Unimate, The Story of George Devol and the First Robotic ArmThe

Mardi 24 nov 2015

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Technology

Unimate: The Story of George Devol and the First Robotic Arm

For 50 years now, George Devol’s invention has been speeding up production lines at manufacturing plants from New Jersey to Japan

Rebecca J. Rosen

Aug 16, 2011

For 50 years, George Devol’s invention has been speeding up production lines at manufacturing plants around the worldLast week, at his home in Wilton, Connecticut, George Devol, the inventor of the first industrial robotic arm passed away.Devol’s invention has reshaped production lines around the world. Famously first embraced by the Japanese, robotic arms are now hard at work in the production of everything from cars to pancakes.Devol received his patent for « Programmed Article Transfer » in 1961. The patent begins:The present invention relates to the automatic operation of machinery, particularly the handling apparatus, and to automatic control apparatus suited for such machinery.

The first robotic arm was installed at the General Motors plant in Ewing Township, New Jersey, lifting and stacking hot metal parts. The arm weighed 4,000 pounds and cost $25,000. Today, one of the early models is housed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, though it is not currently on display.The Ewing Township plant closed permanently in 1998. In 2010, the Motors Liquidation Company (« Old GM ») agreed to provide $10.5 million to clean up the site.Kasia Cieplak-Mary von Baldegg has up on the Video channel a clip of Unimation Inc.’s president, Joseph Engelberger, demonstrating the robotic arm on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1966.Image: United States Patent and Trademark Office.

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About the Author

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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Nonviolence as Compliance

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Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:

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The Bullish Charisma of John Kasich

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The document, obtained by The Washington Post, features the alleged testimony of an anonymous prisoner, who rode in the police transit van with Gray for the final five minutes of his half-hour ride. According to the document, the prisoner said Gray « was intentionally trying to injure himself » by « banging against the walls. »

As David Graham noted last week, the circumstances of Gray’s death are unknown and mysterious; he died in police custody a week after he sustaining a spinal cord injury, either during his arrest or during his ride in the police van, after which he was found unconscious. While the police document offers a possible glimpse into what might have happened, it also raises more questions than it answers.

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The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates at Johns Hopkins University

The Editors

Editor’s Note: This event has now concluded. The full video recording of the event can now be viewed below.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a native of Baltimore and a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. His 2014 essay, « The Case for Reparations, » on the history of race and inequality in America, received the George Polk Award for Commentary.

In recent months, he has written extensively on policing and criminal justice. His essays have explored the roles of violence and non-violence in producing social change, presented the police as an extension of civil society, and exposed the inability of policing to solve broader social problems. Earlier this week, he wrote about events in Baltimore.

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Some psychology research in recent years is making an old aphorism look like an incomplete thought: Clothes make the man… Yes? Go on?

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And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.
— Deuteronomy 15: 12–15

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Political observers have long puzzled over who would challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. As it turns out, the first person to step up isn’t even a Democrat.

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