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The Singing Career of Tik Tok the Clockwork Man

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Before the word "robot" was invented, L. Frank Baum wrote about a clockwork man named Tik-Tok who lived in Oz. Tik-Tok is a portly metal creature who constantly needs winding. Though he has no emotions, he is ridiculously grateful to Dorothy after she discovers him in a cave and winds him up in the 1907 book Ozma of Oz. He pledges to be her slave, which is probably what inspires the lyrics he sings (while covered in rivets, at left) in a 1913 stage play called "The Tik-Tok Man of Oz":

Always work and never play!
Don't demand a cent of pay!
What I'm wound to do I do do,
Isn't that the nicest way?

So nice! Just like Robocop, Tik-Tok never goes on strike. Find out about Tik-Tok's evolution into a murderous sex fiend after the jump.


A popular character who influenced later robots like Robby from 1955's Forbidden Planet, and even Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Tik-Tok eventually became a kind of counter-cultural symbol. Scifi author and satirist John Sladek wrote a novel in the early 1980s called Tik-Tok which is a kind of twisted slave narrative/Native Son homage, depicting Tik-Tok's early life working on plantations, and his rise to power after he figures out how to murder people and cover up his crimes.


In the early 1990s, a comic book called The Oz Squad deals with what happens when Tik-Tok's morality clock winds down and the robot gets violent and horny.

Tik-Tok was a true steampunk robot, invented during the age of steam. When he appeared in Disney's Return to Oz in 1985, his appearance was quite true to what he looked like originally back in 1907 — only now, he's become retro-hip.

Tik-Tok's later violent episodes are pastiched in a recent retro-futurist Web comic, Boilerplate, about a mechanical soldier demoed at the World's Fair in 1893.