I thought it a bit amazing that
this seven year old computer was
featured in the film when far newer
computers with actual key boards,
monitors, modern processors, and
useful software were so prevalent in
’ 83. Even the 6502-based Apple 1
(shown in Figure 5) that was
designed by Steve Wozniak and Jobs
and sold by Apple in 1977 for
$666.66 had a keyboard.
Should you be lucky enough
these days to run across an Apple 1 in
a homebrew box as in Figure 6,
politely give the seller the $25 he’s
asking for it and hurry home with
your prize. Find yourself a huge safe
and hide it because these relics have
sold for as much as $1 million.
Why was Early
I remember one member of the
Southern California Robotics Society
saying in the late ’70s that his 6502-
based robot was proof that future
robotics development had finally
found the key to success. “With access
to these powerful processors,” I
remember him quoting, “We will be
able to build some amazing robots.”
We had just formed with the help of
some NASA JPL personnel and
Robotics Age Magazine, and were
meeting at a library.
That magazine has not been
published for decades now, and the
group’s name was changed to the
Robotics Society of
Southern California in the
mid ’80s, but the
statement really struck me
as a real turning point for
robotics. I don’t
remember the guy’s name
and the exact words, but
I was left with the feeling
of being a part of the
All of our robots back
in those days were strictly
rolling mobile platforms,
though there were some
autonomous underwater vehicles.
Walking bi-pedal robots did not really
exist except in labs operated by
university researchers such as Marc
Raibert, the founder of Boston
Dynamics (now owned by Google).
There were multi-legged quad and
hexapods, but the balancing of a twolegged robot was beyond most
experimenters as gyros and
accelerometers were very expensive.
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Advances in robots and robotics over the years.
SERVO 11.2015 75
Figure 2. MITS Altair 8800 from Vintage Computer. Figure 3. Imsai 8080.