Robot technology back then was still rather basic, but we forget what a big breakthrough something like a bimetallic strip thermostat was. Coking ovens used to have to be shut down - they took forever to cool - then cleaned, then heated back up - at huge cost in time and energy. Adding a thermostat let them run for decades. People used to have to shovel coal and stir a fire in the morning to warm up the house, at least until "iron firemen" were developed to add coal automatically and monitor the fire using a thermostat. So, yes, we expect a lot more from our robots these days, but in those breakthrough years something like a self regulating coffee pot was pretty exciting.