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The Basics

This column is intended to be a place to find really basic information on subjects related to robotics and electronics. If you have questions about the basics on these subjects, this column is for you. I invite you to submit questions or information to this column. Send me some mail.

Kevin Ross

This is the first in a series of columns that will help cover the most basic and elementary questions that most people have about robotics. The first, and actually the most difficult question to answer is: I want to build a robot. How do I get started?

The first thing you need, of course, is information. Anyone who does hobby level robotics really needs to have a particular book. Its called

Mobile Robots: Inspiration to Implementation
Joseph L. Jones
Anita M Flynn
ISBN 1-56881-011-3
A K Peters, Ltd
289 Linden Street
Wellesley, MA 02181
(617) 235-2210, Fax: (617) 235-2404

For the past couple of years this book is the hands down winner among robot builders. If you really wanted to understand all of the parts that go into a robot, this is the book to have.

There are some existing places on the internet that you can find info on building robots, robot designs, and other robotics groups. Here is a list of great places to look:

Standard Technologies of the Seattle Robotics Society A primer on how to build a robot, as well as some background information, books, and other interesting information
PARTS Portland Area Robotics Society
Robot Competition FAQ Frequently asked questions about robotic competitions.
Electronics Search FAQ Report An electronics oriented Frequenty Asked Question link page.
Robotics FAQ Table of Contents This is the definitive list of robotics information on the internet

Where to buy 68HC11 chips and documents

Ask anyone who has been around for a while, and they will be able to tell you the horror stories about trying to get ahold of our favorite chip, the Motorola MC68HC811E2 (the HC11 with 2K of EEPROM onboard). Motorola had some production problems, and was unable to keep up with demand. This problem appears to be solved now (Jan 1997), and the 'E2 is available for purchase. You might try WYLE ELECTRONICS at (800) 248-9953. They are currently running around $18.10 each. Other Motorola distributors should also have these for sale.

You also might check out my website at http://www.nwlink.com/~kevinro/products.html to see if I have any of these available. I have been ordering tubes of them to make them available to people.

Documentation for the MC68HC11 is available from Motorolas web site. M68HC11 Microcontrollers. This will enable you to download a .PDF version of the 'pink' book, or to order one from Motorola. While you are there, you should also download PCBUG11 pcbug342.exe (check for a newer version if this link is broken). This is the program we use for downloading code to the MC68HC11. If you desire, you can order a manual from Motorola. Look in their literature section.

What else do you want to know? Send me mail and ask away. Kevin Ross