back to article Hot digital dog: A man’s best friend is still his... K-9

No robot in TV history has enjoyed such renown as K-9, the loyal robotic mutt who was the Fourth Doctor’s companion for a chunk of the late 1970s and early 1980s. K-9 provided nit-picky comments and generally useless bits of information while serving as a foil for a rather ebullient doctor on their travels. It was so popular …


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  1. Simon Harris

    I'd like to see...

    K9 getting into a nit-picking contest with Orac

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: I'd like to see...

      In [The Sarah Jane Adventures], K-9 - once retrieved from the black hole of being separately licensed for his own cartoon show - has some interesting mutually disrespectful conversations with "Mr. Smith", the super-computer brain, scanner, and analyser installed in the attic, and voiced by Alexander Armstrong.

      "Mr. Smith" is normally concealed, but opens out with a musical fanfare and, probably, a couple of brawny stage hands behind the scenes pulling big levers. Viewers are left uncertain whether the fanfare is audible to characters in the show or is just background music. In fact, it is audible to characters in the show.

      Oh, and "Mr. Smith" turned out to be evil at the end of season one, but was reprogrammed.

  2. Captain Hogwash


    I'd just installed the K-9 email client immediately before coming to this story.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spooky

      Yup. It's a nice piece. I've been using it for a while, and now I know where they got icon from. --a young n00b

  3. EddieD

    ...only slightly worse...

    Share and Enjoy

    Share and Enjoy

    Journey through life

    With a plastic boy

    Or Girl by your side

    Let your pal be your guide

    And when it breaks down

    Or starts to annoy

    Or grinds when it moves

    And gives you no joy

    Cos it's eaten your hat

    Or had sex with your cat

    Bled oil on your floor

    Or ripped off your door

    You get to the point

    You can't stand any more

    Bring it to us, we won't give a fig

    We'll tell you, 'Go stick your head in a pig'.

    1. Ol'Peculier

      Re: ...only slightly worse...

      I'd sing that to my friends...

      ...except I want to keep them.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: ...only slightly worse...

        If your "Friends" know not of the great Douglas Adams. I'd suggest getting some new Friends!

    2. Sutekh

      Sirius Cybernetics

      That reads like it was written by a bunch of Mindless jerks who'll be first against the wall when the revolution comes..

      1. Isendel Steel

        Re: Sirius Cybernetics

        They were

  4. Alister

    Silly old Hector...

    Gosh, that takes me back.

    I had a Hector's House annual when I was little.

  5. K

    But when ..

    Will we get the Cherry 2000... can't wait to show my g/f the door!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But when ..

      When you have a Cherry 2000, remember to keep it up off the wet floor!

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: But when ..

      DON'T DATE ROBOTS!!!!!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    K9's brief sojurn in the Tardis

    Was partly due to the limitation of the control gear. It interfered with studio cameras - or was that the other way round? Anyway bit of a sod to use in practice. Also heavy, needing two K9s - the fully kitted one to wag his tail, and pootle around the console, and an empty shell when an actor had to carry him. The team could at least have put a blank panel in the base and a bit of ballast to give some heft. Iin Warriors' Gate K9 is ejected from the slaver ship by Kenneth Cope; apart from getting a good look up K9's skirts (so to speak) Cope is so unchallenged by the weight of the dummy that it looks for a moment as if a strong breeze would blow K9 back at him.

    Though whether the choice of stories helped or not around that time - Power of Kroll set in reedbeds! - he was still distinctive enough to become an icon. Not as big an icon as the Daleks but if you want to build one of your own you won't have to give over as much of your lounge.

  7. Mike Brown

    Rise of the machines....

    A.I. with robots will happen, sooner rather than later. Having a sentiant and inteligent machine is the ultimate User Interface. As a kid i never understood why C3PO would have been proggramed to have a personality, but now i realise its to make telling it what to do easier. Instead of having to click an icon, and programmme a set of actions, you could simply tell it what you want.

    I dont think however that we have anthing to worry about machines rising up, its simply a great plot device. As the robotic A.I.s creators we can ensure they enjoy what ever job they have,and would never consider anything else.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Rise of the machines....

      I'm sure that's what the Capicans thought too, when they created the Cylons!

      Well we all know how well that went down, now do we?!

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Rise of the machines....

