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“Robots of the world! The power of man has fallen! A new world has arisen: the Rule of the Robots!” — Karel Čapek
Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots), a once-popular 100-year old play by Czech writer Karel Čapek, made its television debut on the BBC, 82 years ago today, on February 11, 1938. It was the first televised science-fiction program in world history, introducing a wider audience to the term in the play’s title, one which has endured with increasing significance in the English language ever since: “robot.”
Čapek’s play was first performed in Prague in January of 1921, and was subsequently translated into English, having fairly successful runs in London and New York over the next few years. I haven’t read it myself, but a DePauw University plot summary is as follows: