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Fred
Topo
Topo II
Topo III
B.O.B.
BOB/XA

Androbot

Pictured is Nolan Bushnell with Topo, Androman, Fred and B.O.B.

Robots Offered: Autonomous personal robots

Topo

Topo 2

Topo 3

B.O.B.

Bob - XA

Androman

Fred

The History of Androbot
Pieced together by Rick Rowland

	In the fall of 1981 a group of ex-Atari engineers came up with the idea
of a robot company. The group was lead by Walter Hammeken and included Jack
Larson.
	The company started sometime early in 1982 by Nolan Bushnell. This is
the same person who had sold Atari and brought us Chuckie Cheese Pizza Time
Theaters. Androbot was part of Catalyst Technologies, a group of companies
that were looking to be another Atari success. Nolan wanted a real friendly 
robot, Hammeken left because he was interested in industrial robots. Tom
Frisina came on as the company president with a strong background in consumer
electronics.
	January 1983 at CES I saw B.O.B. and I wanted one.  By March of 1983
they were ready to show the world. By this time over 1 million dollars had
been invested in Androbot. Other competing companies were Heathkit with HERO
and RB Robot Corp with RB5X (the only one still in business).  No one had
the promised power and looks of Androbot! New York cities Macy's was already
taking orders for TOPO. Predictions were that by 1990 the Personal Robot
would be a $2 billion a year industry. Some Androbot engineers doubted they
could create such a product in six years.

    In May of '83 TOPOs were shipped and may were dead on arrival and then
some developed problems. A local computer store here in Las Vegas purchased
one and could not sell it. I bought it for pennies on the dollars. BOB was
to go into production in April of 1984 and by September he should have been
coming off the assembly line by the thousands or so we were told. At this
time everyone was excited about Home Robots, but no one knew what to do with
them. Even Frank Jones, Androbot engineer, asked "do the people want it?"
Some wanted electronic pets, other wanted servants, some wanted security,
but in the end no one wanted them at all except for schools. Our local
school district had two, but today they are lost. Nolan Bushnell states "Can
anyone really envision the year 2000 without robots running around the
home?"

    In July of 1983 Androbot was to go public. Shares would be $12 for a
company that had only sold about $45,000. That would be about 4 dozen TOPOs,
since FREDs were never sold and B.O.B was not out yet. TOPOs price was
$795.00 and Fred was to sell for $295.00 B.O.B was going to sell for
$2500.00. Merrill Lynch was to make this happen the first week of August.

    Due to the softening of Electronic stocks it never came about. At this
time Androbot had 105 employees. By the end of '83 bad pizza had taken its
toll on Chuckie Cheese and I agree that is why I did not go back! A massive
layoff at Androbot came about and most of the other Catalyst companies were 
in the dumps. 

    January 84 most of the founders of Androbot were gone, FRED never left
the lab and Androman was sold to Atari for 1 million and then that deal fell
apart. Non working, prototypes or incomplete TOPOs were sold to hobbyist for
$125.00.

    Well April of 84 came and BOB was due on the market. His price was to be
$2495 with three 8086 microprocessors and three meg of memory. The first
option was to be the Androwagon for $95.00. Well TOPO I was sold for six
months and about 1000 were sold. Later in 1984 TOPO II came out and the
price was to be $1595.00. The new TOPO was more than a radio controlled
body. It could talk and was expandable. It appears that only a couple of
hundred were sold. A TOPO III was apparently made, but I have only seen
pictures.

    Androbot finally died a silent death and with it the hope of the Home
Personal Robot, maybe! 

 


 

 

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