"Did you hear that? They've shut down the main reactor. We'll be destroyed for sure. This is madness!"--C-3PO to R2-D2
When Star Wars: A New Hope unspooled across theater screens over two decades ago, the audience's first glimpse of the strange denizens inhabiting this "galaxy far far away" wasn't of a hot-tempered princess or a black-garbed Dark Lord. It wasn't of a self-assured smuggler or a wide-eyed farmboy. It wasn't even of a Jawa, Ewok, or Wookiee. The individuals George Lucas chose to inaugurate his epic space saga looked like a stiff golden statuette and a squat, warbling fireplug. They were droids, and as See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo, the peculiar pair would become one of the most beloved movie duos of all time.
The word "robot," derived from a Czech term meaning "forced labor," was coined in 1920. It wasn't long before the silver screen took notice. In 1926, Fritz Lang's silent classic Metropolis introduced the first--a statuesque stunner named Maria whose graceful art-deco lines would later help inspire the conceptual design of C-3PO. A number of memorable movie mechanicals followed, including the mute brute Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, the delightfully deadpan Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet, HAL 9000, the coldly calculating computer from 2001, and Yul Brynner's turn as a haywire theme-park attraction in Westworld. All were unforgettable characters, but their advanced silicon brains couldn't hide the fact that they were hardware without heart and software without soul. Lacking personalities audiences could identify with, movie robots fell into two neat categories: subservient drones and emotionless menaces.
Star Wars broke that mold. Artoo and Threepio were bickering buddies more akin to Laurel and Hardy than clockwork and cogwheels. Thanks largely to the men inside the metal, actors Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels, the droids were just as human as anyone else in the cast--and they got all the best lines, too. Threepio might be a sophisticated translation machine fluent in over six million forms of communication, but it is his exasperated response to a door slamming shut in his face ("how typical!") that elicits a sympathetic laugh. And despite the fact that Artoo could speak only in whistles, sound engineer Ben Burtt created a warmly expressive nonverbal language by mixing synthesized electronic tones with the sound of his own voice.
See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo may have greeted us at the door, but more droids--many more--waited for us in the dusty corners of Mos Eisley and the cavernous hallways of the Death Star. The movie trilogy's "lived-in" design scheme meant that most of these whirring gadgets had rust spots and flaking paint jobs, but their appearances were always funny, intriguing, and bizarre, from the gleefully sadistic torturer in Jabba the Hutt's boiler room to the marching carton aboard the Jawa sandcrawler that unaccountably blurted out "gonk, gonk."
The sheer variety of sizes, forms, and appearances hammered home one obvious fact--when folks in the Star Wars universe have a problem, they build a droid. Specialized robots fill every conceivable niche from trash collection to surgery, and it has taken twenty years of novels, comics, computer games, television cartoons, and newspaper strips to showcase their full product range.
The Essential Guide to Droids is proud to present one hundred of these universal gizmos. We like to think we covered all the cool ones.
Detroit, Michigan A GUIDE TO MAJOR MANUFACTURERS
Droids are intelligent mechanical contraptions that are vital to the smooth operation of galactic society. Every day, millions of subservient automatons negotiate treaties, repair hyperdrives, cure plagues, incinerate garbage, nurse children, haul cargo, deliver messages, cook meals, and kill enemies. At the same time, droids are often ignored and unappreciated, treated as chattel by many owners and looked at with outright hostility by others. Though antidroid prejudice is a reality among the unenlightened, the few owners who have spent long stretches of time with their droids have discovered that they can be trusted companions and loyal friends.
Unlike machines, all droids possess intelligence to some degree. Unlike computers, most droids are designed for mobility on limbs, wheels, or antigravity fields. The manufacture and sale of droids is a lucrative business dominated by the "Big Two"--Cybot Galactica and Industrial Automaton. Other major droid players include Arakyd Industries, Genetech Corporation, MerenData, and Veril Line Systems.
Of the millions of droid manufacturing plants in the galaxy, the two largest are Mechis III and Telti, which together produce a sizable percentage of all new automatons. Both locations are entire worlds covered with sprawling construction facilities and fully automated assembly lines; any human interaction in the fabrication process other than the most minimal supervision is unnecessary and counterproductive. The major droid companies pay these two worlds a negotiated fee for the use of their assembly plants, a cost that is acceptable given the speed and accuracy with which they can churn out large orders. Arakyd Industries, Genetech Corporation, SoroSuub Corporation, and Veril Line Systems are some of the companies that employ Mechis III for a major share of their production. Industrial Automaton and Cybot Galactica rely heavily on Telti. The novice Jedi Knight Brakiss recently served as manager of the Telti plants, while Mechis III is currently operated by the Thul family of Alderaan.
