Joel Robinson is a man who was trapped in space for several years, living on a craft he designated the Satellite of Love. He was originally a janitor at the Gizmonic Institute, a corporation dedicated to the development of highly advanced inventions, although his wizardry with inventions suggests that he would have rapidly moved up the corporate ladder, but for the malicious intervention of his bosses, Dr. Larry Ehrhardt, and Dr. Clayton Forrester. These two were somewhat outside the corporate norm of Gizmonics, as they readily identified as mad scientists, and thus their funding was in constant jeopardy, but they were able to get approval to isolate a man in space and force him to watch bad movies in order to break his will.
Joel Robinson was (obviously) their choice for a guinea pig. His first act on finding himself adrift in space was to build some robots as to help him retain his sanity. One of these, dubbed Cambot, was built mostly from the video equipment that the scientists had placed on board to communicate with the Satellite and monitor Joels reactions. It is not clear how much extra capacity Joels gift of AI to Cambot really made. The second robot, Gypsy, was constructed using a very long length of PVC Hose and was tied into the higher functions of the SOL. Although Gypsys interface seemed comparatively stupid at times, she was clearly a very advanced AI, as demonstrated by her ability to navigate the ordinarily stationary satellite through interstellar space. The most important of Joels creations, however, were Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, who were designed to sit with him and make wisecracks through the various movies he was forced to watch. These bots had personalities, senses of humor, even a capacity for sarcasm. All of Joels robots were given free will, a fact which he sometimes regretted, as they occasionally would act like naughty children.
Joel participated in regular invention exchanges with the mad scientists at Gizmonics each week. This was a holdover from Gizmonic corporate culture, as the inventors at the company regularly greeted one another by showing their latest inventions. Joels inventions included a tickle bazooka that fired feathers, a pet slinky, a helmet that caused the wearers head to rotate 360 degrees, a junk drawer starter kit, and various whiffle items. The mad scientists often copied his ideas or spun off of them for their own inventions.
Joel finally escaped the SOL when an escape pod was located in a boxed marked Hamdingers. Debate rages to this day as to what Hamdingers are, but it is generally agreed that they are so terrible that no one was likely to look in that box for years. After leaving the Satellite, he travelled around the Australian outback, doing pyrotechnics for the band, Man or Astro-Man?and later became a manager at a Hot Fish Shop in Osseo, Minnesota. He retooled the escape pod around this time, and made a brief visit to the Satellite of Love, now manned by his successor, Mike Nelson. He conducted a few repairs and gave Mike a brief pep talk, but did not partake in the riffing of the movie that evening.