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The first digital/programmable robot was called the Unimate and was sold to General Motors at a $35,000 loss the same year its patent was approved. The Unimate was filed for a patent by George Devol in 1954 (granted 1961). US Patent 2,988,237).

The car was located at the GM plant in Ewing, New Jersey. The automaker used a 2,700-pound Unimate to extract injection moldings and weld them to car bodies. It was a dangerous task for the workers, who could be poisoned by poisonous fumes or lose limbs if they weren’t careful.

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The original Unimate consisted of two large connected boxes and a hand that stored systematic tasks in memory. It wasn’t long before Chrysler, Ford and other manufacturers were looking for their own Unimates, and hundreds of robotic arms were soon in use.

By 1966, Unimate had begun full-scale production at the Unimation plant in Connecticut, and that same year, viewers from all over the world on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show watched him pour beer and play golf. In popular culture, DC Comics character Alan von Neumann, Jr. has created fictional robots called the Unimate.