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10 Historical Robots

        Science | Robotics

Yep, Elekro could even smoke cigarettes. © Bettmann/CORBIS
Yep, Elekro could even smoke cigarettes. © Bettmann/CORBIS

If you could imagine a robot built by a 1950s appliance company, you'd probably conjure a machine like Elektro. It was a shiny metallic biped that became one of the first celebrity robots.

Elektro was built by Westinghouse to show off the company's technological prowess. In 1939, Elektro went on display at the World's Fair in New York, where he was a fabulously popular attraction. Like a seasoned stage comedian, he blew up balloons, told jokes and smoked cigarettes. He also moved his arms and walked, and his photoelectric eyes detected the difference between red and green.

With the onset of World War II, the public fascination with Elektro faded and he wound up discarded in a basement. Eventually, he was found and rebuilt. He made a cameo appearance in the movie "Sex Kittens Go to College" and even went on national tour. He's now on display in Mansfield Memorial Museum in Ohio.