Monday, August 27, 2012

Robot Hall of Fame 2012 endorsements

If the news media can endorse political candidates, I figure I should be able to endorse my picks for induction into the Robot Hall of Fame.
This year, the public is able to vote from a list of nominees in four categories.
Here are my selections for the 2012 inductees to the robot shrine.
In the industrial and service category, I picked iRobot’s PackBot military robot. The other nominees are cool, but the PackBot has saved the lives of countless U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The PackBot has been a workhorse, disposing of road-side bombs and conducting reconnaissance missions. It has paved the way for future, more capable robots to be used by soldiers and police forces.
In the education and consumer category, I chose VEX Robotics Design System, a kit for designing and building robots for schools and competitions, including the FIRST Tech Challenge. It’s had a big impact on the lives of many future engineers.
In the research category, I selected BigDog, a four-legged robot the size of a small mule developed by Boston Dynamics for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Anybody who’s seen the YouTube videos of this robot in action is sure to be amazed.
And finally in the entertainment category, I picked WALL-E from the 2008 Disney Pixar movie about a lovable waste-collecting robot who finds love. WALL-E is going to have some stiff competition from Rosie the robot maid from the “The Jetsons” however.

Photo: iRobot’s PackBot in action.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Comprehensive list of post-apocalyptic movies

While researching post-apocalyptic movies, I couldn’t find a comprehensive list online of the major motion pictures on the theme.
Many lists included movies showing dystopian futures or an approaching apocalypse. I wanted a clean list. I wanted a list of movies that showed the aftermath of the apocalypse and people trying to survive.
Compiling such a list is subjective. For instance, my list includes “Terminator Salvation” (2009), but not the other movies from the “Terminator” series, which take place before the apocalypse. The same thing goes for the “Mad Max” and “Planet of the Apes” series. Also, while some movies on this list deal primarily with apocalyptic events, they do provide at least a glimpse of the world after such tragedies. Plus, I left off a number of crappy super low-budget movies.
For the movies I haven’t seen, I used plot synopses on IMDb and Wikipedia.
So, without further ado, here’s my list of major motion pictures that depict life on Earth after nuclear war, plagues, alien invasion, climate change or other devastation.

Updated Jan. 1, 2018.

