Here’s a few of my favourite books I refer to on a regular basis. If you do intend to buy one of them please consider using the links provided to support my robot expenses!
Programming and customising the PICAXE Microcontroller, David Lincoln, David Lincoln (More Info)
This is a fantastic book! Really accessible, plenty of examples, and loads of help with coding. I’m technical but not a hard-core programmer so this book works well as both a teaching aid and also a reference book. It also covers all the PICAXE chips (8 to 40-pin), how to connect them up, program them, and use their special functions. This is well worth the (relatively small amount of) cash. I have found a couple of times now (and BasicX24: I’m looking at you!) that you buy some hardware but the documentation (or software or programming hardware) is really poor or expensive. Not the case here – If you’re planning on developing for PICAXE chips then More info
Mobile Robotics: Inspiration to Implementation, Anita Flynn et al. (More Info)
This was a favourite book of mine for a long time and is considered to be one of the definitive ‘bibles’ for robotics hobbyists. It’s getting a little dated with regard to the microprocessor of choice (an 68HC…) – at least with the amazing crop of hobbyist chips available these days (Picaxe, Stamp, Arduino, PICmicros, Amtel AVR, OOPic, etc). That was what put me off attacking the electronics side of the main project discussed inside. Saying that the book is great in two respects: 1) It’s inspirational and well written, and 2) It discusses many of the details of building a mobile robot in depth. These include motor choice, battery choice, and sensors. The book is crying out for a new addition but I think it’s still worth a look if you’re getting into the field as a hobby, particularly at the current price.
Robot Builder’s Bonanza (ed 1, 2, and 3!), Gordon McComb et al. (More info)
I’ve incredibly got two editions of this book and there exists a 3rd edition already. Whilst I can’t comment on the latest I’d like to say a few words on the series which will hopefully inform anyone considering a purchase.
It sells itself as a practical how-to guide and I have to say that in some respects it’s smack on but in others it’s lacking somewhat. As with Mobile Robotics it discusses sensors, batteries, and motors. The 2nd edition even discusses choice of microprocessor and includes the Stamp, the BasicX, and the OOPic. I’m sure the 3rd edition will include some of the more recent trends such as the Arduino too. My main criticism of the book is the mechanical how-tos which take up a lot of the space. These attempt to show you how to build robot arms, etc., and how to deal with gears, chains, and sprockets. They ALL use aluminium section and frankly look ropey. I’m sure that they do what they’re supposed to but I consider these sections the least useful. It does tell you how to work with different materials (plastics, wood, etc) but I would loved to see some plastic section builds of the kind I see so many of on the web.
To be fair though it does have some well thought out sections and it’s a good general reference on electronics, interfacing with microcontrollers and PCs, and plenty of programming examples. Although I have been a little critical I still think it’s a good purchase (particularly because of the price – in fact I think I’ll buy edition 3 now! Done!…).
Update: The third edition has arrived! The first thing that struck me is just how big it is compared to the other editions. In fact I think each edition is about 1.5x bigger than its predecessor! There’s some interesting bits on toy hacking, some more recent electronics bits (like the use of accelerometers), etc. Edition 2 talked about a range of microcontrollers – this edition scales back to talk about the Basic Stamp (2) only. I can see why they chose to, they can go into more detail and not worry about being experts in everything, but it’s a bit of a shame. Worth the purchase though…