This week we’re hosting our first guest post ever. It comes to us courtesy of the sometimes snarky but always entertaining Reno J. Tibke, the owner and operator of Anthrobotic.com. This is his interview with Reuben Hoggett, the author of Cyberneticzoo.com, a huge archive of robot-related projects from the 20th century. Enjoy!
anthrobotic: Hello, Mr. Hoggett. Let’s jump right in: what exactly is Cyberneticzoo.com?
The site is intended to be a resource on 20th century cybernetic machines, humanoid robots, and walking machines. It diverges now and then as some earlier interests rekindle themselves to the point of starting a new category, e.g., pneumatics in robots.
anthrobotic: And you occasionally dip into into the 21st century as well, yeah?
Yes, mainly if there are minimal items and the original idea has been re-born, e.g., exoskeletons, walking rickshaws, human-powered walking machines, and the like. Not modern humanoids such as ASIMO, they’re too numerous for the time it would take, and they are adequately covered by many others out there.
anthrobotic: Your site is an excellent resource, no doubt, but it’s pretty obscure. I found you through a very specific keyword and image query, and aside from search indexing or backlinking from the sites you’re sharing, email appears to be the only way to connect. Any desire to promote or gain wider exposure?
Most people who have contacted me via the site have been amazed by the researched material presented. I have helped several thesis students. Unfortunately, I’m not a website expert and some good info gets buried. But it is a treasure find for those who do scroll beyond the opening page. My only regret with a much larger audience would be my inability re: lack of available time to respond adequately to their questions, assuming they want to contact me.
anthrobotic: Okay, if not for money or fame, why did you build it?
My interest in all things robots is a lifetime one. Since a boy I had scrapbooks of robots, computers, rockets, flying saucers, medical science advances, telescopes, and other popular science topics. I think I reached a point where I asked myself what was I going to do with all this material, and I had a sense of, whilst it was a personal collection, it was potentially unique, and the last thing I wanted was for a lifetime’s effort to be trashed when I eventually pass away.
I first started sending articles about Edward Ihnatowicz and his cybernetic sculptures to Alex Zivanovic who has a wonderful site on the Senster. I also looked around for a similar site for my material, and that started the wonderful and ongoing relationship with David Buckley and his website on Robot History Makers.
I need to digress slightly. One of my other passions in life is classic Italian sports motorcycles, and noticing that some of the key engineers of the era were dying off, e.g., Taglioni of Ducati, Tonti of Moto Guzzi, etc., it occurred to me that possibly no one was recording the life of these unique individuals. Naturally, it also occurred to me that no one was recording the stories of the pioneers of cybernetic machines (e.g., Grey Walter) and robot artists (e.g., Bruce Lacey).
So in 2009 I planned a trip to Europe, including the UK, to at least catch up with those I was particularly interested in and whose contact information I could get. The trip included a visit with David Buckley, who eventually asked if he could join me. After that, I knew David didn’t have the time to publish more of my material, and that some of my interests were outside his main theme. I bit the bullet and started my own website.