Robots for the Hardware Impaired

I need to take a remedial soldering course.

I spent yesterday evening trying to build the JP1 cable so I could program my new remote control. First, I tried to fix the cable Sam and I had made on Sunday (well, he did the soldering; I told him what to connect, and got that wrong), and after just a few minutes, had successfully destroyed the DB-25 connector. But the good news was that I’d unsoldered all of the connections, so I could try again.

This time, I tried a crimp connector — unlike a soldering iron, pliers don’t get hot. And I got everything wired up, and even managed to get the interface to pass the first test — but I couldn’t ever get it to talk to the computer.

I am now waiting for a professionally-constructed cable to arrive in the mail.

But even though I’m no good with hardware, I think I’ve found a way to build myself a robot. It’s not going to be a useful robot, but it should be fun anyway. I’m talking about
Robocode, another fine product from the Internet Technologies team at IBM. It lets you build robots in Java and let them kill each other, just like BattleBots on TV, only less expensively. The creator of Robocode, Mat Nelson, has his own site at, which is worth taking a look at, too.

And happy birthday, Al!