Interfacers. They’re the blocky plastic-over-metal robots vaguely arranged to match the humanoid form, built by the millions over the course of a hundred years. Designed to interact with human environments, these machines range from squat to tall, business to consumer, and new to old. This much you might already know. There’s a good chance you are an interfacer yourself, or interacting through one…

What you may not know is that Interfacer actually began as a brand name.

Beginning of BBM’s neuromorphic age

The story starts with the Berkeley Business Machines’ 1979 refresh of their main product line. Though this was far from BBM’s initial foray into business robotics, it was the first time the company had introduced the neuromorphic chipset to their machines: making them the first computers in the West to learn and think, rather than follow preprogrammed routines to the letter.

And what a revolution this was, spurring a wave of derivatives across all industries that would snowball forever, right until mankind’s disappearance from the Solar System over a century later.

Among this new lineup was a certain Interfacer 6120, a crude machine by modern standards. Its design resembled more of a mini-fridge with arms than anything remotely humanoid, and its weight could crush any person in its path… yet somehow, it never did. The 6120 moved with a sort of terrifying precision and dexterity that had been unseen up until now. It was at this moment that the vaguely-humanoid robot upgraded in status from “glorified toy” to “effective machine”.

What followed was the most colossal copy-frenzy the world had ever seen as the rest of the rest of Earth rushed to reproduce the device. Though given the origin of the neuromorphic circuit itself, would BBM really deserve any sympathy? Or, perhaps, this was all part of the plan?

Best-selling robot in history

Facing lawsuits over the legal exclusivity of the term “interfacer”, and rising competition from the likes of Redmond, Hokota, and Kaizen, the early 21st century may not have been the best moment to be an executive at BBM (though they rarely lasted for more than a few months anyway). As BBM peeked over the precipice of irrelevancy, their innovation department cranked out a final refresh. Would it save them?

Alongside the release of the 2014 business line refresh, Interfacer/36, the classic “flathead” depicted in the advertisement above, took the world of business with a ferocity that entirely eclipsed even the original storm. What made this system so appealing? Certainly wasn’t the ability to hold great conversation, as that was Maple’s domain. Neither was it the proprietary protocols, something Redmond executed more effectively. (Sorry, BB Standard.)

Perhaps it was just the right design, at the right place, at the right time. The Interfacer/36 was cheap and versatile, it interfaced with almost everything, and the off-the-shelf parts made the unit easy to repair. Its openness made it an appealing platform to write software for, and BBM’s proven reputation only drove sales further.

So who the hell even knows? Not even BBM knew what made their systems sell, so they simply made them mediocre at everything. Somehow, that worked.

The production of Interfacer/36 finally ended in 2056 after being obsoleted by the newer Interfacer/2 lineup. During that time, BBM produced and sold somewhere in the ballpark of 300 million units. Even today, it’s difficult to enter an office and not encounter one of these somewhere.


The Interfacer/36 is based on the IBM Personal Computer. The backstory and other mentioned models are inspired by some of the predecessors and successors of the computer, such as the IBM 5110 and the IBM Personal System/2.

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