Unearthed robot film shows genius of Muppets' Henson

AT&T recently unearthed a short commercial film commissioned from Muppets master Jim Henson nearly 50 years ago. In it, a robot named "Computer H14" shows us who's boss.

Do machines have a soul? You'll find out when you watch the film below. Video screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

The recent Muppets movie no doubt brought Jim Henson back into the minds of many, and a just-unearthed commercial film he did for The Bell System nearly 50 years ago gives a hilarious glimpse of his earlier days--and of the youthful years of computing.

Discovered in AT&T's archives and posted this week to the company's ATTTechChannel section on YouTube, the 1963 short, "Robot," addresses the anxiety felt by humans in regard to machines and computers.

The film was "made for an elite seminar given for business owners, on the then-brand-new topic--Data Communications," AT&T explains on the YouTube page. And the company continues:

"The organizers of the seminar, Inpro, actually set the tone for the film in a three-page memo from one of Inpro's principals, Ted Mills, to Henson. Mills outlined the nascent, but growing relationship between man and machine: a relationship not without tension and resentment...."

Displaying his mastery of slapstick, comic timing, and sound effects, Henson uses his humorously menacing star, "Computer H14," to reassure viewers that they need not be alarmed: humans remain in control.

We wonder what the iPhone's Siri would make of that.

 

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