Controlling Robots With A TRS-80

[DJ Sures], mastermind behind the EZ-B Bluetooth Robot controller, sent in a really interesting build where he controls a robot with a 1983 TRS-80 computer.

The robot in question is [DJ Sures]’ adorable WALL-E we’ve seen before. WALL-E is controlled through a Bluetooth connection to a desktop PC with the EZ-Builder hardware and software package.

To get the Trash-80 talking to WALL-E, [Sures] connected a tiny Bluetooth module to the TX pin of the 6402 UART. It’s a very, very simple modification that adds a Bluetooth serial connection to one of the first notebook computers. After syncing the TRS-80 and WALL-E to the computer running EZ-Builder, it’s a piece of cake to make the robot respond to the clanging of a 30-year-old keyboard.

There’s a video of [DJ Sures] going over his build after the break with a wonderful demo of WALL-E freaking out to a little dubstep. Check that out after the break.


12 thoughts on “Controlling Robots With A TRS-80

  1. Back in high school, I built a controller board that interfaces with the T-100/T-102 printer port.
    Two Gearmotors, a swivel caster and an RC car battery later, and the Tandy drove itself around.

  2. I’m not clear on what he’s doing here. Is the Bluetooth module talking to a PC, which is running software to decode the high/low levels from the TRS-80 model 100? And the PC then sends commands to the Wall-E robot?

    Or, is the TRS-80 sending normal serial data directly to the robot via Bluetooth somehow?

    I also don’t see *any* programs in the TRS-80 menu, aside from the usual built-in ones. Where is the software that makes it work?

      1. DJ Sures wrote:
        > you can view the source on (but then no link)…

        I have a TRS-80 model 100, and I have a robot. So, I am very impressed, and interested in trying this idea myself! But there isn’t enough information in your description for me to figure out what you’re doing.

        Could you explain it a bit better? For instance, you bought Bluetooth module model (X), which accepts normal async data, which sends it to your PC, which is running (this program), that sends the commands to the robot using Bluetooth module (Y)? If it’s something like this, I can see why all you needed is the model 100’s built-in terminal program, because the real “brain” is in the PC.

    1. Yea, leeahart, it looks like the description states that the robot was originally controlled with a Bluetooth link to a PC. I appears as if he replaced the PC controller with a Model 100 that he modified with a serial Bluetooth module that he connected to an internal serial port, communicating using the internal Terminal program, possibly also able to push data to the serial port using a BASIC application…

  3. I wanted one of these “laptops” when I was a child and they first came out, but it was way too expensive. Awesome that I got one for free last summer at the “drop off your old electronic crap” day provided by our local power co-op. It was sitting there just dropped off when I pulled in to drop off a few gutted TV chassis, and I asked them if I could have it. I thought they would say no(against regulations, or something), but the guy said he didn’t care. Sweet. Now I know what to do with it…

    1. Our town has an electronic stuff bin at the recycling center. It’s supposed to be for CRT tubes, but all kinds of computer and video stuff gets dropped off and they don’t seem to care. I scored a nice aluminium Lian Li computer case from there. My wife cautions me that everything I bring home has to be matched by something I get rid of, so I try not to go crazy there. But a TRS-80 model 100 is a good find…and you’re being environmentally responsible, to boot!

  4. I am impressed that there are still TRS-80’s of any kind around and still being used! I learned to code on a TRS-80 model I with expansion interface and 80k floppies and later a model II.

    Now Windows 7 C#, etc after 32 years at it.

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