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A few months before I started kindergarten, my dad was stationed to Germany, and during our time there my aunt traveled from Japan for a visit. She and my mom took a week-long trip to Paris to take in the sights, and they returned with assorted souvenirs for the family, including my first ever tin robot as a gift from my aunt – a Horikawa Rotate-o-Matic Super Astronaut from Japan.


Even as a six-year old, the irony of receiving a Japanese robot as a memento of France wasn’t lost on me, but I was thrilled nonetheless. I inserted 2 D-cell batteries and set it loose on the kitchen floor: the noisy motor spun up, and Super Astronaut took its first steps, its arms swinging in sync with the legs. After a few seconds it stopped, and the doors on its chest opened, revealing two “lasers” that flashed while the torso rotated 360 degrees. After that the doors closed, and Super Astronaut resumed its walk before repeating this cycle again and again. I was mesmerized.


I couldn’t have known at the time that this event would mark the start of my lifelong infatuation with tin robots; I was captivated by their mechanical sophistication and inspiring designs, all for entertainment. But perhaps more than anything, to me they represented an idealistic vision of our future beyond anything I had imagined before.

about the site

I was surprised to discover this domain name’s availability more than twenty years ago, and while I didn’t have any immediate plans, it was too good to pass up. My initial idea was to create a news blog about tin toys, sprinkled with anecdotes and perhaps share some of my personal design projects.


In my everyday life I’m a product designer, and on a personal level I’ve always admired retro futurism – ‘what tomorrow looked like yesterday’ as I like to think of it – and for me vintage tin toy robots embody this quality better than anything else. Two decades ago, I fiddled with the idea of evolving the wonderful legacy of the original robot designs – imagining what they might look like beyond what was produced back in the day – so I drew up a few.


Fast forwarding twenty years I decided to give it another go. But while doing the research this time, I was struck with a more profound appreciation of the craft and innovation of the original designs, so I dedicated myself to start out by reproducing a selection of the vintage creations in their original glory. I still do hope to riff on the originals in subsequent designs with my own mashups in the future, but in hindsight I’m glad I started with the OG robots.


Researching this topic has opened my eyes to the community of like-minded tin robot afficionados out there, and I’m eager to learn and share more as I evolve this project. My original aspirations for the site have held true – a place to share general information about the history and craft of tin robots and science fiction tin toys an an art form, AND a place to share some of my original work inspired by their designs. At this point the site is still quite small, but I feel I’ve captured the essence of what I want it to be about. But that may change as well – to quote a famous malapropism from Ringo Starr: “tomorrow never knows.”


Mom and Aunt Sue in Paris. I’m pretty sure my first tin robot is in one of those bags.