He was made out of a crashed bomber. George, the robot, was stashed away in the maker’s garage and now, after 45 years, has made a comeback as a better ‘person.’
Tony Sale, RAF officer and spy catcher, was just 19, when he built one of the first humanoid robots of Britain. It was soon after Second World War that in 1950, that George was invented from the scraps of a Wellington bomber plane that crashed. All it cost him in making that six foot high robot, was fifteen pounds then. George was man-sized and amazing; he could walk and talk, and lumbered and shuffled his feet to move slowly. The world was stunned.
His eyes had light sensitive cells and two batteries of the motorcycle powered him. It was up to 30 feet that he could function by moving an arm, sitting down, turning his head and walking. Attention of the press was caught and he was pictured moving the lawn, helping in carrying the shopping and hanging around. It was this lifelike nature of George that the public were impressed about.
But since, unfortunately, computers were too big to provide with memory and intelligence to George, he lacked intelligence. Hence, shortly, he was stashed away in Sale’s garage, where all he did was gather dust, in Bedford.
Well, this was not Sale’s first robot. He was always interested in mechanics and it was when he was 12 years old that the first ‘George’ was built out of Meccano. The Meccano manual contained the instructions for making this robot and once made, he walked by shuffling his feet at a steady pace. A second George, the robot, was made in 1945 and by the time Sale was 17, he improved the robot. He was made bigger and was controlled by a radio. He stood at a height of 3 feet and he was made from Meccano too. A silver colored cardboard skin covered him and he was really impressive at that time and even appeared on television. Later that summer, Sale decided to create George, the fourth robot. Standing at a height of 5 feet, this George also had a moving jaw that helped in creating speech. A lot of thrill and excitement was caused by him too and the newspapers had features on him.
By 1949, Sale, for his national service joined the air force and it was at RAF Debden in Essex that he was stationed. His duty was to teach the pilots about using the radar. Well, it was here that the present George, who has been given a new lease of life, was invented. Duralumin and aluminum from that crashed bomber completed him. As said above for those certain reasons, he was stashed away. But now, after 45 years, Mr. Sale dug him out with a confidence that he could make George work again. All Sale did was to oil him at his bearings, new lithium batteries were fitted in his legs. When switched on, he moved as good as ever.
George now stands at the National Museum of Computing where people can come and visit him and see George working again.