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[DPRG] The ideal robot controller NO "C"

Subject: [DPRG] The ideal robot controller NO "C"
From: Rick Bickle rbickle at intconsys.com
Date: Wed Nov 30 13:13:51 CST 2011

I can see the appeal for a beginner of a "drag and drop" visual type of
language, but in order for these languages to be simple, they have to limit
the number of options available to the programmer. C itself could be made
into a "visual" language, with drag and drop buttons for (for.next)
(if.then) (while.endwhile) etc. Each "button" would have to have several
parameters associated with it such as the number of loops to run; starting
and ending points, etc. In the end, in order for it to be as useful as C, it
would have to be just as complex. Programmers will eventually reach a point
where they want the compiler to do more than it's simple structure allows,
and then they have to start over  and learn something totally new. In my
opinion, better to start learning a simpler version of the language you will
eventually end up learning anyway. This is what the Arduino has done.

 

Rick

 

From: dprglist-bounces at dprg.org [mailto:dprglist-bounces at dprg.org] On Behalf
Of A. Scientist
Sent: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 11:21 AM
To: steve at txtulip.com
Cc: dprglist at dprg.org; srainwater at ncc.com
Subject: Re: [DPRG] The ideal robot controller NO "C"

 

"Easy to program... NO "C"... OR JAVA ... the argument that these are
powerful languages is just a band aid for the fact they are non intuitive
and therefore hostile to new programmers and violates the most basic
computer premise. 
See the story at the end if you are interested. A drag and drop GUI
programming system will teach far more than tossing someone into Audrino
systems because you don't have to learn a language first just to find out
what you don't know. "

 

Wow, someone had a hard time learning C. A drag and drop GUI teaches you
that the underlying code doesn't matter and can be abstracted away. That
makes you ignorant to how your code actually works, and at a large
disadvantage when you have low level issues to debug.

 

There is nothing hostile about either language, only your attitude about
learning.

 

IMO If you are interested in building a robot from scratch so that you could
have full control over it, why wouldn't you want to exert the same level of
control over the software?

 

 

 

On Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 10:21 AM, <steve at txtulip.com> wrote:

Wow Lots of discussion. OK first define the problem ... the IDEAL
controller....should have/be:

1) Easy to use
   a) Good I/O ports
   b) Easy to power (Non exotic connectors..a particular gripe of mine)
   c) Available plug in sensors

2) Easy to program 


Most processors these days have good and multiple I/O so 1a is pretty easy.
Power... I've always liked 5 volt systems or 12 volts and 7.2 volt battery
with internal regulators for 5 volt TTL sensor stuff... what pervert decided
on 3.3 volts? That guy is ON MY LIST!! 
Plug in sensors... because who has time to build little cases and connectors
for I/O? I want to get to the heart of the matter and control a robot.
Easy to program... NO "C"... OR JAVA ... the argument that these are
powerful languages is just a band aid for the fact they are non intuitive
and therefore hostile to new programmers and violates the most basic
computer premise. 
See the story at the end if you are interested. A drag and drop GUI
programming system will teach far more than tossing someone into Audrino
systems because you don't have to learn a language first just to find out
what you don't know. 

So because there is not currently a "speak and program" processor and
because of the GUI aspect I think Legos Mindstorm system is a great choice
and for the same reason Vex is an excellent choice as well. They both offer
a lot of sensors that just plug in
and PROBABLY have more support than Audrino. ( Vex is essentially a "C"
processor I believe, but you don't have to know "C" to use it... YEA!!!)
So unless you have some kind of camera vision system that needs special code
and processing my vote is definitely VEX.

Steve         

Here's the story: When I was living in London working with a robotics team
there, one of the teens came up to me to show off his watch. It was one of
those watches that give the time in a binary code. I chided him, " Machines
are meant to learn OUR language... not to make US learn THEIRS. You're just
encouraging the robotic overlords to rise up sooner than later." So if you
find you have to convert the football scores to binary to know who's
ahead... it's too late... they've Chipped You!



 

 

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Burrell <peburrell at yahoo.com>
To: Steve Rainwater <srainwater at ncc.com>; dprglist <dprglist at dprg.org>
Sent: Wed, Nov 30, 2011 9:35 am
Subject: Re: [DPRG] The ideal robot controller

After reading this thread, it still ended up feeling like a "CPU flame war".
The only thing that changed was that the topic was principal and not
product.

 

Some things I have found over my many years of being part of robotics clubs
are:

 

1. Everyone is different.

2. Everyone has something different they want to get out of being part of
the club.   The club can only help direct and guide.    If goals are too
different, the person leaves or the group breaks up.

3. One size will never fit all.   Time is money and money is time.   They
are directly interchangable and some have more of one or the other.   If you
are fortunate to have both, you are blessed.   Each one can direct you down
different paths and still achieve your goal. 

 

Something to consider.....   Assess you goals.  

 

If you are a beginner that wants to keep it simple and don't have a lot of
funds, find a segment within the club.    They can help guide you into
making it a good experience no matter what you pick.   In the end, most low
end  robotics projects have a limted life/learning experience.    If you
understand that fact, it makes the experience more enjoyable.   Yes, there
will be issues, but the experience gained is valuable moving forward.     

 

If you want to make it a learning experience, join up with some of the
advanced members and be prepared to learn.  There is always a small group
within the club that wants to stretch and take on advanced topics.   It's
harder to find, but is rewarding if that is your goal.

 

Although I am not part of your group, from the outside, it looks like you
have a great group.   Keep it strong and growing.

 

Paul

 

 

 

 

From: Steve Rainwater <srainwater at ncc.com>
To: dprglist at dprg.org 
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 5:19 PM
Subject: Re: [DPRG] The ideal robot controller

On Tue, 2011-11-29 at 17:40 -0600, Randy M. Dumse wrote:
> and why doesn't a "better" instrument
> doesn't give better results?

How about an analogy from the world of photography. 

Photographers have historically said that experience, talent and skill
are more important than what camera you use. The canonical quote is
attributed to photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson: "The best photographer
in the world is not as good as the worst camera". My personal experience
confirms this. I've taken photos with a 50 year old, $2 camera found at
an estate sale that rival shots I've taken with modern DSLRs and
multi-thousand dollar lenses.

I think David is suggesting a similar principle applies here. Pretty
much any controller already exceeds the needs of making a robot with
interesting behaviors. Most of our robots don't do much more than Grey
Walter's did in the 1950s with a few vacuum tubes. 

A nematode has about 1 MIPS of computational power; something really
evolved and smart like a dragonfly has about 1,000 MIPS (about 80% of
which is estimated to be for vision). Are our AVR/arduino robots as
smart as a nematodes or our Beagleboard robots demonstrating behaviors
as intelligent as dragonflies? Maybe it's not newer, faster hardware we
need, but a better idea of what to do with the existing hardware (i.e.
learning to write smarter software).


-Steve


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