You Know You’re an Engineer if…You Watched These Movies and TV Shows as a Kid

Here are some of classic engineering and robot movies and TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s.
  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still

    Every kid who grew up to be an engineer loved robots. The love of science fiction and robots seems to follow closely on  the heels of the fascination with dinosaurs.

    Some of these movies were scary for a kid, like the deadly robot in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Others were lovable, like Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. Some were terrifying in a more realistic way, such as HAL in 2001 a Space Odyssey was its nightmarish calm and patronizing tone.

    Here’s a look at robots depicted in movies and on TV during the 1950s and 1960s. Here’s a collection of the classics. We’ve omitted the scores of forgettable B movies such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet

    Forbidden Planet

    The 1956 Forbidden Planet is the great space travel film that introduces the first celebrity robot, Robby the Robot. In the movie, Robby was built using plans that space travelers found on an alien computer system. Robby was slow and awkward, but he oddly won the hearts of generations of film and TV audiences. (Image source: MGM)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot

    Robby the Robot on TV

    After winning the love of kids everywhere during the movie, Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot began a great run as a guest star on TV shows, including a spot with Peter Faulk on Columbo. Beginning in 1958, Robby has appeared on TV every decade. (Image source: MGM)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot, The Mysterians

    The Mysterians

    The 1957 film, The Mysterians is oddball Japanese film. The movie’s robot resembles a steel-plated Godzilla. Then a giant robot named Moguera attacks the Japanese army. This huge robot monster has powerful eye beams that shoot destructive rays. The robot comes from the destroyed planet Mysteroid, and it represents aliens who were searching for refuge and for female earthlings. (Image source: Toho)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot, The Mysterians, Rosie the Robot

    Rosie the Robot

    Rosie the Robot made its small-screen splash on the Jetson’s as an automated maid – the first Roomba. Rosie is modeled somewhat on Hazel, the classic maid who is integral to the family. Rosie, however, is a tad sassy. (Image source: Screen Gems)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot, The Mysterians, Rosie the Robot, Astro Boy

    Astro Boy

    Astro Boy is a cartoon robot in the form of an eager boy who has jets for feet He was created as a Japanese anime figure in 1951 by master cartoonist Osamu Tezuka. He appeared on American TV from 1963 through 1966, then was revived in Japan in the 1980s, then again on American TV in 2003 and 2004. He returned in 2009 in the movie, Astro Boy, with Nicolas Cage voicing his father. (Image source: Madman Entertainment)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot, The Mysterians, Rosie the Robot

    Jason and the Argonauts

    Jason and the Argonauts is one of the best adventure films of the 1960s or any decade. This is probably the greatest example of stop-action animation, with its sword-bearing skeleton army and its Cyclops. The giant robot man protects the island from invaders. (Image source: Columbia Pictures)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot, The Mysterians, Dr. Who

    Doctor Who and the Dalecks

    The Dalecks appeared on the long-running British TV show, Dr. Who. These automated pod monsters are from Skaro, a planet scarred by an ancient nuclear war. Dr. Who visits the planet to free its citizens from these metallic-voiced robots who are out to exterminate organic creatures. (Image source: BBC-TV Productions)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot, The Mysterians, Lost in Space

    Lost in Space

    In 1965 the TV show Lost in Space featured the B9 robot. It was modeled on Robby the Robot. In the series, B-9 was an M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot. It was referred to simply as Robot. The B9 was a bit lame in concept and performance. The robot often displayed human characteristics, such as laughter, sadness, and mockery, as well as singing and playing the guitar. (Image source: 20th Century Fox Television)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot, The Mysterians, Rosie the Robot, King Kong Escapes

    King Kong Escapes

    How could you miss this giant robot in King Kong Escapes? Yet nearly everyone did. The giant robot is worth the mention because of its Godzilla-size scale and because it shared the screen with King Kong. This Japanese wonder builds to a climactic wrestling match with King Kong on the top of Tokyo Tower (sitting in for the Empire State Building). (Image source: Universal Studios)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies

    2001: a Space Odyssey

    2001: a Space Odyssey featured the most terrifying of all robots in one of the greatest movies of all time. The programmed ship system is named HAL (it’s a wink-wink at Big Blue – the letters following H, A, and L are IBM). The robot is calm but insane. HAL’s real danger is that it runs the life support system on a space craft. The computer’s conversation with astronaut Dave is one of the most unforgettable dramatic moments in all of cinema. (Image source: MGM)

  • 2001: a Space Odyssey, robot movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot, The Mysterians

    The Day the Earth Stood Still

    The robot in this sci fi classic, an interstellar guardian, the member of a police force that has the power to destroy worlds such as Earth. The main objective of these aliens is to warn Earth to establish peace. They demonstrate their might by shutting down Earth's power supply, hence, the title, The Day the Earth Stood Still. (Image source: 20th Century Fox)

 

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News . Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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