Bought some Microcontrollers
For years I've been toying with the idea of playing more with electronics, specifically with microcontrollers, to build things like robots. I figure it's the perfect blend of my strengths (programming) with something different for me (electronics). In the past they were pretty expensive and underpowered, but thanks to Moore's Law they can be had for pretty cheap and they can do a lot in one tiny package.
I've ordered two Arduino Diecimila USB devices from SparkFun. These things come with the Atmel AVR ATmega168 with 16K RAM and runs at about 1 MIPS which, in comparison, is about the same speed as my first computer, the Atari 1040ST. Each of these cost $35.00 assembled (the chip itself is $5.00) and can be run off of a 9 volt battery.
When I looked at these things in the past the most popular ones for hobbyists ran BASIC which I though was stupid and expensive ($125 vs $35). As a programmer I'd much rather program in C or maybe Forth, besides, programming isn't the issue for me, it's the electronics.
The real deal is doing everything wirelessly, that's why I also bought two XBee 'shields' for the Arduino. These things are little more expensive at $80.00 each but could be made cheaper if I had the guts to do some soldering ($12.00 + $24.00 = $36.00). They have about the same range as WiFi but are about 200x more efficient. They also work in self healing mesh network, which I'm a big fan of (OLPC). My plan (at some point in the far future) is to have one Xbee (connected to a computer) controlling another XBee on a wheeled robot platform. I also thought of using Bluetooth but it's more expensive, has less range and uses more power.
Transmission Range (meters)
1 – 100*
1 - 100
1 – 10
Battery Life (days)
100 – 1,000
0.5 – 5.0
1 - 7
Network Size (# of nodes)
20 – 250
I also went ahead a purchased the LogoMatic data logger. I'm not sure how I'll use it but I do have some old SD chips lying around that I'd like to use for something.
Today I was going through my Amazon wish list and realized that I won't be needing this:
anymore since I can now make my own.