Jim Henson's 1963 Muppet Computer

(video link)

Meet computer H14, a Jim Henson creation from 1963. The film was commissioned by AT&T to be shown at a corporate get-together, to spread the word that the company's new computer systems that actually communicated with each other were the wave of the future, and nothing to be frightened about.

The Muppet was funny in that unmistakably Henson way — equipped with exhaust pipes and a flashing red light and some sort of rotating mechanical arm reminiscent of a railroad crossing — and it had already worked the seminar circuit, appearing at shows in Germany for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Information Agency, the government organization that once spread U.S. propaganda overseas. Plus, Jim Henson understood the task at hand.

Henson and his partner Jerry Juhl “were certainly intrigued by technology and the development of computers,” says Falk. “But they also felt very strongly about the difference between man and machines. There was a celebration of technology, but also a recognition about its lack of human qualities, like understanding and creativity.” Henson gives H14 the superhuman ability to digest “vast oceans of information,” but it still needs humans to wind him up — and repair him when he explodes into tiny pieces.

Read the entire story, and see a second video featuring H14 interacting with a computer repairman at Wired. -via Digg

Previously: Cookie Monster's 1967 debut as The Computer Monster.


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