Archives

The N.S. inventor who found a way to cut down on yardwork

To spare himself the task of pushing a lawn mower, an industrial mechanic spent six months building a labour-free alternative.

Task of pushing a lawn mower eliminated by a remote-control machine named Roger

A Nova Scotia man shows off the remote-control device he built himself. 3:15

In an effort to save himself the work of pushing a lawn mower, Russell McCallum spent six months building a labour-free alternative.

The remote-controlled device even had a name: Roger.

"While Roger's getting primed, McCallum grabs a seat," said CBC Halifax reporter Andra Stevens in a report from May 22, 1989. "Mowing his lawn is easy work these days."

McCallum, an industrial mechanic living in Brentwood, N.S., settled in to an aluminum lawn chair positioned next to an expansive green lawn.

'It's a chore'

Inventor Russell McCallum was trying to develop a memory for his remote control lawn mower, so that all he had to do was mow the lawn with it once and it could repeat the program on its own. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

"I like seeing it mowed, but I don't like doing it," he said. "It's a chore."

As the seemingly autonomous machine was seen making its way over the grass, McCallum said he got the idea for Roger while talking with friends.

"One of them mentioned he got a self-propelled lawn mower," he explained, adding that another friend pointed out the user still had to walk behind it. 

"I thought to myself, 'The thing is self-propelled. Why wouldn't it go by itself?'"

McCallum was seen using the remote control, which was a large silver box with two joysticks and an antenna that had originally been used for a "toy airplane."

A remote controller that had once been used for a toy airplane was repurposed to manoeuvre Russell McCallum's lawn mower. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

Six months and 'hundreds of dollars" later, McCallum had finished work on Roger, which Stevens said used an air compression system.

McCallum explained that the system directed jets of air that could make the device turn left or right, and go forward or backward. 

Most of the testing was done in the near-dark, explained McCallum with a laugh, so that "not too many people would see me."

How the name Roger came to be bestowed on Russell McCallum's remote-control lawn mower was never explained. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)