Sometimes you stumble across a piece of history that is too good not to follow up on. Sparko, the robot dog, is one such piece of history. Prepared for the World's Fair in 1939, he got out of his pen, chased a car, and was killed. No fooling.
Androids may dream of electronic sheep, but people have dreamed, for decades, of electronic dogs. Robots, a threatening concept, became much less frightening when put in the form of man's best friend. This relationship turned out quite satisfying for people - as well it might, since people engineered it that way. The dogs didn't fare quite so well. One of the most tragic cases was Sparko, the electronic dog. Sparko was a litter of three Sparkos, inspired by Philidog, a French robot exhibited at the 1929 International Radio Exhibition in Paris. Philidog would follow a specific light obediently, and when it got too close to the glow, would stop and begin to bark. A decade later, the Sparkos were meant to upstage the French.
All the Sparkos were modelled on Scottish Terriers and meant to be shown off with their master, a smoking robot, at the 1939 World's Fair. They were supposed to follow any light, and chase after visitors playfully. The last Sparko was lost in 1957. The fate of one remains a mystery. But the first to perish died tragically before the Fair even began, when a careless worker left the door to its storage area open. According to sources at the time, a car passed the door. Immediately, the dog saw its headlights. Off it went. Apparently it, 'rushed headlong towards it and was run over, despite the efforts of the driver to avoid it.'
Of course the saddest casualty of that day is Sparko. But let us not forget the poor driver, who got a terrible vision of the future when, on a perfectly ordinary night, a robot dog rushed barking towards his car, chasing after him when he swerved, and generally doing its best to let him know the robot uprising had occurred, and the robots had set their dogs on us first.
Image: Mostly Forbidden Zone