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Absolute Beginner's Guide to Building Robots Paperback – September 29, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0789729712 ISBN-10: 0789729717 Edition: 1st
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Absolute Beginner's Guide to Building Robots + Robot Building for Beginners, 2nd Edition (Technology in Action) + Robotics: DISCOVER THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY OF THE FUTURE with 20 PROJECTS (Build It Yourself)
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Finally, a robots book for people who don't know the first thing about robotics! Absolute Beginner's Guide to Robots is well-written, inviting, and action-packed, with engaging ideas and fascinating factoids about robots and robot-related arts and sciences. You are led gently into the intimidating world of robotics, but nearly 400 pages later, you emerge with a respectable knowledge of robot history, the major fields and "schools" of robotics today, and the basic skills and resources needed to create hobby robots. By the end of the book, you will be the proud owner of three bots, the first two of which demonstrate key robotic principles. The third is a programmable/expandable robot, which serves as a platform for future experimentation. And best of all, these robots are built with simple to get and inexpensive parts - many of which you already have around the house!

About the Author

Gareth Branwyn is a well-known technology journalist and self-proclaimed "reluctant geek." He is writer and editor for Wired, ID and Esquire magazines, and has written many books on technology topics, including, Mosaic Quick Tour (the first World Wide Web book ever published), Jargon Watch: A Pocket Dictionary for the Jitterati, Jamming the Media: A Citizen's Guide, and The Happy Mutant Handbook. He also has contributed material to many technology books, including Que's Catalog of Tomorrow and The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog. He is Editor-in-chief, co-owner, and site designer of Street Tech ( Gareth also contributed lyrics to Billy Idol's 1993 album Cyberpunk.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Que Publishing; 1 edition (September 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789729717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789729712
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gareth Branwyn (born January 21, 1958) is a writer, editor, and media critic.

He has covered technology, media, DIY, and cyberculture for Wired, Esquire, the Baltimore Sun, Details, and numerous other publications. He was an editor at Mondo 2000 and Boing Boing (when it was a print zine), founded the personal tech site,, and worked for MAKE magazine for 8 years, lastly acting as their Editorial Director.

Gareth co-edited The Happy Mutant Handbook (with Boing Boing) and is the author of Jargon Watch: A Pocket Dictionary for the Jitterati, Jamming the Media, The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Building Robots, and Mosaic Quick Tour: Accessing and Navigating the World Wide Web (the first book written about the Web). His most recent book, a collection of his best work, with many new essays, is called Borg Like Me & Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems. The book was crowd-funded and self-published.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Many people have an interest in robotics, but have a difficult time getting started. Even the simplest of robotics projects requires a wide range of basic skills, from how to solder connections to programming microprocessors. This book lives up to the title, in that it starts at the very beginning and steps you through how to build three simple robots.
In the first section, called, a history of robots, some of the major players and some of the simple capabilities are described. The second section begins with a list of the tools and skills needed to build robots. As basic as you can go, this gives explicit details about how to start. Three simple robot projects are described in complete detail in the third section. All start with a list and photo of the parts needed to build the robot and a step-by-step building procedure to follow. The parts are easy to obtain and cheap, but if you are not the type to shop around, there is a link to a company called Solarbotics, where you can purchase a complete kit.
True to the meaning of the phrase, "absolute beginner", this book is a great place to start if you have the desire to build robots, but lack the skills and knowledge.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By David Williams on January 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a tremendously fun and engaging book. It is immediately compelling and never loses its way as it ploughs through a plethora of topics, introducing all the basic skills and resources needed to genuinely construct one's own hobby robots.
The book begins with a fascinating history on the origins of robots leading through to robot kits available today (like Lego Mindstorms), as well as off-the-shelf robots (like Aibo).
The book culminates in three hands-on projects involving building a walking coat hanger, animating an old computer mouse, and then a walking CD rack with an embedded microcontroller for brains, programmable by Visual Basic. These projects are all slightly zany and even off-the-wall but demonstrate solid techniques and show just how robotics is limited only by one's imagination. Best of all, they use as few commercial parts as possible, preferring to recycle household junk.
This title is a delight to read; it is absorbing and highly entertaining. However, to my mind, its absolute greatest attribute is the sheer sense of fun and enthusiasm which radiates from the author. It's clear he has an enquiring mind and an almost childish fascination for robots. It's easy to imagine him longing for his very own R2D2! This pure sense of wonderment really comes out and is sure to infect even the most technophobic of readers. This is wonderfully remniscent of the "hacker" spirit possessed by all the greatest computer scientists and hobbyists who really strive to understand just how technology works, and how to develop it themselves.
The book concludes with a detailed, annotated, list of books, magazines and Web sites that can be referred to for more information. Finally, it contains a 10% off voucher for a US based robot parts Web-store but fortunately for international readers the parts used throughout can be sourced from most any electronics or hobby supplier.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By John M. on September 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have been fascinated with robots ever since I was a little kid. When I was young, I would go to the library and check out books about robots. Most of these books talked about movie robots and then told about the many different kinds of robots that could be purchased commerically at the time. I loved to read through those books and imagine what it would be like to have my own robot. Years later, I have gotten the robotics bug again and I have been interested in building my own simple robot. I bought this book and I loved the history section. It told about the history of actual robotics and how various roboticists have influenced each other's work. It also talks about different approaches to tackling different problems. After covering the theory and history of robotics, the book tells you exactly what tools you need and what you need to get started with building 3 simple robots. He even has sections on the electronic components and how to solder. This book is really written for beginners! Each project helps you build a different kind of robot that with increasing complexity. The instructions seem very clear and the illustrations are very good too. The best thing about this book is the fact that there is a very active web forum where people can discuss their progress on the projects and the author has been very eager to help people that have questions.

Some other comments here have complained that the book's projects are not original or that there are missing parts. The author never claimed the projects to be original. He gives credit to the original designers and has made variations that make the projects more foolproof for beginners. He has built them all multiple times and provides original instructions that are very clear and easy to follow.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jack on December 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a very good beginner book on a very complex subject. By the end you will have built a few robots, and that is where all the love/hate is. The author also has a webpage where he offers advice and help with problems you may have. Personally, I am very happy with this purchase, and staying up late working on my robots...advice: Radio Shack will not have all the parts you need (he includes where to obtain parts).
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