Monday, January 25

1979: Good year for Sonics, bad year for robot-related deaths

For most of us here at Supersonicsoul, 1979 will always be remembered for one thing: the year the greatest basketball team of all-time won Seattle's first championship.

For those with robot-phobia, however, this date back in 1979 marks a far different kind of anniversary:

January 25, 1979: A 25-year-old Ford Motor assembly line worker is killed on the job in a Flint, Michigan, casting plant. It’s the first recorded human death by robot.

Robert Williams’ death came on the 58th anniversary of the premiere of Karel Capek’s play about Rossum’s Universal Robots. R.U.R gave the world the first use of the word robot to describe an artificial person. Capek invented the term, basing it on the Czech word for “forced labor.” (Robot entered the English language in 1923.)

Williams died instantly in 1979 when the robot’s arm slammed him as he was gathering parts in a storage facility, where the robot also retrieved parts. Williams’ family was later awarded $10 million in damages. The jury agreed the robot struck him in the head because of a lack of safety measures, including one that would sound an alarm if the robot was near.

So the next time you're watching those '79 highlight reels, be sure to raise a glass to the first victim of the Robot Apocalypse.


ryan said...

If I'm not mistaken, that robot later married media heiress Louise Gaylord.

Anonymous said...

The Cylons were killing quite a few humans in 1979 as well.

Anonymous said...

I came across something I got in middle school for making a half court shot during an assembly hosted by a couple of Sonics players - a basketball autographed by the entire 1979 roster, including Wilkens and Walker. Every time I look at it I wonder if it's valuable.