1951   Five
1952   Captive Women  (also known as “1000 Years From Now” and “3000 A.D.”)
1953   The War of the Worlds
1955   Day the World Ended
1956   World Without End
1959   On the Beach
1959   The World, the Flesh and the Devil
1960   Beyond the Time Barrier
1960   Last Woman on Earth
1960   The Time Machine
1961   The Day the Earth Caught Fire
1962   Panic in Year Zero!
1963   The Day of the Triffids
1964   The Earth Dies Screaming
1964   Last Man on Earth
1964   The Time Travelers
1966   The End of August at the Hotel Ozone
1968   Planet of the Apes
1969   The Seed of Man
1970   Beneath the Planet of the Apes
1970   No Blade of Grass
1971   Glen and Randa
1971   Omega Man
1973   Battle for the Planet of the Apes
1973   Idaho Transfer
1974   Zardoz
1975   A Boy and His Dog
1975   The Noah
1975   The Ultimate Warrior
1977   Damnation Alley
1978   Dawn of the Dead
1978   Deathsport
1978   Invasion of the Body Snatchers
1979   Quintet
1979   Ravagers
1980   Day of Resurrection
1981   The Road Warrior
1982   The Aftermath
1982   She
1983   2019: After the Fall of New York
1983   The Day After
1983   Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle)
1983   Stryker
1983   Testament
1984   Night of the Comet
1984   Warriors of the Wasteland (a.k.a. The New Barbarians)
1985   City Limits
1985   Day of the Dead
1985   Def-Con 4
1985   Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
1985   The Quiet Earth
1985   Warrior of the Lost World
1986   Radioactive Dreams
1987   Cherry 2000
1987   Creepozoids
1987   Hell Comes to Frogtown
1987   Steel Dawn
1988   World Gone Wild
1989   The Blood of Heroes 
1989   Cyborg
1989   Slipstream
1990   Hardware
1990   Robot Jox
1991   Delicatessen
1991   The Rapture
1993   Body Snatchers
1994   American Cyborg: Steel Warrior
1995   The Postman
1995   Tank Girl
1995   Twelve Monkeys
1995   Waterworld
1998   Six-String Samurai
1999   The Matrix
2000   Battlefield Earth
2001   Ever Since the World Ended
2002   Reign of Fire
2002   The Time Machine
2003   The Matrix Reloaded
2003   The Matrix Revolutions
2003   Time of the Wolf
2004   Dawn of the Dead
2004   The Day After Tomorrow
2004   Resident Evil: Apocalypse
2005   Land of the Dead
2005   War of the Worlds
2007   I Am Legend
2007   Resident Evil: Extinction
2008   Blindness
2008   City of Ember
2008   Day of the Dead
2008   The Happening
2008   Wall-E
2009   Carriers
2009   The Road
2009   Survival of the Dead
2009   Terminator Salvation
2009   Zombieland
2010   Book of Eli
2010   Daybreakers
2010   Resident Evil: Afterlife
2010   Skyline
2010   Stake Land
2010   Vanishing on 7th Street
2011   The Darkest Hour
2011   The Divide
2011   Hell
2011   Priest
2012   The Day
2012   Resident Evil: Retribution
2013   The Colony
2013   Oblivion
2013   Rapture-Palooza
2013   This Is the End
2013   Warm Bodies
2013   World War Z
2013   Goodbye World
2014   The Rover
2014   Snowpiercer
2014   Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
2014   Left Behind
2014   The Maze Runner
2014   The Remaining
2014   The Last Days
2014   The Last Survivors
2014   Plague
2015   Mad Max: Fury Road
2015   Extinction
2015   Air
2015   Z for Zachariah
2015   Turbo Kid
2015   Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
2015   Attack on Titan: Part 1
2015   Attack on Titan: Part 2
2015   Re-Kill
2015   Embers
2015   Jackrabbit
2015   Robot Overlords
2016   The 5th Wave
2016   10 Cloverfield Lane
2016   Pandemic
2016   Into the Forest
2017   Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
2017   The Girl with All the Gifts
2017   Bokeh
2017   Here Alone
2017   War for the Planet of the Apes
2017   It Comes at Night
2017   The Bad Batch
2017   The Survivalist
2017   2307: Winter’s Dream
2017   Beyond Skyline

Let me know if you think I should make some additions or deletions.

Dec. 15, 2013, update:

I’ve probably doubled the number of movies on this list since I originally posted this article.
I found a lot of post-apocalyptic movies that I wasn’t familiar with by reviewing lists on IMDb. However, these user lists included many movies I wouldn’t classify as post-apocalyptic or were terrible low-budget movies that never received much distribution or recognition.
The IMDb lists I found most helpful were by Marco Mancosu of PostApocalypticA , Justin Ulmer and MixerBOS.
Those IMDb lists were criticized in their comments sections for including too many movies that were not post-apocalyptic in nature. They were muddied with sci-fi movies about dystopian futures and a lot of lousy made-for-TV or direct-to-video movies.
My list includes only theatrical movies that were significant enough to merit a Wikipedia entry and be reviewed on Rotten Tomatoes.
My definition of an apocalyptic event is one that causes mass deaths and affects the whole world.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

List of post-apocalyptic TV shows

As a follow-up to my article on the current trend toward post-apocalyptic TV dramas, here’s a list of such shows to date.
It’s interesting to note that we could have had three end-of-the-world TV dramas running at the same time in the U.S. in 2012 if NBC had gone ahead and aired “Day One.” That show was supposed to premiere in 2009-10, but NBC changed its mind and canned it instead.
My provocative headline – “Post-apocalyptic TV dramas proliferating. Part of Obama’s legacy?” – caught the attention of one reader who wrote a lengthy defense of President Barack Obama in the comments section. I’m not sure the rise of post-apocalyptic TV dramas has anything to do with Obama’s presidency, but the mood of the general public seems pretty downbeat.
The reader, RSM, makes the point that the television movie “The Day After” ran during the Reagan years.
But since Obama took office, five post-apocalyptic TV series have premiered (as of August 2012). During the two terms of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, two premiered in the U.S.

