Thursday, 31 March 2011

Mikhail Gorbachev's 80th birthday

ex-President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev celebrated his 80th birthday in London yesterday. We at ST have some love and respect for this man who changed the course of history.

Back in the late 80s/ early 90s Gorbachev knew that the Soviet economy was broken and one of his many initiatives was to restart entrepreneurism in the USSR. He also knew that after 70 years of communism the skills did not exist so he initiated contacts with Western companies to form joint ventures. We were one of those companies. At the time we were making special purpose robotic systems and had not got going with the bench top robot idea. We formed a joint venture company (which still exists), Association Robot in what was Sverdlovsk, now Ekaterinburg. An experienced engineer, Andrei Vavulenko came to Cambridge where we designed the R17 together. Production was then set up in Ekaterinburg but it was not successful due to the distance. Of course the R17 has had many improvements since then and the electronics and software (designed by us) have seen many advancements. But the basic R17 mechanicals are as Andrei designed them.

Our motto was: Technologia dlya progressia! (технологии для прогресса) - technology for progress.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Sir Clive Sinclair said last year: "The sad thing is that today's computers totally abuse their memory - totally wasteful, you have to wait for the damn things to boot up, just appalling designs. Absolute mess! So dreadful it's heartbreaking."

The laptop I am using has 2Gb and it's not enough. It spends half its time paging.

RoboForth is the result of over 20 years continuous development and it has reached 40k. I have had some people say if I spent all that time and only wrote 40k I can't be very good. But it's the nature of Forth - many times more compact than machine code. Admittedly there are no graphics and I am not including RobWin (270k) in the computer or the software in the DSP. There are no Windows calls, no DLLs just compact efficient code with not a byte or a machine instruction wasted. It's instantly ready for use and computation times are barely noticeable.