The word robot came from a Czech play, published in 1920 and premiered on stage in Prague in 1921, called R.U.R. The initials stand for Rossum’s Universal Robots, a corporation that manufactured robots, mechanical creatures, enslaved to work for human beings. In the play the robots developed the capacity to feel and hate. Eventually, they rebelled, became monsters, turned on their human masters, and overpowered them.
The author, Karel Capek (1890-1938), a Czech playwright born in Bohemia, borrowed the word robot from the slavic robota, meaning a forced laborer. The play was extremely popular on both sides of the Atlantic, so much so that the word robot came to be used of any person who was dehumanized because of too much work involving nonproductive tasks or to a person who works automatically without employing initiative. The word was also applied during World War II to the German «flying bombs» or «Buzz-bombs» sent against England. In the scientific world of today, a robot is used as a term to describe automated apparatus that performs human functions.