When most people decide they want to build a robot, they start with some sort of kit. Super elite makers might take a more granular approach and build it from scratch using some sort of microcontroller board as the brain. But, Mike Kohn isn’t most people, and went the completely bonkers route of turning a vintage Apple IIe into a robot rover.
To be clear, Kohn didn’t just use the Apple IIe to control the robot, but rather used it as the robot itself. Not only did that mean he had to make the Apple IIe portable — a feat in its own right — but he also had to get it to control the motors that drive it. In order for the Apple IIe to run on batteries, Kohn had to remove the original power supply and replace it with a 14.8V LiPo battery and regulators for the various power rails.
The two gearmotors that make up the drive system are powered by a separate 11.1V LiPo battery, and controlled by an ATmega328 through a dual H-bridge motor driver. But, the Apple IIe is the brains of the operation, and a BASIC program provides the actual movement commands by sending bits through the joystick port to the ATmega328. With that setup, Kohn can program a series of drive commands for the robot to follow.
Finally, to add that extra bit of flair to the robot, Kohn added a servo arm for wielding a 3D-printed sword and a voice synthesizer so the robot can speak. Kohn says this build was inspired by the killer robots in campy ’80s sci-fi movies, and we think his Apple IIe robot perfectly encapsulates that beautifully-cheesy aesthetic.