Friends, I truly cannot express in words the joy I get at seeing a preserved newsreel such as this 1958 British Pathe offering, introducing Gygan the Robot. Naturally thanks to Star Wars in ’77 as well as other science fiction entertainment of my youth, a personal robot is something I have always dreamed of. Having said that however as this newsreel on Gygan proves – the hopes of owning a robotic friend is not something that began with those of us that caught George Lucas’ space opera 43 years ago.
Gygan is know by a few different monikers it would seem – including Gentle Giant as well as Mister Moto, and Cygan – all depending on where you were first introduced to him. Thanks to a smashing site called the Cybernetic Zoo and this 1958 British Pathe newsreel, we know the robot’s creator is Piero Fiorito. While hailing from Turn, it is said he began building three different stages of robotic companions on a bet. Oh, I should also add that in addition he did all of this from not a laboratory but his garage. While it is certainly true that Piero’s creation is an impressive bit of robotics, most of the construction involved Mecanno parts. Which were a model construction kit system that were produced by Frank Hornby, from Liverpool in the United Kingdom, all the way back in 1898.
Gygan was brought to life with the aid of a 28-volt battery, 13 electric motors, 170 valves, and over 300,000 parts. I must assume of course this is referring to the bolts and wheels from the Meccano kits. The Robot itself could walk, talk, and additionally accept verbal commands and acknowledge certain light rays. If what the Cybernetic Zoo says is correct and it does have quite a few magazine articles and photographs to back up the claims. Gygan itself towered over other early robotic creations at over eight feet tall, not to mention it weighed over a 1,000 pounds. Not to get all dour but while Piero saw a future where his creation might be used to handle radioactive materials – rather than fulfilling the noble dreams of it’s creator it appears that the robot instead found more use in advertising – eventually finding itself rusting at an old aircraft museum.
In spite of this downward turn of events there is a silver lining for the robot as about five years ago he turned up at an auction, where he sold for a total of 17 thousand pounds. Perhaps his new owner will help restore him to his past glory – for now though why not enjoy seeing Gygan in his prime?