August 3rd, 2020 § Comments Off on Ready… § permalink

It Boots!

I’m always a little scared of applying power to a device after working on it. After flipping the antique switch, I was greeted by the classic 80’s synthetic voice saying “Ready”. It was glorious.


Before powering up the Hero 1, I reviewed the wiring top to bottom. As this was a teaching robot, there were certainly some jenky wiring. Additionally, the fuse blocks were open blocks – seems a bit dangerous to me.

Let’s replace these

I replaced the wiring from the batteries into the power supply, upgrading the fuse block to an Automotive ATM inline fuse blocks.

Much better

Once booted, I was also able to drive it around! (I’ll get video later).


Now that I have the Hero 1 Robot driving and talking, it’s time to think about upgrades required to interface it with a modern CPU. (I did say I was going to ROS enable it right?)

USB on a 35 year old robot?

In order to have a modern CPU communicate with the robot, I need a modern serial interface. Turns out the Robot Workshop offers a USB Serial bridge for the Hero 1!

It requires a memory upgrade and a late version ROM, so I picked those up as well.

Memory Upgrade


The Panels of the Hero 1 suffer from the classic yellowing of old plastic. I’m going to see if Retr0bright will help (or hurt). What’s Retr0bright? It’s a chemical process that was developed (or was it discovered) by the console restoration community. If it works on consoles, it should work on robots… I’ll report back.

35 year old ROS Robot?

July 12th, 2020 § Comments Off on 35 year old ROS Robot? § permalink

Meet Marty. Marty is a HeathKit ET-18 Educational HERO 1. ROS – the Robot Operating System – is an open source “system” for operating Robots. Can I ROS enable a 35 year old Robot?

(Full disclosure – I’m a Development Lead at Microsoft in the Edge Robotics team – working on ROS within the Core Operating Systems group. This project is not endorsed by or funded by Microsoft)

ROS enforces a “separation of concerns” – Sensors, Compute and Actuators are separated from each other using a “pub/sub” messaging model.

The HERO 1 uses a Motorola 6808 Microprocessor with 4kb of RAM. This obviously won’t run ROS or a modern operating system; but is it enough to run the motors and sensors?

Let’s Try it!

But first, I need to get it up and running.

Marty was built in October 1984 – when I was 9 years old. Marty will be cheaper to restore than a Delorean…
Are those Eyes or Ears?
Something missing…
Check out this wheel encoder!
I think this is the end stop
Hmmm… I’m sure that shouldn’t be like this…
Safety Third – That’s some good macgyvering there.
I’m pretty sure they aren’t supposed to be this way…
1980s Ground Bar…
Yes, the wire is jammed into test points to change modes…
This looks aftermarket. Good plan…

For a 35 year old Education robot, I think it is in relatively good shape. I’ve ordered manuals and some upgrades – including a USB interface…

My plan:

  • Clean all the contacts
  • Fixup some of the solder blobs
  • The open fuses scare me. I’m going to replace them with closed fuses…
  • I’ll do subsystem bringup, then work on the Arm…

Until Next time….


July 8th, 2020 § Comments Off on HERO 1 & ROS? § permalink

When I was young – early ’80s – I was in the boy scouts. During one of our events, one of the parents introduced us to a Heathkit Hero 1. It was the first time I realized Robots were real.

I found a complete Hero 1 robot on eBay, and had to have it! It has sat on a a shelf for over a year now. I was recently inspired by a restoration video to fix it up.

Through the grapevine, I was introduced to a Robotics historian, who has a cache of components – and upgrades!

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be doing a teardown, cleanup and rebuild… I’ll post progress shots. Maybe even do videos…

If you are reading this – cool. It’s been forever since I posted.

I work professionally with the Robot Operating System – ROS…. Once it is up and running – maybe I’ll ROS enable it.


Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Robotics category at OoeyGUI.