels preset for handing fire department, police, incoming calls, and messages.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]