      A.I. with robots will happen, sooner rather than later.

      Oh really? Care to cite any of the relevant research showing we're appreciably nearer this goal than we were in, say, 1980? The last I looked (a few months back), we were still only scraping the surface of many quite basic problems in, comprehending language, such as reliably determining conversational entailment - and that's only one of many areas we need to handle for "AI with robots", and it's despite the vast amount of extremely clever work that's been done.1

      "Strong" AI, even in very specialized domains, has made little or no headway in decades. "Weak" AI is doing a little better, but largely due to the general increase in computing power which has made additional approaches tractable (eg with IBM's Watson). And AI for robots is orders of magnitude worse than special-domain strong AI, because the robot 1) has to deal with hugely complex real-world inputs, and 2) has physical effectivity, which makes it dangerous.

      Having a sentiant [sic] and inteligent [sic] machine is the ultimate User Interface

      Good god. Why is this so difficult a concept? There is no "ultimate user interface". Users are not homogeneous, and neither are applications. No type of user interface is perfect for all users or for all applications.

      Sentience wouldn't do a damn thing to make my computer use easier, for at least 90% of what I do with computers - and with the remaining 10% it'd be an annoyance.

      As the robotic A.I.s creators we can ensure they enjoy what ever job they have,and would never consider anything else.

      And machines working as instructed has never led to problems?

      1It's only relatively recently that we've seen a number of major general algorithmic approaches, such as SVMs and MEMMs, applied in this area, not to mention algorithms more specific to NLP such as LSA. But we're still very much at the low end of the curve for a comprehensive mechanical understanding of language. That's partly because we don't understand a great many things about language in the first place - from low-level stuff like aspects of prosody (e.g. what "stress" really is) to high-level ones like how rhetorical devices really play in informal logic. Or about the neuropsychology of language. Hell, we don't even have a particularly good philosophical model of it - even within a philosophical school or movement (the New Pragmatists, say) there can be huge disagreements.

  8. Petrea Mitchell

    Robots of renown

    "No robot in TV history has enjoyed such renown as K-9"

    I dunno, if you can remember K-9's heyday then you can also remember KITT, and there were way more people watching Knight Rider back in the day.

    K-9 is probably more recognizable to today's young 'uns, though...

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: Robots of renown

      And there's also the B9 model robot (no name, other than Robot) on 'Lost In Space'. (Most famous line, repeated on many, many, MANY episodes: "Danger Will Robinson! Danger!" 'cause Will was a useless berk who was always doing something likely to get his clueless ass killed.) The Robot could sing, cry, sneeze, produce umpty-ump volt electric discharges. The Robot and Dr Smith were the reasons I watched the show. (At the time I was too young to appreciate Judy...)

      Twiki on 'Buck Rogers in the 25th Century' also deserves a mention. Though to me the primary attractions of that show were Erin Gray and Pamela Hensley. And, on some episodes, Jamie Lee Curtis.

      Kitt was just a car with a funny light. K9 didn't even have the light.

      K9 isn't even the best (depending on your definitions...) robot dog on TV. The original Battlestar Galactica had a thoroughly annoying robot daggit named Muffin, which was, thankfully, eradicated with extreme prejudice from the reboot.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Robots of renown

        I believed K9 could fire a laser and communicate with other computers, I never believed KITT could jump over lines of cars.

        Twiki, I wanted to punch in the face (plate).

        Mind you I also thought AirWolf would benefit from meeting the pointy end of a surface-to-air missile battery - so perhaps it was just some elements in US shows grated on my young-teen pysche.

        1. Toxteth O'Gravy

          Re: Robots of renown

          Blimey, this thread is turning into Twikipedia

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Robots of renown

        As I type this, Kraftwerk's "We are the Robots" is on 6Music.

        Anyway, what about Huey Dewey and Louie in Silent Running?

        Does the robotic bomb in Dark Star count?

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

          Re: Robots of renown

          Ah yes, Silent Running. An absolute classic. Also I think its the robots that are definitely not 'real' in appearance that come over better as characters rather than just robots.

        2. Mike Brown

          Re: Robots of renown

          "Anyway, what about Huey Dewey and Louie in Silent Running?

          Does the robotic bomb in Dark Star count?"

          no, no, no, and no as they arnt tv based.