List of post-apocalyptic TV shows

Jan. 21, 2018, editor's note: For a current list of post-apocalyptic TV series, including those that premiered after 2012, check out this updated article: Comprehensive list of post-apocalyptic TV shows.

Planet of the Apes (CBS, 1974)
Survivors (BBC, U.K.; 1975-77)
Ark II (CBS, 1976)
Logan’s Run (CBS, 1977-78)
The Tripods (BBC, U.K.; 1984-85)
War of the Worlds (Syndicated, Canada; 1988-1990)
Woops! (Fox; 1992)
The Last Train (ITV, U.K.; 1999)
Thunderstone (Network Ten, Australia; 1999-2000)
The Tribe (Channel 5, U.K.; 1999-2003)
Dark Angel (Fox; 2000-02)
Jeremiah (Showtime; 2002-04)
Jericho (CBS; 2006-08)
Maddigan’s Quest (TV2, New Zealand; 2006)
Survivors (BBC, U.K.; 2008-10)
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox; 2008-09)
Dollhouse (Fox; 2009-10)
The Walking Dead (AMC; 2010-present)
Falling Skies (TNT; 2011-2015)
Revolution (NBC; 2012-2014)

Photo: DVD cover for “Jericho.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Post-apocalyptic TV dramas proliferating. Part of Obama’s legacy?

What does it say about our society and our political mood when post-apocalyptic TV dramas are all the rage?
This fall there will be three television dramas airing that take place in a world gone to hell. NBC has “Revolution,” set after the world loses all electrical power. TNT has “Falling Skies,” set after an alien invasion has devastated the planet. And AMC has “The Walking Dead,” which takes place after a zombie apocalypse.
Before these three programs there hasn’t been a mainstream TV drama set in a post-apocalyptic world since CBS aired “Jericho” (2006-08).
Art often reflects our fears.
For instance, during the Cold War, there were a lot of movies about nuclear annihilation or the threat of it.
Times aren’t so great now. We’re in a sluggish economy, with U.S. unemployment stuck above 8%, and are worried about Europe’s financial woes causing problems for the rest of the world. Plus, the U.S. has a government than can’t get anything done.
Then there are ever-present worries about terrorism, wars, global warming, flu pandemics and other threats.
It’s no wonder that the entertainment industry has such a bleak world view.
It’s interesting that we’ve moved from entertainment about the coming end of the world to dealing with the aftermath.
Just a few years back, Hollywood seemed to be making a lot of movies about the coming apocalypse or the world under attack. Those movies include “Independence Day,” “Deep Impact,” “Armageddon” and “2012.”
Now popular entertainment has shifted more to entertainment that focuses on what happens to the survivors of doomsday scenarios. Maybe Hollywood thinks that our prospects are so bleak that apocalypse is a done deal, so let’s focus on what happens to the unlucky few who survive.
In addition to the three television series, there are two current Web series dealing with life in post-apocalyptic settings. They are Tom Hanks’ animated series “Electric City” for Yahoo and Bryan Singer’s “H+” for Google’s YouTube.
“Electric City” takes place in a future where electricity is a scarce resource. “H+” is set in a future where people have technology embedded in their brains, but a computer virus in the system kills a third of the population.
I could count Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time” as a fourth current TV series set in with a post-apocalyptic world. But that’s not the focus of the show.
Does the proliferation of TV dramas portraying a world gone to hell say something about the political climate today? Is it a reflection on the presidency of Barack Obama? Does it symbolize the nation’s pessimism?
I’m no sociologist, but I’d say there’s probably something there.

Photos: Promo for “The Walking Dead” season 3 (top), banner ad for “Falling Skies” season two, and still photo from “Revolution.”

