Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots

Curio & Co. looks at classic 1960s toy (as played by Pam-Am stewardesses) Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. Curio and co.

Once robots do all of our cooking and cleaning, the next logical step is to have them do all our fighting too.

In all of our visions of the future, robots don’t make out very well. We force them to run our households (The Jetsons), replace our deceased family members (Astro Boy), and police our cities (THX 1138). And never once do we offer to pay them – no wonder they’re always rising up against us!

One of our favorite pastimes for robots is to have them fight each other. Maybe deep down we believe that only technology is powerful enough to fight all of the technology we’ve created and return us to a peaceful world. Or maybe we just love violence. From Robot Wars to Real Steel, we love to see a full metal TKO. At least all that fighting lets them blow off a little anti-human steam.

Oddly, the most low-tech version of fighting robots is still the best. Knock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots was designed by Marvin Glass and Associates and produced by the Marx toy company in 1966. In the popular toy, the plastic pugilists – Red Rocker and Blue Bomber – duke it out in a bright yellow ring. Their movements are controlled by players using joysticks to punch and jab at their opponents. If you get it just right, a jab to the robot’s chin releases his spring-loaded head – thus “knocking his block off!”

All of this robot fighting hasn’t make humans any less likely to brawl with each other, however. Many a game of Knock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots ended in a real-life tussle, and those robots were known to lose their heads at the hands of a frustrated human and through no fault of their robotic opponent.

The best part of Knock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots is probably that it requires no batteries – and that’s a little jab at the electronic world as a whole. Of course, the toys are probably made by factory robots, so we still haven’t beaten them in the irony department.