          T-bob from Mask would. As would the Transformers, Gobots, and the little red dude from jayce and the wheeled warriors

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Robots of renown

            Well if I can't have Huey Dewey and Louie because they're not from the TV, can I have the cooker from A Grand Day Out?

            In fact do the techno trousers count? They're half a robot and more, surely?

          2. Andrew Moore

            Re: Robots of renown

            Are you sure you are not thinking about NoNo from Ulysees 31?

      3. Tom 13

        Re: Robots of renown

        Twiki season 1 would give K-9 a run for the money on the good buddy front. For season 2 I have no idea what they were thinking in redoing the voice. So I'd have to give it to K-9 on the reliability front as he lasted more seasons. OK, for the most part I'd like to do away with Buck Rogers season 2 in its entirety.

        Robbie was just annoying. Even with his berkness, I much preferred Will.

    2. 100113.1537

      Re: Robots of renown

      While there "may" have been more people watching Knight Rider when it was being broadcast, I'd challenge anyone to suggest it has had the legacy that K9 has. If you say K9 people know who/what you mean - try asking anyone about Kitt - I think therein lies the question of renown.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Robots of renown

      Although I am fond of KITT from the original show and not the gawd awful reboot, he in no way can be classified as a robot. An AI, yes, but not a robot. And once you move into AIs it's a whole different bucket of bolts.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Robots of renown

        Although I am fond of KITT from the original show and not the gawd awful reboot, he in no way can be classified as a robot

        Why not? KITT could operate itself - drive around and such - and it was a mechanical partner, which is vaguely close to Capek's original usage.

        No one in this thread has mentioned Box from Logan's Run, and he was overwhelming. Though, in the end, overwhelmed.

    4. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Robots of renown

      Was it wrong of me when I read "KITT" I was thinking of the Robot from "Robot" (Tom Bakers first adventure as the Doctor), and Professor Kettlewell?

  9. bristolmoose

    AIBO is dead??!!

    My parents told me he'd gone to live on a server farm.

  10. i like crisps

    Mary Tamm (RIP)

    She was gorgeous and was taken from us far too soon.

    1. Christine Hedley

      Re: Mary Tamm (RIP)

      I never realised: how terribly sad. :( I was fond of Romana Mk 1.

      1. Martin Budden Silver badge

        Re: Mary Tamm (RIP)

        Her husband died a few hours after her funeral. Tragic.

  11. Gene Cash Silver badge


    Basically a large tablet on wheels? It should run Android!

  12. Stevie Silver badge


    Two comments:

    a) K-9 was several times more annoying than Tegan, and should have met with a 16 ton weight shortly after wheeling on stage.

    2) Wot, no Japanese "moon man" robot? I was pretty impressed with that one, and hoping the designers would add a punch response to the "try and push it over" test.

  13. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "Psychology pattern checked and recorded"

    I could only think of "The Twonky" by Henry Kuttner (alias Lewis Padgett). (See -- Quite probably non-legit PDF), the house helper robot from the future - and from Nanny State Hell.

  14. Charles Augustus Milverton

    Any personal robot needs a weapons platform as well as a good repartee. K9 scores highly for both, but could do with just a bit more homicidal mania :-)

  15. Wzrd1


    All of these pathetic attempts.

    Not a single one of them could stand up halfway in quality with my dear, departed Dutch Shepherd.

    Strong, best nose I ever saw in a dog and so smart he did my taxes.

    When I was audited, he stood beside me and convinced the auditor that my deductions were quite fine, thank you. ;)

    OK, maybe not the taxes, but he was the smartest dog I've ever met. Learned new tasks in under five minutes.

    Try doing *that* with a robot!

    1. Toxteth O'Gravy

      Re: Bleh

      Hmmm. Never had a robot that shat on the living room carpet, or yielded belches straight from the devil's rear end. Not sure I want a robot mutt, but a real one you can keep.

  16. Suricou Raven

    Several intelligence agencies are looking happy.

    Mobile bugs, that people invite into their own homes? With cameras?

    A simple custom firmware update is all it'd take, and if you can talk the manufacturer into signing it that's trivial to pull off. Even better than hacking a PC to get to the webcam - this one can be guided around to learn the layout or follow someone, pick up and open books, and make sure any weapons are hidden before the soldiers are sent in.

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