Newbee help

I am new to robotics. And I am looking for some direction and help. There is so much information when I do a google search, I am trying to figure out where to begin.

What books, magazines, and forums should I be reading?

What do I want to do with robotics? I have really big ambitions, but I am willing to start small. To being with I would like to control some motors and a few led from my computer. If possible using my computers USB connections so I can control more devices. If not maybe I could use the serial or parallel ports on my computer.

Most of the information I find on the internet is for microcontrollers.

To help you help me I know a little about electronics, but not much. I understand what different component are, but could not build my own circuit without someone making a schematic. I have a background in programming (C, qbasic, and Cobol), but it is not recent. So I should be able to modify programs, but I would not want to write anything complicated from scratch. I have done a little soldering over the years. Nothing complicated, I build a motion sensor alarm and a am FM radio.


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robot kit based around a programmable microcontroller would be the way to go particularly if you live in the USA. This will give you the experience to go onto bigger things :)

I would like to play with these things myself but in Australia the local electronic shops do not find it commercially viable to stock such items.

You cannot use the USB ports via QBasic or C unless you know how to access a USB driver with these languages? If you pay the money you can do it with a Visual Basic program or learn Java? Modern computers require advanced programming knowledge if you want to use C++ or VC++.

You can directly access the parallel port of a PC with the older Windows 95/96/ME but not with XP which requires a parallel port driver. I added an extra two parallel ports to an older computer and this gave me plenty of i/o to play with. It does require a good basic understanding of electronics although in Australia they still have interface kits for parallel and serial ports that you can solder up if you like to control motors etc. They can all be used by a simple QBasic program.

- John

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You can do a good bit to have a computer control a gizmo you build. The serial port and parallel port are good for doing simple I/O with something as simple as batch files. For a start I'd get one or two "ezservo" servo control chips from Kronos Robotics (the cheapest I've found) and maybe six hobby servos from tower hobbies. With this you could make a simple computer controlled arm or beam to experiment with. Do all your programming in notepad. Below is a simple setup using the ezservo chip and a couple of servos that are controlled over the net to move a web cam. You could use the same setup to move a bot type of device. You can use Apache to run your batch files and use a simple html web page as your servo control gui. Mostly copy/paset and a little creativity.

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Si Ballenger


Please check out my website, where there is a mini FAQ for this group:

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Also check out
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for BASIC Stamp.

Hope this helps.



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