Christie's putting 1950s vintage Cygan robot under the hammer
By David Szondy
May 20, 2013
Most modern robots look nothing like those predicted by 1950's era science fiction. But if you’re in the market for a retro-style robot with world-domination-worthy looks you might want to dust off your auction paddle. Christie’s auction house is putting the vintage robot Cygan on the block as part of its Out of the Ordinary sale on September 5.
Cygan or Gygan (the name got mixed up in the press and never unmixed) is one of 150 lots of unusual items up for bid at the Christie's event. The robot, which was built in 1957 by Dr. Ing Fiorito, “an enthusiastic aeromodeller” from Turin, Italy, measures an imposing eight feet (2.4 m) tall and weighs over 1,000 pounds (453 kg).
It runs (or ran) for up to 4.5 hours on a 28-Volt battery and its original mechanism included 170 radio valves and at least 20 relays. In its prime it could move at 10 feet (3 m) per minute forwards or backwards, as well as turn, lift and carry items. It also sports rather frightening looking claws for hands that could crush tin cans on command.
Some magazine reports from the 1960s claim that Cygan could respond to voice commands, though newsreels of the time relate the more plausible explanation that Cygan was controlled by an operator using a radio remote control and a television camera mounted in the robot’s torso. The newsreels also reveal that Cygan wasn't a bad dancer.
Cygan was on exhibition from the late 1950s into the ‘70s and has changed hands several times since then. It's been bouncing around between owners over the years and is looking the worse for wear, so it may be a bit of a fixer upper.
Christie's puts the estimated value of Cygan at between £6,000 and £8,000 (about US$9,100 to US$12,200). Cygan can be seen in action in this video.
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