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1986 film Short Circuit, introduced us to the eclectic AI personality Johnny Five.
Even back in the 80s, the US was envisaging the creation of robot soldiers. Short Circuit reflects this desire. Sometime before the points depicted in the film, a prototype humanoid robot on tank treads was created by Nova Laboratories, a government contractor allegedly based in Damon, Washington.
The prototype apparently met with enough approval that field trials were authorised. That is where we come in. The opening credits depict the stage by stage assembly of prototype number five.
The film takes a standard approach to military projects, with the chief developer, Dr. Newton Crosby, being far more interested in the peaceful uses of the marriage between robotics and AI. An attitude that is not well received on a military-industrial complex.
Tests begin. Before an assembled audience of military brass, the robots, which are essentially humanoid figures with exposed circuitry, atop tank treads, with laser weapons attached to their backs, head off to do battle with abandoned tanks, jeeps, and dummy soldiers. Thel asers cut through the thickest armour, with a single hit taking out even a tank. Needless to say, the demonstration goes over very well indeed.
Rain cuts the demonstration short, and as the brass head for cover, lightning begins to open up. The robots are commanded back to storage. Number 5 does not have enough power to make it all the wauy, so it is hooked to a portable transformer. Lightning strikes the power lines outside the complex, and a surge shoots down the lines, into the transformer, blowing it. The combined electromagnetic blast is absorbed by the robot. A panicked technician checks for damage ? at $11,000,000 each, if its fried, he has lost his job.
Thankfully the robot responds to commands, after a good kick anyway. The tech orders it back to the complex with the others, and number 5 obeys. Once back inside the buildings, robots 1-4 turn right at a bend in the corridor. Number 5 ploughs straight into the wall, then backs off confused.
Feeling its way along the wall, number five finds a way to continue travelling. Sadly, its not the same way as any other robot took, and it finishes up in a loading bay. A forklift, whose operator is not really paying attention, collects the robot whilst trying to scoop up several palettes of barrels. #5 is deposited on a flatbed truck with them, to head out on a delivery.
Some minutes later, #5 has not returned to the lab; the other four have. As searches are frantically carried out, it becomes apparent that the robot has gone missing. Panicked, Dr Crosby, under fire from his superiors, brings up on a control room screen, the remote link to #5. What he gets is ?Wouldn?t you like to be a peeper too?? which makes no sense to him or anyone else there. They assume it?s a malfunction. In reality, #5 is reading it off a fuel station pump.
Wandering off in search of input, #5 eventually crashes through the roof of animal-lover Stephanie Speck. When Stephanie opens the door, timidly expecting a burglar, and ready to whack someone, she finds the robot, craving input, with emergency lights flashing. It looks like an alien landing, and that is what she believes. She tries to teach the ?extra terrestrial? all about Earth, whilst a paniced Nova finally realise the robot is off the base, and deploy armed units to bring it back.
From there on in, the chase is on. Nova, demanding the robot back, the robot, slowly becoming sentient, and electing not to kill, to flee.
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