Alfred the Robot Arm

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Alfred from Robot City Technology

The 'Alfred' arm made its first appearance in a series of constructional articles in Everyday Electronics magazine in late 1984. The articles were written by Alfred's creator, Alan Green. (It seems the Alfred name was a shortened version of 'Alan's friend' - a name Alan Green gave to his home built robot to impress his six year old daughter and her school friends.) The Everyday Electronics DIY version, as illustrated on the left, used six model servos and was designed to be controlled by a BBC B. It housed an array of discrete TTL chips to code and decode 8-bit parallel data signals, with much of the processing work done by the Beeb's CPU. A set of parts was available from Robot City Technology Ltd (RCT), which I presume was Alan Green's own company. Prices were around £160 ready built and £120 in kit form.

A slicker, more commercial version of Alfred had been developed by RCT by 1985/86 and is illustrated below. This later Alfred used essentially the same external casing, servos and toothed belt design, but replaced the original electronics with an 'intelligent' motherboard running an 8MHz Z8681 MCU with separate 2K ram chip and 8K eprom. This allowed it to be driven, potentially, by any micro that could handle a bi-directional serial or parallel data stream - as the Z8 has multiple 8-bit data ports and an on-chip UART for serial comms. RCT's mark I board retained a 34-way IDC plug for parallel data transfer. The later mark II version was fitted with a serial interface instead, for compatibility with a wider range of micros. By this point the prices had risen to £200 for a kit and £270 fully assembled.

Information from

Date : 1984

Manufacturer : Robot City

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH4810. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

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