February 23, 2009

Capek is why Data exists

We all know Roddenberry isn't the inventor of robots, nor Asimov.  But who is you may ask?  My friend the other night informed me that we should all be thanking Karel Capek for robots, or at least for the term.  

Capek was writing science fiction before it was an official genre, including themes like alien slavery, mass production, and atomic weapons.  He dealt with a lot of social ideas, which was probably partly due to the fact he was living in Austria-Hungry/Czechoslovakia in the early 20th century.  He also gets extra points for writing anti-nazi plays before it was cool.

So how did he invent the word robot?  Well Capek was writing this play about mechanical men that were built for service
 reasons initially, but before the play even gets to the final act they end up killing all the humans and taking over the world.  The question was what to call these things?  Capek credits his brother for thinking of the word robot, which is derived from the word robota in Czech, Slovak and Polish.  Robota literally means "serf labor".  

So how does this play, titled Rossum's Universal Robots or R.U.R., end?  I'm not giving away the ending here, you greedy readers!  You'll just have to read the play yourself.

Or look it up on wikipedia.


  1. If he was living in the early 30th century, then surely he went back in time to deliver this information to others. It would have been more like science history than science fiction.