26 March 2009


In the increasingly sophisticated mid-'80s, we chucked out our 1982 deelyboppers, pumped up the shoulder pads a little more, and knew we’d made it. We only had to look around us at the wine bars, the bouffant mullets, the pastel coloured clothing (for men as well as women), the black ash furniture, the up-lighters, the glitz and gloss.

Even Dusty Bin, who'd been with us since 1978, was getting more sophisticated - as this article from 1985 shows…

Dusty Bin, the mascot booby prize of “3-2-1”, ITV’s Saturday night game show, has become famous not only as an advanced robot capable of making an amazing number of movements, but also as one of the most lovable characters on TV. Now in his eighth series, he’s a star in his own right, with a whole range of toys named after him. He lives in a converted chapel outside Leeds, the workshop of Ian Rowley.

Robotics expert Rowley had been asked to do some pretty amazing things in his time, from ‘blowing up’ a £20,000 cruiser to making a set of underwater bagpipes for comedian Les Dawson. But the day he was asked to animate a dustbin was, though he didn’t realise it, one of the greatest challenges of his career.

He also didn’t suspect he’d be working on the project over the next three years, continually adapting the £10,000 robot to do new and more adventurous things with every series.

In the 120 programmes Rowley has been involved with, his little friend Dusty Bin has juggled balls, played the piano, flown around the studio with a James Bond jetpack, escaped Houdini-style from chains, ridden a bike, sprayed host Ted Rogers with paint and driven into the studio in a tank to bomb the audience with confetti.

Rowley says: ‘Dusty allows me to do all the many things I’ve always wanted to do but would never have the nerve to. Every week I read the script and say to myself, “What outrageous things can I get him to do next?”’

Every show has fresh challenges to provoke new ideas. But thanks to 73 microprocessors, Dusty never fails to meet Rowley’s requirements. Rowley personally operates him on the show by means of a radio-controlled handset, similar to those that control model aircraft. But technology is moving fast, and he is currently working on refinements which will give Dusty programmable arms, twice the power and the ability to move at five miles per hour. “That’s fast for a dustbin,” he says.

What an era!

And Ted Rogers was still doing his 3-2-1 hand gesture on each and every show.


Anything more would have been greedy.

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