In the summer of 1987, movie audiences first met Robocop in the science fiction classic about violence and corrupt corporate power in a future, dystopian Detroit. But the title word is much older than that, going back at least to a 1957 short story by writer Harlan Ellison, in which a tentacled “robocop” pursues a character. The prefix “robo-,” in turn, dates at least to 1945, when Astounding Science Fiction published a story by A.E. van Vogt mentioning “roboplanes” flying through the sky. “Robo-,” of course, comes from “robot,” a word created by Czech author Karel Čapek in his 1920 play R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots, about synthetic humans created to perform drudge work who eventually rebel, destroying humanity.
This is the kind of rabbit hole a reader can go down in the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, a resource decades in the