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The Mini Board Technical Reference

Fred G. Martingif

October 27, 1995

PostScript and PDF versions of this document are available. To view the PDF version, download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

The Mini Board 2.0 is a single-board computer optimized for controlling small DC motors and receiving data from various electronic sensors. Its miniature size (3.1 by 1.9 inches, smaller than a business card), low power operation, and programmability make it ideal for control of a small, mobile robot. It communicates with a desktop computer over a standard RS-232 serial line, making it suitable for desktop computer-based control as well.

The Mini Board 2.0 features:


The first incarnation of what is now the Mini Board 2.0 was a controller board designed by Randy Sargent and this author for the LEGO Robot Design Competition held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990. This board had many of the same features as the current Mini Board, including a 2K EEPROM version of the 6811, two L293D motor driver chips, and an RS-232 serial port interface.

For the Robot Design contest in the following year, Randy and I designed a more sophisticated controller board with 32K of external battery-protected RAM, an LCD display, and several other new features. This board, still used in the M.I.T. design course, is now in its third revision.

Even after successfully using the 32K board, we perceived the value of the simpler controller board. In the middle of 1991, we revised the design used in the 1990 contest. We dubbed the new board the ``Mini Board 1.5,'' because it was small (37% smaller than the 1990 board) and was derived from our first board. The version 1.5 board worked, but it had a couple of minor wiring bugs, and was never distributed publicly, lacking any documentation.

In early 1992, Randy and I were offered the chance to organize a robot-building workshop at the third Artificial Life conference being held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It seemed like an ideal occasion to use Mini Boards, because they were easy to use yet powerful enough for introductory robotics work.

I set about revising the design and developed the current Mini Board 2.0. The new board is 13% smaller than the version 1.5 board, uses better-quality switches and connectors, and adds networking capability. The version 2.0 design, free of any layout bugs, ``premiered'' at the June 1992 Artificial Life conference, along with the first version of these notes.

Since then, several hundred copies of the board have been printed up and distributed by Greg Ratcliff at Ohio State University. This manual has incrementally improved to include corrections made by different readers as well as new material to better support the expanding user base.

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Fred G Martin
Sat Nov 18 09:53:21 EST 1995