October 28 in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the 1960 debut of 'A Thing About Machines'

Contributed by
Jun 12, 2018, 12:52 PM EDT (Updated)

Today, October 28, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the 1960 debut of "A Thing About Machines."

Years before cell phones, personal computers, A.I., and autonomous vehicles became a reality, Rod Serling was in the advance guard of those, warning us about a world of machines – and what might happen if they started to fight back. In this episode, ordinary, everyday devices – typewriters, shavers, television sets -- join forces to battle a true curmudgeon: food critic Bartlett Finchley (Richard Haydn), a man who has no patience for inefficiency. Frankly, if I were an electric shaver, I would have attacked the decidedly unpleasant Finchley, too.


Serling really tapped into a daily issue with this one – how many times a day do we interact with a machine, expecting a certain result and getting nothing in return. Whether it's a dead battery, a computer glitch, a faulty air conditioner, or a clothes steamer that won't steam, we battle back with a tirade of expletives, and sometimes we actually stomp on and destroy the machine itself.

Serling was no luddite – he embraced technology. In fact, he acted out each of his 92 teleplays into a dictation machine (just like Keenan Wynn in the celebrated Richard Matheson episode "A World of His Own"). But Serling – in another one of his great "What If?" episodes – was the first to give consciousness to the machine world, influencing so many future movies and TV shows, from deadly exercises like Christine, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Colossus: The Forbin Project to whimsical ones like My Mother the Car, Knight Rider, and The Brave Little Toaster.

So let us raise a beaker of motor oil, grease, and lubricant to the machines of the world – and to Rod Serling, a 20th-century Paul Revere warning us that they are coming … and to be nice.