Practical Robotics magazine (UK 1984)

Practical Robotics magazine, first published in May 1984

The first issue of Practical Robotics magazine was published in the UK over 30 years ago, in May 1984. I purchased these four issues, when they were published, at what seems today to be the very reasonable price of just 85p each. The magazine doesn’t appear to have been published for very long, and it is quite difficult to find copies today.

Topo “the latest example of U.S. personal robots to be launched in Britain” was featured (read more here), as well as a chance to win a Hero 1 “one of the earliest personal robots on the market”.  The review of Hero tells us that it has a 6808 CPU with 8K of operating system in ROM and 4K of user RAM. Hero sold in kit form for £1,599.95. The ROM included 16 demonstration programs to show Hero’s singing and dancing skills, including a rendition of Old McDonald had a Robot.

The first computer I ever owned was a Sinclair ZX-81, I remember buying a memory add-on to boost the computer’s 1K by a further 16K. This simple machine used Clive Sinclair’s own version of the Basic programming language. I can remember spending hours typing in programs from magazines, only to find that I had made a simple mistake somewhere which stopped the program from running properly. Much checking was involved before the error was found and something eventually happened. The ZX81 was built into a rather basic robot in one article in the magazine. John Mellor, who adapted the magazine’s robot for the ZX81 said “Almost certainly 1K will not be sufficient. I find 2K is adequate for most robotic purposes”. How things have changed now that terabytes are common!

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