If you’ve got a memory like an elephant, the old saying goes, then your noggin’s in good shape. Mine, when challenged under the gun, tends to shoot blanks. I’m a research kind of guy, not a living, breathing almanac…. Each week “Loreology” will unravel the mysteries behind something in gaming that I may have known once and completely forgot, or something that I should probably know and cram up into my nearly full brain cavity.
This Week: Metal Heads
You could be fooled, or just plain confused, by an android. Unlike robots, which are more mechanical in nature, androids are machines designed to look like humans. Remember the replicants from Blade Runner? They were never called “androids” in the movie, but the movie was based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Cyborgs are even further removed from androids; they actually wear a little flesh, as they’re part living tissue and part metal.
Now, on the off chance that you were down at the local police station and had to pick out the android amidst a motley mechanized crew, I think I’d ask for a metal detector. Forget what your eyes see. Cyborgs beep half the time, androids probably fall in the middle and robots set off that annoying, constant whine that makes the sound of an unattended boiling kettle seem as blissful as crashing waves.
The term android comes from the Greek “andr,” or “man/male,” and the suffix “eides,” or “of the species.” Back in 1270, Albertus Magnus, a Middle Ages priest famous for critical thought, first used the word. It also appears in 1863 U.S. patents to describe “miniature humanlike toy automatons.”
Star Wars droids are the most famous modern-day examples. The shortened android term makes sense to me–chrome domes like C-3PO come up short in the human likeness department. Ironically, androids show up in Isaac Asimov’s classic I, Robot, and they’ve been the stars of video games, such as Data in any “Next Gen” Trek game or various characters in the Phantasy Star series.
In the 21st century, several Japanese companies have built “real” androids–you know, ones with plastic, computer chips, metal gears, or whatever makes it tick, not just imagination. They say one of the newer androids can fool the unsuspecting, so we’re certainly getting closer to BSG Cylons.