[vcf-midatlantic] VCF's HOPE exhibit

Herb Johnson hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Wed Apr 27 11:33:19 EDT 2016


The Web page today, includes photos of ITSABOT, which was exhibited at 
the West Coast Computerfaire in 1982, as a demo of the COSMAC 1802 
single-board computer called BASYS of a few years prior.

I read the discussion about building some kind of smarts, into one kind 
or another of commercial toy robot.

I note by contrast, the other part of the discussion, which shows what 
many people of the 1970's-80's era actually published in the hobby 
electronic magazines. They used single-board computers to operate 
various scrounged motors, read simple switch-closure sensors, reflective 
sensors, light sensors, etc.; to operate simple wheeled robot platforms.

That's activity which is replicated today with Arduinos and RaspPi's, 
for much the same reasons. There's also all kinds of brand-name 
technologies to make mechanical-robotic devices, which include these 
same parts at much higher prices, with nice-colored connector schemes, 
and ready-to-go operating systems, and Internet connectivity. and of 
course, there's various high-school robotics competitions which use 
stock/industrial control and development systems, packaged for that 
purpose (as in the FIRST competitions). So that part of hobby robotics 
is old ground, seems to me.

My point being - little of that was available or affordable in 1980, 
when a new car sold below $5000, a college education was a few thousand 
a year, and engineers starting salaries were $30K (twice the average US 
salary). and of course, microprocessors were still new to many engineers 
and techs. What looks "homebrew" in the 21st century, was normal 
practice in 1980 and earlier, part of the process of promoting and 
learning about microprocessors.

So it would be entirely period-reasonable, to take today a KIM or a VIP 
or any other 1980 single-board computer, pull steppers from a dead 
printer (I have many), sensors as noted, and write some assembly 
language or FORTH to move them around. I don't think someone will step 
up to do this from scratch in 90 days; but it's possible someone has 
something of this order that almost works, or used to work, and might 
loan it to VCFed for restoration.

Question is: will the HOPE attendees look at a box on wheels and say 
"oh, that's an Arduino, it's a toy-bot, so what?" It's entirely 
reasonable for Evan to conclude such an exhibit would not be as 
productive a display as, say, a more visually impressive HERO, clearly a 
commercialized hobby / educational product of the period.

Those seem to be the choices in discussion, those are my inputs.

Herbert R. Johnson,  New Jersey USA
http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
preservation of 1970's computing
email: hjohnson AAT retrotechnology DOTT com
alternate: herbjohnson ATT retrotechnology DOTT info

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