A search of journals in Worldcat, a worldwide effort by many libraries
to provide access to their catalogs in one place, turned up zero hits for
Practical Robotics. That can't be good if you are looking for something.
Worldcat library catalog home page
to help you find Worldcat.
Similar searches in regional pooled library catalogs and large local
library catalogs also turned up zero hits.
There were only a few issues of Practical Robotics published. I have
both the sept/oct and nov/dec issues.
The project is actually based on the Z8671 tiny basic microcontroller.
The TMS chip is the chip that is inside the Big Trak and as the memory
is mask programmed you can't change it. The Z8671 actually interfaces
to the TMS via the keypad lines. The sept/oct issue raves on about how
cool this will be and all the amazing add-ons that "could" be part of
In the nov/dec issue a veroboard layout is detailed. In essence, they
take a remote control toy and turn it into, well, a more expensive
remote control toy.
It was an exciting time for personal robots back then but
unfortunately it didn't lead to anything. Practical Robotics had only
just started and it could have become a great magazine, but the field
was more juvenile than electronics, which is what PR wanted to be, a
practical magazine for hobbyists. Even now you won't find much
advancement in current hobbyist robot magazines. Sure we have better
micros and access to cheaper more reliable sensors, but the really
important stuff still eludes us.
If you are looking for other stuff on converting Big Trak, try Mark
Robillard's "Microprocessor Based Robotics". This is a very old work
(1983) so you'll probably have to find it at a library.
Hey what a great response for me.
Thanks Dave E. for the information on the magazine article. I would
like to know more on what they were doing with the interface between
the Zxxx and the TMS1000. Were they extending the range of
instructions of the TMS ?
Dave I can send you some $ to post me some photocopies of the
The reason I am enquiring re the TMS1000 is that I have a model
railroad controller, the Hornby Zero One, and I would like to add one
small improvement, that is to increase the number of locomotive
addresses. As the TMS is masked, I thought there maybe another way.
My searches came across the above article in the Practical Robotics
Charlie downunder in New Zealand
I'm sorry but I don't have the actual article you're looking for. The link I
sent to you isn't my project, I just thought it might give you a little
scrap of information that might be helpful, but you might try emailing the
people who did the project for more info on the TMS1000. Regards,
I have a copy of that article somewhere (if I can find it)
But as I recall the article was using the Zxxx to interface to the TMS
via the Bigtrak keypad. Basically it just tapped in the required
commands and pressed go. Then waited until the TMS flagged that it had
completed that operation(s).
I think the Zxxx only monitored one line on the TMS and keypad input was
via a few 4066 ICs.
The article was promising to take things a lot further, but I don't
think there were (m)any more editions after that - Shame really, I
thought it was an excellent magazine at the time. It certainly helped to
get me started (that and Gordon McCombs first edition).
If I can find my copies tonight I'll check it out.
Unless you have a Big Trak then you'll probably find this more useful:
all you need do is figure out networking on your train controller. Got
The only other publicly available book on the TMS1000 was 'Understanding
Microprocessors' by TI. NOT real informative. Someone else will have to dig
that one up:P. Not willing to brave my storage.
As for Mark J. Robillard's book ('Microprocessor Based Robotics'
isbn#0-672-22050-4) it went more towards the 8748 then Z8671(w /Z6132-
4kdram w/refresh built in). The TMS1000 was only block diagramed and a not
so complete schematic of the BigTrak. The book goes over an interface for
the Big Trak using 4051's for the keyboard interface to the big-trak and
4013's as inputs(via 4n26 opto-couplers on the fire and home-made bump
switch) to interface with the z8671(Basic Interpreter) . The Z8 was then
connected to a TRS-CoCo via 6821. Unfortunately the entire implementation
could have been done better. I don't believe the program provided (BASIC
for CoCo) was complete either. Further the CoCo had an rs-232 interface
which would have been a better choice IMO for hooking to Z8. Given the
offerings to the hobbyists at the time it was pretty good.
I wouldn't suggest it now due to most of the specialty IC's discussed (very
briefly at that) are no longer available and have long since been EOP. You
can still find 8748/9 tho'. However if you feel the need:
was a nice bit on using 4116's dram for vision, but again not
This one should probably be scheduled for prj. Gutenburg.
Have fun damnit.
So I put on the miners' cap and went spelunking.
Some corrections are due.
The 'Understanding Microprocessors' is similar to TI's training course of
the time, but lacking on details of the TMS1000. A subset programming
example is given (SAM-Simplified Architecture Microprocessor) using TMS1000
opcodes. Doubtful that'll give you any help tho'. Not too shabby a book
for $2.95 and 288 pages (1979), goes through basics.
The hook-ups were:
CoCo >> 6821 >> BigTrak - keyboard interface/I
CoCo >> Z8 >> Big Trak - keyboard interface /I
Mark did use the serial interface on the Z8 - just didn't show how to hook
it up. Connecting the Tx/Rx lines of Z8 to an RS-232 would have killed
Z8671's serial. Going with the 6821 (timers often used for serial
communication) would have been better than suggesting a terminal interface
or at least a brief intro to 1488/89s(232 level converters). 6850 would have
been cool too. Book is more for inspiration on certain topics.
Again most of the book was dedicated to the 8748- Mark probably should have
stuck with it throughout. Given the reference to the Armatron, Big Trak
and his 8748 based RCL (robot control language) I was fully expecting
integration of the three but, oh well.
Not that any of this helps ya Charlie; it still happens that we get folks
asking about the TMS1000, Big Trak, 8748, and the Armatron from time to
The CoCo was the TRS-80 Color Computer (models I-III and (mc-10?)) a 6809E
based PC- FWIW.
Ok enough babbling. Have to go re-install winslow$, niece turned on the auto
update - PCHealth my ass - more like PCInvasion.
Have fun damnit.
This is pretty late in the piece I know, but I thought I should reply as you had
asked about scans. I would happily scan them but the magazines were stolen about
a year ago along with some other robotic items. However you might try contacting
David Buckley in England, I know he has all 4 issues. You can find information
about him here:
This is pretty late in the piece I know, but I thought I should reply as you
had asked about scans. I would happily scan them but the magazines were stolen
about a year ago along with some other robotic items. However you might try
contacting David Buckley in England, I know he has all 4 issues. You can find
information about him here: