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paulbird

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What I want to be able to do is control things with my computer. For example any suggestions on how I would do the following things? 1) Turn a simple electric motor on and off with my computer - how about two motors? 2) Let my computer know when a light-sensitive thingy is on or off. Maybe there is a kit you can buy which helps you build stuff like this. Any ideas?

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Lego Mindstorms is a good way to go, though its expensive (www.legomindstorms.com). I even heard of one guy programming his lego mindstorms to solve a rubix cube.

Basically the buzzword for programming robots is Microcontrollers, and typically they come in a variety of flavors. If you dont know any ASM expect to learn it here...
The only robot I ever programmed was for class (CS 273, microcontrollers). It was fun class, we used a motorolla chip (the HC 08 or something) that we programmed to control our robots to detect light using light sensers, run the wheel motors and also hitting something (with button like sensors)...fun course.

-Shane

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not really a kit persay that i'm aware of, but you should get some books on programming parallel and serial devices.
a couple of good books:
USB Complete 2nd edition
Serial Port Complete
Parallell Port Complete


all three of these books are by jan axelson, but they're pretty good. once you learn how to interface with these ports, programming a "controller" is as simple as sending and receiving messages.

-eldee
;another space monkey;
[ Forced Evolution Studios ]


::evolve::

Do NOT let Dr. Mario touch your genitals. He is not a real doctor!


[edited by - eldee on May 1, 2003 11:37:15 AM]

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this acrticle, including comments and links in them, could be helpful: click here

but lego mindstorms are a good alternative i guess...last year i''ve been to the exhibition of another universities CS department where they showed some mindstorms...one was a car that followed a track painted on the ground, one robot used sonar to find out (and display on a computer screen) where you are, and the best one had a little cam and a plastic-dart-shoot thingie and was connected to a pc that did image recognition, so when you held a bright object somewhere in front of it, the robot would shoot and actually hit it with the darts. pretty cool


42

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OK. So, I have to learn how to send messages down a parrallel or serial port.

To operate motors and sensors through these ports, I would need some sort of switches which could be turned on and off by messages and which I could attach motors to.

port ]-----(wire)------------# switches <-motors

I was wondering if there is some sort of pre-maid circuitry which you can buy which you can plug into the port and which operates switches at the other end? (Lego seems a bit expensive to me.)

For example using the printer cable could I buy something to plug this into which could operate switches?

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you prob want to get a book on electronics too. the simplest method would be to uses a relay to switch on and off motors. heres a link to a resource http://discolitez.com/

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I was reading the articles, and it says ''a micro controller is a computer''.

Now apparently you need a micro-controller to send messages to to work your motors - but this seems a little superfluous to me, since surely you don''t need TWO computers to operate a simple motor? I would rather settle for a small piece of circuitry which I could plug into my printer cable and operate stuff without programming ANOTHER tiny computer! Is this possible or am I just crazy?

Basically the circuit would read the messages coming in and turn switches on/off.

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hi paulbird,

If you are just looking for a way to switch a relay (which then controls the motor) using the serial or parallel port, this is not so complicated. You "just" have to switch a pin of the port from high to low and back. I did this on the serial port. There you can use the modem control functions of the windows API to switch the DTR (pin 4) or RTS (pin 7) status signals. However, the output power of the port is not sufficient to drive a relay directly, so you have to put a transistor in between.
Another thing i have to mention is the bootup of windows: On bootup, it tries to recognize all attached devices, and this leads to some on/off switching during the boot process (98 switches on and off once, XP several times), so you either leave the PC on ;-) or add some electronics to suppress this switching.

hope this helps
blw

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I remember back in the day using Turbo Pascal to flip on and off individual pins on my monitor port to access different color modes. There is probably some API out there that allows you to do that in c. I''ve also seen a kit for using a pocket pc. It comes with an API and instruments that plug into the serial port on IPAQs.

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