1954 CBS TELEVISION DOCUMENTARY “AUTOMATIC MACHINES RESEARCH”
This film from the ‘The Search;’ an educational program aired on CBS, takes a look at the laboratories and plants that pioneered the development of new robot machines in 1954. It takes viewers on a tour through locations such as MIT, in Cambridge Massachusetts as well as the Bell Laboratories in New York among others. It is presented by Young America Films (:07) and is narrated by Charles Romine (:47). Professor Donald B. Campbell (:52) of MIT, is the leading authority on automatic machines and their processes. In North Grafton, Massachusetts the Wyman-Gordon Company’s ‘Big Squeeze’ machine is shown (1:21). This was one of two of the largest hydraulic presses in the US which forged aluminum parts for airplanes as well as magnesium parts (1:29). Using a pressure of 18,000 tons, it squeezed metals together and this is demonstrated at (2:07). These were created to be a replacement for man’s muscle (2:44) and performed only mechanical functions. The film turns to MIT with the FELIX robot searching for sunlight (3:24). Professor Wiener (3:56) explains that FELIX is a robot that demonstrates how machines can use human senses such as sight. FELIX was able to perceive light similar to the way in which primitive animals do (5:13). Light is collected by photoelectric cells which move his rudder and steer him towards the light (5:29). Other machines, such as guided missiles and sonic torpedoes were already using human senses as when they were fired, they chased the sound of ships (5:49). In the digital computer lab of MIT, Jay Forrester, the lab’s director (6:35) is seen in the control room of the digital computer, Whirlwind (6:37). This was used for scientific and engineering research as well as studies on military problems (6:52). It was able to carry out 25,000 arithmetic operations per second (7:08). A demonstration of it’s speed follows with researchers feeding a mathematical equation in (7:13) that Whirlwind is able to solve in a fraction of a second (7:28). Whirlwind communicated it’s responses through a recording on magnetic tape which controlled a typewriter (8:34) or by recording engineering curves on a cathode ray tube face. The cathode ray tube (8:47) provided plotted results. Dr. Brown in the Electronic Engineering Department (9:32) explains the idea of feedback. A demonstration is conducted on an experimental rig (11:44) with a magnetic gyro compass that enables the vessel to adjust or correct its course through feedback (12:08). In weaponry, the radar signal is the feedback link to the nervous system of the missile (13:08). Dr. Claude Shannon of Bell Laboratories shows an experiment which is similar to that of the traditional mouse and maze experiment (14:41). The mouse in this experiment is mechanical and controlled by a small computing machine that solves problems through trial and error and can remember the solutions that it found (15:03). The maze is adjusted so the mouse will be unfamiliar (15:28) and during the first test run, it takes the mouse 52 seconds and multiple errors to find the brass knob representing the cheese (15:53). On the second run, it takes 17 seconds without mistakes (17:24). Under the maze, the ‘brains’ of the mouse are pointed to (17:51). The magnetized mouse is drawn about by an electromagnet driven by two electronic motors and these are controlled by miniature computing machines (17:53). The second run was completed without error because the computing machine contains 50 relays that are like a memory for the machine (18:15). Bell conducted these tests in order to improve their own telephone service further, to study the general design principles of machines that can learn and to potentially better understand the human brain (18:41). In the Servomechanism laboratory, Dr. Pease and Mr. McDonough are seen who had worked on an automatic milling machine that could do a job that humans would take several days to complete in a matter of hours (19:27). It is controlled by a computing machine that receives it’s information from the same type of tape as the Whirlwind (19:52). The electronic equipment controlling the motion of the machine is pointed to (20:04). A demonstration follows of the machine spelling out CBS TV (20:39). Ford Motor Company engine plant was already using machinery that was operational with minimum human control (22:25) including automatic machines that grind crank shafts to predetermined dimensions (22:35). Dr. William; President of MIT, discusses the automation of jobs as technology advanced (23:25). He states that often times technology increased employment and that these new machines would call upon institutes and universities such as MIT to educate and prepare a new breed of professional (24:41). The film concludes and was produced by Irving Gitlin (25:26).