Capek v Asimov

Leonard Drake: Who was the author that first coined the word robot?

Dave Miller: Karel Capek in his play R.U.R. (1921)

Frank Pierce: I've heard that the word is Czech in origin and was coined in the 1930's `midst lots of social consciousness characteristic of the period. I seem to recall the expression "Robotnik". This is not authoritative.

Edward Luhn: That is my understanding as well; "robotnik" means "servant." The word first appeared in the play "R.U.R." which stands for "R----'s Universal Robots" (I don't have the proper name at hand). It was Isaac Asimov, however, who popularized the word in the novel "I, Robot."

Frank Pierce: Asimov may well have popularized it, but I am sure that it was almost a craze in the 1930's in the US pop literature and movies of the period.

Wendy: The debate about whether or not worker machines should replace people is very old. Over 75 years ago, in 1920, a Czech playwright named Karel Capek wrote a play that explored this very issue. The play, called R.U.R: Rossum's Universal Robots, is considered one of the very earliest works of Science Fiction. It is also famous for another reason: it is from this play we get the word "robot," which comes from the Czech word "robota." In the Czech language, robota literally means "forced work or labor." I hope you are happy now!


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