In addition to the more common droids produced by major manufacturers, there are many mechanicals that are difficult to classify for a number of reasons. Some droids are so ancient that verifiable information on their manufacture has been lost in the fog of history. Some are unique creations concocted by ingenious, oddball inventors, yet others are products of restricted alien governments. Manufacturers Accutronics
Accutronics, a former subsidiary of Industrial Automaton, was an early forerunner in the marketing of droids to families with young children. Their remarkable success in persuading the public to view metallic machines as loving caregivers has allowed the company to move out from IA's shadow and become the leader in their niche. Accutronics' corporate headquarters is located on Eriadu and its satellite offices are found throughout the Outer Rim.
TDL Nanny Droid Arakyd Industries
The rise of the militaristic Empire was very good for Arakyd Industries. Through political maneuvering and competitive infighting the company set itself up as the only logical choice to receive the first Imperial droid contracts; they shrewdly exploited this early windfall by working hard to become the galaxy's leading military supplier. Recent consumer-market models from Arakyd have been moderately successful, but only account for a small fraction of their total yearly output. Despite the company's past history, the New Republic has worked closely with Arakyd since the collapse of Imperial rule.
Death Star Droid
Mark X Executioner
Seeker Messenger Droid
Probot Series Balmorran Arms
Balmorra, home to Balmorran Arms, is an ancient factory world at the edge of the Core. The Empire used the planet's huge assembly plants to churn out the majority of its AT-ST scout walkers, but Balmorra's master weaponsmiths also designed several unique tools, including the SD-9 and SD-10 robotic infantry soldiers, for Emperor Palpatine. During the rampages of the resurrected Emperor, Governor Beltane introduced the X-1 Viper in the hopes of freeing his people from Imperial rule.
SD-9 and SD-10
X-1 Viper ("Automadon") Corellian Engineering Corporation
Corellian Engineering Corporation (CEC) is one of the galaxy's three largest starship manufacturers and arguably the most respected. In addition to blockade runners and light freighters, CEC manufactures the droid-based StarHauler cargo barge. Though the company has taken steps to prevent it, many of their products are stolen by criminals and refitted into deadly robot ramships.
Robot Ramship Corporate Sector Authority
The Corporate Sector Authority (CSA) is the ruling administration in the Corporate Sector, a free-enterprise profit center that was nominally controlled by the Empire during Palpatine's reign. Since the rise of the New Republic the CSA has remained aloof and reluctant to form political alliances. The region is a thriving and diverse manufacturing center, exporting thousands of new and innovative products to the greater galaxy each year.
Firefighting Robo Cybot Galactica
One of the two largest droid manufacturers in the galaxy--Industrial Automaton is the other--Cybot Galactica is a major force in the galactic economy and a significant influence throughout the Core Worlds and Corporate Sector. Famous for the 3PO protocol series, Cybot is also responsible for an extraordinary array of droid models ranging from simple labor units to advanced security sentinels.
Binary Load Lifter
Imperial City Maintenance Droid
LE Repair Droid
M-3PO Military Protocol Droid
PD Lurrian Protocol Droid
3PO Protocol Droid
WED Treadwell Geentech
A small, quiet medisensor company, Geentech was casually run out of business by the much larger Genetech Corporation in a string of heavy-handed and highly expensive lawsuits. Claiming Geentech's similar name infringed on their own copyrights, Genetech forced their competitor into bankruptcy and, though these allegations have never been proven, might even have offered Imperial prosecutors a lucrative trade inducement to ensure their victory. Geentech's sole success story, the 2-1B Surgical Droid, was subsequently bought out by Industrial Automaton.
2-1B Surgical Droid Genetech Corporation
One of the older and larger droid manufacturers, Genetech Corporation started out as a pharmaceutical firm. The company pioneered the concept of using droids to streamline the manufacturing process, which earned them a great deal of ill-will--and fueled the antidroid movement--when thousands of assembly workers were fired from their jobs. Genetech's first droids were medical units, but the company has since branched out into accounting, administrative, and bookkeeping models.
Systems Control Droid
Copyright © 1999 by Daniel Wallace. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.