Retrofuturist Flashback: Masterslave Hula Hooping


The hydro-mechanical masterslave 'Handyman.' Bettmann/Contributor

Yes, fresh out of the General Electric engineering lab, we see the amazing hydro-mechanical masterslave 'Handyman.'Impressed? You should be, because according to the original photo caption, it "represents mankind's closest approach yet to the metallic monsters of science fiction." Children watch on in horror as it spins a hula hoop.

The human-controlled slave robot here was touted as "the first manipulator to simulate the clutching motion of the human hand," with the intention being that it could handle radioactive objects in the assembly of atomic aircraft -- which, yes, was a popular vision of future aviation during the Cold War.

Robert Lamb is a senior writer and host at HowStuffWorks, where he co-hosts Stuff to Blow Your Mind. An avid science enthusiast, he boasts a deep love for monsters, a hankering for electronic music and an endless fascination for the intersection of myth, history and the natural world. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and son.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.