JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
I bumped into this robot in the pages of Illustrated London News for August 27, 1932. The idea of mechanical people had been around at least since the early 19th century, and by the time this one appeared i its gleaming glory in 1932, the word "robot" was around for a dozen years, invented in 1920 by Karel Capek for his book on the future called R.U.R. Actually the human-like forms created by Capek in this early scifi work were biotech, and not fully mechanized.) The form of the robot stretches back hundreds of years, in a way--if not the exactly the idea of a robot, but at least with the appearance of one. "Alpha" was anthropomorphic, but hardly what you'd call bio-mechanical, or even pretending to be so. It was created by Harry May of London, and was evidently 6'4" tall and weighed a ton (or two, perhaps), and was supposed to entertain and answer questions from the crowd when unveiled at the London Radio Exhibition of 1932. Mr. May kept the details of his creation secret, though no doubt the robot was operated offstage by confederates, the voice supplied by wireless. Still, Alpha was a major attraction, and kept people entertained, if not confused. In any event, it looked frightening as a vision of a possible 1930's future-vision.
[Source: http://davidbuckley.net/DB/HistoryMakers/Alpha1932.htm This is a very interesting blog by David Buckley, including a long chronological section on the developments of robots--Alpha appears on this list, which includes six or so good links for contemporary stories about the robot's appearance.]