Making My Own Friend

If you count the time I took a huge toy car, and fastened the box it came it with masking tape, covered it with aluminum foil, (got spanked for that part) and drew a face on it–I’ve been building robots for fifty years or so.

A foil covered box taped to a toy car was about the best my five year old self could accomplish. And it was a LONG time before my concept of a robot could be satisfied.

Over the years I managed to learn things little by little. Motors, gears and drive trains, and basic electricity came first. That was enough to enter a collision and drop off sensing robot in the school science fair. (OK, so it was yet another toy car, with a better cardboard body attached to it. But it DID come a few steps closer to the robot I imagined.

In high school, I learned electronics, and then digital electronics. But even tho the first robot books and even a few kits, were starting to appear, they were still a bit beyond my wallet, and skill set. It was hard to actually meet and talk to anyone else who built robots.

Then came computers, which managed to become a fascinating pass time on their own. Oh—and lets not forget the responsibility of marriage and raising a family.

Years passed. For a long time, I did more selling of electronic devices than tinkering with them. Oh there was field service and bench service, computer and network maintenance. . .still no time for robots.

But then some things changed. The electronic devices—micro-controllers like the venerable Arduino appeared and became so cheap they got to the point where they were an impulse by. (Ok, so my impulses might be a bit different that some folks.) Computers got smaller and more powerful. REAL robots started to appear. Everything got better, and cheaper and smaller. . .and. . .wonder upon wonder, I had time to play again!

Oh, there are still a few issues here and there. Electronics has changed QUITE a bit since I learned ohms law. But it was easy to accomplish wonderful things with a few inexpensive parts and a bit of ingenuity. Not only that, but there was a whole Internet full of people doing the same thing that you could compare notes with.

It’s time. My vision of a vaguely humanoid creation that could get around on its own, accomplish tasks and (someday) even talk is nearly at hand. OK, so we might be close to robot butlers in the not so distant future, but there’s still time for me to build my own robot, and show a few friends how it’s done.

I hope that’s you.

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