Robots and embedded systems

Last March, I made a robot. I followed the instructions over at Let's Make Robots! and built a little bot running the PICAXE 28X1 microprocessor. I named her Li'l Lady Murderpants and had big plans for some fun times. Unfortunately, the momentum died when I realized that the cable connecting the IR rangefinder to the ADC was faulty and my little girl was blind. For my birthday, my girlfriend got me the correct cable, but I didn't have time to wire it up, and the project was shelved.

A few weeks ago, my work duties changed dramatically and I shifted into software / firmware developement. Now I'm programming microprocessors. This focus on embedded systems renewed my interest in the robot and I got her wired up and working. I did some test runs of the rangefinder and all is well.

Unfortunately, it seems I cannot use the same language for the robot as I am using at work. My robot uses a form of Basic, while my new work duties revolve around C, VB .NET and C# .NET. The reason this makes me a bit sad is that I'd like to focus on learning one language right now, and so splitting my time between a few different ones makes it slower to gain basic competency, and maybe one day proficiency.

Regardless of what languages I'm using and where I'm using them, I'm glad to be making headway into something unrelated to the LAMP stack. Even Fusion and Nordic are written in JavaScript. Jumping from web development into embedded systems is quite a leap, but not one that I can't handle.

Now that I understand embedded systems a tiny bit, I'm very excited about the possibilities of this robot. I see inputs and I dream of sensors; I see outputs and think about motors and servos and speakers and lights. When I did this last year, I really wanted to do cool things. But this year has been very busy and the little time I have had was devoted to Fusion, Indigo and Nordic.

I'll try to keep up to date on the robot, but keeping focused on one project has been challenging lately. I will certainly post about my adventures in firmware and the experiences I'm having developing for the PIC 18/24/32 series of microprocessors. I also have some things to say about the .NET framework that I will write down shortly.