Ode to Elektro

(To the tune of “Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton, 1959.)

In 1941 he wrote a little book*
And introduced a new word that the people really took.
He wrote about a robot and he wrote up robot rules
And today they teach robotics in some very fancy schools.

(CHORUS)
They can sense and they can touch and they recognize our faces.
They can grip and they can point and they can tell us where to go.
Wozniak says machines will one day take our places,
But without some human knowledge what would robots ever know?

When Westinghouse brought it to the ’39 World’s Fair,
The seven-foot Elektro was the first to meet the stares
Of a fascinated public who would never soon forget
How it spoke a bunch of words and it smoked a cigarette.

They can sense and they can touch and they recognize our faces.
They can grip and they can point and they can tell us where to go.
Wozniak says machines will one day take our places,
But without some human knowledge what would robots ever know?

Now some folks say automation is the key
And not for good or service, but to make us absentees
We’ll be pushed out of the work force. We will all be unemployed,
As the robots take our places in the work we once enjoyed.

They can sense and they can touch and they recognize our faces.
They can grip and they can point and they can tell us where to go.
Wozniak says machines will one day take our places,
But without some human knowledge what would robots ever know?

(SECOND CHORUS)
By pneumatics and hydraulics and some nuclear fission,
Using flywheels or cogs and gears or circuits run in loops.
Robots run in lots of ways to take on any mission
And some are even powered by the poop of combat troops.

But it seems these type reactions are a little bit extreme
For while robots do a lot of stuff, they’ve yet to learn to dream
Like the engineers who think them up and build them to perform
In the end we’ll still need humans to create a human-form.

They can sense and they can touch and they recognize our faces.
They can grip and they can point and they can tell us where to go.
Wozniak says machines will one day take our places,
But without some human knowledge what would robots ever know?

By pneumatics and hydraulics and some nuclear fission,
Using flywheels or cogs and gears or circuits run in loops.
Robots run in lots of ways to take on any mission
And some are even powered by the poop of combat troops.

*Isaac Asimov is credited with the first published use of the word “robotics”. I appeared in his 1941 short story, “Liar!” that later became part of his collection of short stories, “I, Robot” (1950). Oxford English Dictionary

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