Related articles:

“Post-apocalyptic TV is everywhere” (CNN; June 15, 2012) (Website no longer active.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Minecraft success shows missed opportunity for Lego

Lately my kids have been hooked on the video game Minecraft. They play it for hours on our family PC and iPad tablet.
Minecraft lets players create their own worlds using building blocks in a range of materials. At night, monsters come out and you can either fight them or hide in your shelter.
In April, Minecraft was awarded game of the year for 2011 by the National Academy of Video Game Testers and Reviewers.
Minecraft is like playing Legos in a virtual world. It’s a game that Lego should have developed. But Lego has focused its video games on licensed properties with mini-figures and stories based on hit movies like the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” series.
Minecraft publisher Mojang submitted the concept of merchandise to Lego late last year and based on user support got a Lego product approved. It started selling a Lego Minecraft set in June. The $34.99 product is currently listed as sold out on Lego’s website. Entrepreneurs are selling the set on eBay and Amazon for twice that price.
Lego and Minecraft are a perfect match. When my kids aren’t playing the computer game, they’re building things with their Legos, including Minecraft scenes.
Privately held Lego Group, headquartered in Billund, Denmark, should buy Mojang, which is based in Stockholm, Sweden.
If Mojang is even for sale, that is.

Photos: Minecraft video game (top) and Lego Minecraft set.

Related stories:

An ‘Educational’ Video Game Has Taken Over My House (Slate; Aug. 6, 2012)

Lego releases the Minecraft set you’ve been waiting for (Yahoo Y! Tech; June 6, 2012)

Lego Minecraft Set is Available Right Now, Go Buy It (Geekosystem; June 6, 2012)

Mojang Working With Lego to Make Official Lego Minecraft Sets (Geekosystem; Dec. 5, 2011)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

NBC’s fall TV schedule looks terrible, except for ‘Revolution’

NBC is using the Summer Olympics to promote its fall TV lineup. And by promote, I mean shove down our throats.
With the exception of “Revolution,” NBC’s fall schedule looks like a train wreck of epic proportions.
Ads for supposed comedies like Matthew Perry’s “Go On,” “The New Normal” and “Guys with Kids” are painfully unfunny. The C-list celebrity reality show “Stars Earn Stripes” looks funnier.
The best thing about NBC’s sitcom “Animal Practice” is the featured monkey. But thanks to some ill-timed words from Olympics host Bob Costas that monkey is now seen as a racial insult to gymnast Gabby Douglas.
Then there’s the hunky firefighter drama “Chicago Fire,” which looks like a boring rehash of shows past.
Only “Revolution” captures my interest.
Premiering Sept. 17, “Revolution” takes place 15 years after all electric devices mysteriously stop working. I’m intrigued about what that world, plunged back into the dark ages, would look like.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pole dancing in the Olympics? It could happen

Pole dancing and sheep shearing are among the many sports that have been proposed for the Summer Olympics.
Pole dancing would be a fine addition to the games. It’s edgy and takes strength and grace to pull off. And it’s starting to shed its unseemly, strip-club image as more women take to pole sports for fitness. (See articles by CBS News and Suite101.)
But old images are hard to shake. The Huffington Post Comedy website added pole dancing to a list called “Summer Olympics: 16 ‘Sports’ That Should Be Included But Aren’t.” Others on the list include competitive eating and beer pong.
As for sheep shearing, it’s been proposed for the Olympics by the Federated Farmers of New Zealand, according to the BBC. I think that one should stay on the farm.

Photo: 2011 U.S. Pole Dance Champion Natasha Wang.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Time to dump basketball, soccer and tennis from the summer Olympics

