DIY Computer: Gumby Imagines the Future in 1957!

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Video stills from The Kabillion Channel

Before “DIY” had a movement, before computers were in billions of homes around the world, in our back pockets & pocketbooks, before iPods & iPads, Google search & Youtube cat videos were all the rage, Art & Ruth Clokey, the creators of the 1950’s claymation series The Gumby Show were imagining the future of creative computing.

Check out episode 61 of Season 2 titled “Do-It-Yourself Gumby” aired on November 09, 1957.

In this episode, Gumby creates a machine that can produce whatever he types into the hilariously awesome, extra large keyboard.  He proudly brags to his crew of colorful clay friends, “This machine can produce anything I ask for.”

downloadFirst of course, he manifests food in the form of a roasted turkey, then music via “a smart-alec piano” that plays itself.  He nearly gets them all mauled by a tiger when he generates a big wild cat instead of a fuzzy kitty cat.  But he quickly “saves the day” by typing the word “CAGE”.  The machine cages the tiger instantly and “all is well”.

For the final tinkering session on his invention machine, Gumby’s friend Prickle suggests, “Let’s make a robot to do all of our chores.”  Gumby types the word ROBOT into the terminal and produces a zippy automaton (a la cutesy steampunk).

The robot takes over Gumby’s invention machine and starts typing into it frantically, while a computer-like voice in the background chants “work, work, work, work…” and cranks out all manner of things that appear instantly on the invention platform.

Cars, planes, boats, street signs, radios, paint cans and more liter the tiny claymation set in a dusty heap that piles higher and higher.  Gumby takes a sledge hammer to the robots’ head and ends the junk loop.

20060721-063128-pic-628351677_5750035_ver1.0_640_480I remember as a kid watching Gumby episodes from the 80’s and making play doh people much like Gumby & his friends, narrating all the funny little things remembered from Saturday morning cartoons. (oh, the good ole days…)

This morning I was programming some art elements for an animation project I’m currently playing around with and I started digging through youtube searching for inspiration from some of my favorite Gumby episodes.  Lo and behold, I found DIY Gumby!  A short animated gem that closes with a tight 1950’s “moral of the story” phrase…

“Gumby, if you want something done right…


Who would have guessed that nearly six decades later, (present day 2015) we’re celebrating a renewed maker culture and evolving it through convengence with creative computing and 3D fabrication tools and collectively telling story after story in media, movies and games, utopias & dystopias about robots and the promise or dread of future societies.

I wonder who out there is imagining glimpses of our future as you read this digital text…  making art out of it and tools and things that will shape us for years to come…

Do you know anyone making interesting “futuristic” stuff?  If so, please share links in the comments below.

Also, what’s your favorite Gumby episode?  Please share some clips!

“Gumby, created by Art and Ruth Clokey, was a gift of love for children worldwide. This little green slab of clay comes alive through the wonders of clay animation, evoking visceral reactions from viewers. The texture of the three-dimensional characters, sets and props brings an unparalleled realness and charm. While children are enthralled with the innocence, action and adventure in the stories, the pure expression of art and surrealistic quality of the work appeal to adults.” -Quote from

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