Robot Pet Is A Chip Off The Old Logic Block

When [Ezra Thomas] needed inspiration for his senior design project, he only needed to look as far as his own robot. Built during his high school years from the classic 1979 Frank DaCosta book “How to Build Your Own Working Robot Pet”, [Ezra] had learned the hard way the many limitations and complexities of the wire wrapped 74xx series logic chips surrounding its 8085 processor.

[Ezra] embarked on a quest to recreate the monstrosity in miniature, calling it Pet on a Chip. Using a modern FPGA chip allows the electronics to shrink by an order of magnitude and provides flexibility for future expansion. Implementing an 8 bit CPU on the amply sized FPGA left plenty of room for a VGA GPU, motor controller, serial UART, and more. Programming the CPU is handled by a custom assembler written in Python.

The results? Twelve times less weight, thirteen times less power draw, better performance, and a lot of room for growth. [Ezra] hints at an I2C bus expansion as well as a higher level programming language to make software development less of a hurdle.

The Pet On A Chip is a wonderfully engineered project and we hope that we’ll be seeing more such from [Ezra] as time goes by. Watch his Pet On A Chip in action in the video below the break.

If [Ezra]’s FPGA escapades have you wondering how to get started, you can check out this introduction to FPGA from the 2019 Hackaday Superconference. And if you have your own FPGA creation to share, please let us know via the Tip Line!

10 thoughts on “Robot Pet Is A Chip Off The Old Logic Block

  1. About 1968, I went to a science fair. I was eight, the one thing I remember was a “robot”.

    A bit thing, all it could do was move around, and it was controlled by a box connected by a relatively short cable.

    It seemed so neat at the time.

    But the only thing that made it a robot was the shape, and labelling. It was just a very large remote control car.

    A decade later, other than size (and it was actually man size), there were microprocessors, and one could have a level of “smarts” on board.

    There was a book about in 1976, “Build Your Own Working Robot” by David L. Heiserman,vcoming on the cusp so I recall it was just TTL. I never saw the Pet book, but remember reviews, as I recall it did do a bit more.

    1. As I recall the “Build Your Own Working Robot” was just TTL like you said, but David L. Heiserman also had another book in 1979 called “Build Your Own Self Programming Robot” that was 8085 and TTL based. When I found that book (in the early 90’s) it really got me interested in robotics and electronics. I never built the robot described, but I really think it is a large part of why I chose the path I did in college and got into the career I did.

      Fairly often I still think about trying to track down all those old parts numbers and building that robot.

      I never heard of this Frank DaCosta book, but I kind of want to find a copy of it now.

    1. *Does “twelve times less weight” mean “one twelfth the weight”? If so, please word it that way. The former is confusing at best.*

      Take it to means it’s a lot smaller/lighter… Not everybody is a grammar major, or even fluent in the English language. It’s easier to translate in your head, than try and ‘correct’ everybody else… Assuming you have the cognitive capacity.

      1. This is a tech forum. Language is said to have a mathematical basis. I take a 12x weight reduction to be, 1/12th. But like dilution of a liquid w another for a 10% solution, may be done wrongly with 1 cup and 10 cups, or right with 1 & 9, perhaps a 12x reduction is 1/11th the weight. Or if the original is 1 lb, in my example, maybe the new one is minus 9 lb. I’d rather see 80 grams vs 880, or such. (Or a clarification in english. We do have non-native speakers here.)

        It’s said the proof of a concept is repeatability by others. Clearly, we would fail in following the prose to a success. You guys write tech to geeks. Plz stop trying to make a topic interesting. It is or it ain’t. YMMV, etc. It will stand on its own without additional help, or maybe fail, with unclear help.

        KISS, baby. We dig, boring. It’s a faster , clearer read. Not poetry upon which to meditate, but numbers and CLEARER RATIOS to intrigue us. A different venue.

        No offense meant. You’re off the hook. Your bosses are probably writers of the info’tainment field trying to teach/force you to make boring stuff, interesting. Or less uninteresting, in their eyes. It’s really bothersome.

        Let tech speak for itself, in plain machine or assy language… so to speak. As you see, it has confused and distracted from the actual topic at hand. We eat boring for breakfast by the box and into the wee hours, and it has stood us in good stead. Don’t alienate your customer base. It’s like a salesman who has a sale in hand, continues to try to sell it, and thereby looses the sale. Or, give us a button to click on KISS or FLUFF. W or W/O Rich Text Grammer & Prose. Geek or Civilian.

        I hope by now you’ve drifted off so the typesetter-apprentice posts the future articles. Ok… kidding… a little bit.
        Please take this as humorous… not exactly the baileywick of a lowly geek. But we wouldn’t get your jokes, either.

        And, a twelveth? We have moved somewhat deeply into decimal fractions. Years ago in fact. Back when we forced even alcoholics to be the guinea pigs for the metric system. No more “2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, a dollar.” (I wonder if they will drink more when SI units are forced upon them. But they realized right away, metric bottles were smaller….)

        So, if it was 1/2 less, it would be half the weight… We should not have to work so hard. 12 x less HAS to mean, 1 of these floats in the air to raise 11 of the old units. No more english. Speak geek. There myst be a class for it somewhere. KISS is a starting point.

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