It probably won’t happen, but the International Olympic Committee should drop basketball, soccer and tennis from the summer games.
The best athletes in men’s basketball and soccer and men’s and women’s tennis are already richly rewarded from professional leagues. Olympic competitions for those sports are unnecessary.
The best players in basketball gravitate to the National Basketball Association in the U.S. The NBA championship is the top accolade in that sport. Does LeBron James really need a gold medal to go along with his championship ring? I think not.
And the lopsided U.S. victories at the Olympics are an embarrassment.
In fairness, women’s basketball would have to be dropped from the Olympics as well. Women have the WNBA in the U.S., but the league is struggling.
In soccer (a.k.a. football outside the U.S.), the FIFA World Cup determines the best national team in the world. End of story. There are World Cup championships for men’s and women’s teams.
Tennis has an established professional circuit. There’s no need to have it at the Olympics.
It isn’t unheard of for the Olympics to drop high-profile sports. The Olympic committee nixed baseball and softball starting with the 2012 games.
The 2012 London games include 26 categories of sports.
The games wouldn’t be such a financial burden on the host cities if they cut back on some of the venues and sports.
If I were in charge, I’d scrap the equestrian events as well. That’s a sport for the very rich and they have enough competitive forums. Same goes with sailing. Get rid of it.
I’d also toss out badminton and table tennis. Their time has come and gone.
The Olympics are bringing back golf with the 2016 games in Rio. But once again, that competition is unnecessary since the best of the sport play professionally. So, I’d get rid of golf too.
In the long history of the Olympics, sports have come and gone. Games no longer competed at the summer Olympics include tug-of-war and live pigeon shooting. (See “9 Really Strange Sports That Are No Longer in the Olympics”; Time, July 16, 2012.)
Sports seriously considered for the upcoming Olympics have included karate, squash, wake boarding and roller sports.
They should consider adding drop ball as seen on “Adventure Time.”


List of Olympic sports (

Olympic sports (Wikipedia)

Summer Olympics (Wikipedia)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Efforts to preserve our digital heritage

Technology is advancing so fast that we are at risk of losing some of our digital heritage if it’s not preserved.
Consumers dispose of technology when the next big thing comes along. But what happens to all those old video games, computers and software?
Some groups are trying to preserve these tech relics for posterity.
Examples include the Videogame History Museum and the Museum of Endangered Sounds.
The Videogame History Museum was founded by John Hardie, Sean Kelly and Joe Santulli, creators of the Classic Gaming Expo. The group is hoping to have a permanent facility in the Silicon Valley area. The museum is dedicated to preserving and archiving the history of the video game industry.
“The videogame industry is double the size of the music industry and while there are several music ‘halls of fame’ and museums, there isn’t a single dedicated, all-inclusive videogame museum” Santulli said in a July 25, 2011, statement. “We’re taking the necessary steps toward creating a physical museum, research facility, and reference library to honor and archive the history, hardware, software, events and people of this industry.”
By contrast, the Museum of Endangered Sounds is a bit of a lark.
It’s a website, launched in January, which features sound clips of obsolete technologies from the start-up sound of a Windows 95 computer to the noise a videocassette makes as it is loaded into a VCR.
The site was created by Marybeth Ledesma, Phil Hadad and Greg Elwood, who met while they were advertising students at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter, according to the Washington Post.
Other groups are working to preserve the history of the Internet and the World Wide Web.
They include the Internet Archive, which runs the Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine archives webpages from as far back as 1996.
The Cyber Cemetery at the University of North Texas preserves U.S. government websites that would otherwise disappear, such as those of previous White House administrations and defunct commissions, the AP said.
The British Library is doing a similar job archiving the U.K.’s old websites, the AP says.

Photos: Artwork for the Videogame History Museum (top) and the Museum of Endangered Sounds.

Related stories:

How Important Is It To Preserve Our Digital Heritage? (Techdirt; June 3, 2011)

Friendster to Erase Early Posts and Old Photos (New York Times; April 26, 2011)

Our gaming history is threatened by antiquity, copyright (GamePad; July 30, 2010)

Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage (Technology Review; July 28, 2010)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Nostalgia beginning earlier for tech products

With rapid technology advancements and product cycles, people are getting nostalgic for things that are only a few years old.
You can see it in commercials for AT&T U-verse and Konica Minolta printers.
In the AT&T ads, kids tell younger kids about inferior technology they had just a few years back. One girl tells two youngsters about the hassles of watching the Olympics “back in oh-8.”
In the Konica Minolta ads, office workers tell noobies about the primitive office tech they had back in the day.
And pop songs make reference to older technology too.
In “Nothin’ On You” (2010), B.O.B. raps about a Nintendo 64 video game console.
In “Give Me Everything” (2011), Pitbull raps “picture that with a Kodak.”
In “Payphone” (2012), Maroon 5 sings about putting change into a relic called a payphone. Who doesn’t have a cell phone these days?
From video game consoles and film cameras to VCRs, Palm Pilots and LP records, people like to wax nostalgic about old, and not so old, technology.