Standing a commanding 19” tall, Robot Commando remains one of Ideal Toy Company’s most memorable toys. Released in 1961, the robot was designed by Marvin Glass & Associates and was marketed as, “the only robot that responds to commands,” and, a “one-man army.” He was made of high-impact multi-coloured plastic and ran on three D-sized batteries installed in his base.
Child commanders interacted with Robot Commando using a hand-held microphone controller that was attached to the back of the toy with a control wire. The controller provided access to the robot’s full arsenal of features, including rolling forward, turning left or right, hurling red missiles from each of his arms, and firing an atomic rocket from a spring-loaded launcher in his head. As an added bonus, his bulging eyes rotated when the toy was in motion.
Robot Commando’s patent explains the one-two design punch that made the toy appear to be voice-controlled. The designers embedded a Bowden cable inside the remote control. Twisting and moving the knob on the controller generated enough mechanical force to engage gears inside the robot. At the same time, the air pressure created by speaking a command, like “Fire Missile” would activate a metal contact that engaged the battery to power the motors.
If Robot Commando’s inner workings sound complicated, it is because they were! Under the hood were two separate motors – one that controlled movement and another for the toy’s missile-firing arms and rocket-firing head. Historical accounts suggest that the toy robot required more than 15 design modifications and presented its designers with over 6,000 mechanical and engineering problems that needed to be solved before he could be brought to market.
Robot Commando’s size and complexity continue to make it a highly-valued, fan-favorite in the world of collectible robots.
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