[vcf-midatlantic] VCF's HOPE exhibit
hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Tue Apr 26 12:31:58 EDT 2016
> Evan wrote:
> For the [HOPE] exhibit, I would like to show vintage computer robotics....
> fix up our HERO....a Minimover arm can beg/borrow/steal ...We
> also have a robot kit for the Commodore 64.. Are
> there any other products we should consider for this exhibit? It should
> be limited to 70s/80s (assuming there's nothing for the PDP-8!)
> PS - I found a lot of * computerized * robots -- those with CPUs inside
> -- but for this exhibit I'd like to focus on robots * connected * to
> computers, so we can show the computation side of things.
> end quote.
Well, a quick comment is: show a PDP-8 with a Calcomp plotter. It's
robotic, and computational, and "has the additional advantage of being
true". Minicomputers ran robots in the 70's - that's all they had! for
some time at least. But you're not gonna haul a minicomputer to HOPE.
And certainly the HERO and Minimover and items are fine. But I object to
your notion linking 1970's micros & "robots connected to computers..
for computation". I'm lecturing deliberately, so you have something to
say to Hope attendees who would mock what seems like an Arduino on wheels.
I'll remind you - I mean them - there were many more computers in
private and small-company hands in the 80's than in the 70's - in the
70's there wasn't so much to connect a robot TO. And a micro board kit
that ran motors STILL cost a few hundred dollars in the 1970's (when
that would buy a decent used car). But buying a micro board that
actually DID something physical, not just "blink lights", was a good
excuse (to your boss, your spouse) to buy a microcomputer board, to
learn the technology.
Also, people in the 70's used such micros to run stuff - I don't know if
you'd call a sprinkler system a "robot", but it's the same sort of
"computations" and hardware as to move an arm or drive a motor. And many
small manufacturers (most WERE small, then) bought single-board
microcomputers, to run production equipment - a KIM could run a printing
press for instance.
here's such a card, from the late 1970's, a small-company product by Lee
this could run on solar power! Lee Hart attached motors and switches to
it, put it in a box, and called it "ITSABOT". I don't have a photo of
that product. Lee sells the 21st century equivalent board today, as a
In other words: the 70's was a different world of microprocessors, as
the 1980's would be a world where microcomputers became accepted. If
someone at Hope is disappointed that a cigar-box robot on wheels "just"
follows a white line and can avoid obstacles; explain that
microprocessors were new technology, not cheap, and these devices
taught the people who made the smarter/cheaper/faster stuff a decade or
two later. "People don't mock babies for being toddlers", if you want a
But if Hope is not a venue for such things and such lectures, that's
your decision, show the Hero, it's pretty impressive for the era.
Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey USA
http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
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