|The Czech writer Karol Capek is generally given credit as the person who coined the word robot (though Karol gives his brother Josef credit for the term). The word is a derivative of the Czech word for forced labor or serf. Karol used it in the title of his 1921 play "Rossum's Universal Robots." One of the themes of this play was the dehumanization of man in a technological civilization.
Issac Asimov was perhaps the first robot expert. His Laws of Robotics from 1940 are interesting and enduring descriptions of the robots of science fiction. Here are those three laws:
First Law: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law: A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Following is the definition of an industrial robot from the Robot Institute of America, 1979: "A reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move material, parts, tools, or specialized devices through various programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks."
The "reprogrammable" part is where the robotics software comes in.