Background

This essay will probably only be of interest to people who remember the bad old days when most things had to be done the hard way. I was going to include the robot in my Odds and Ends page, but things there only get a paragraph or two and I wanted to recount the steep learning curve involved in this first attempt at anything robotic.

Back in the 80s I'd been interested in the new micromouse competitions, and as an electronics technician in the army I would have had some of the necessary skills, but I moved around a lot and soldiers travel light. It wasn't until I had left the forces and settled down to teach computing and microelectronics at a technical college in the 90s that I had the necessary workspace and started to hoard the all important collection of bits and pieces and electronic junk.

I'd dabbled in hobby electronics, as well as earning my living by it, and I could make printed circuit boards (PCBs) and the like, but I'd never built anything with moving parts so I decided to try my hand at a small robot buggy. What follows is the story of how I spent many hours, over the course of a year or so, building and programming something that, nowadays, any schoolchild using Lego Mindstorms could knock up in an hour!