This Day in History – February 11th, 1938

R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play in the Czech language by Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rosumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots). However, the English phrase Rossum’s Universal Robots had been used as the subtitle in the Czech original. It premiered on January 25th, 1921 and introduced the word “robot” to the English language and to science fiction as a whole.

Capek_play

R.U.R. quickly became famous and was influential early in the history of its publication. By 1923, it had been translated into thirty languages.

Capek_RURThe play begins in a factory that makes artificial people, called roboti (robots), out of synthetic organic matter. They are not exactly robots by the current definition of the term; these creatures are closer to the modern idea of cyborgs, androids or even clones, as they may be mistaken for humans and can think for themselves. They seem happy to work for humans at first, but that changes, and a hostile robot rebellion leads to the extinction of the human race. Čapek later took a different approach to the same theme in War with the Newts, in which non-humans become a servant class in human society.

R.U.R is dark but not without hope, and was successful in its day in both Europe and the United States.

On February 11th, 1938, a thirty-five minute adaptation of a section of the play was broadcast on BBC Television – the first piece of television science-fiction ever to be broadcast.

Flourish 3

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