This is the resurrected opening chapter of our great Robot adventure, written sometime around late 2004/early 2005 if my memory serves me correctly. It has been edited slightly to remove references to relative dates so that reading it today makes sense. Here we go…

So, maybe we were bored. Maybe inspired. Maybe a little crazy... We decided to build ourselves a robot.

Ok the idea didn’t just suddenly pop into our heads one Friday night. It has actually been a rather long logical path that ended in the robot. Now I’m not saying that the thoughts were logical, I’m just saying the path that led to them was.

It all started one fine day sometime around March 2004. My pack of friends includes 2 jokers namely Rajiv and Siddhant. Since Siddhant is a bloody long name to type often, I shall henceforth refer to him by the name “Pok”.

"Hey, c’mon cheer up buddy - at least your hat's bigger than mine..."

“What the Pok?” you might say. Yeah I know, but that’s what we all call him. To be completely fair, as required by my Libran stars, we shall mutate the mutant Rajiv’s name suitably to Ranji, and they call me Jam I hear.

So as I was saying, back around March 2004, these 3 highly intellectual mortals were locked in an engaging conversation:

Pok, Ranji
Jam : Pork
Pok : Jam
Jam : i say pok, lets play something
Pok : is ranji ready?
Jam: wait I’ll call him
:
Ranji : yues?
Jam : let us play i say…
Ranji : ya or whast
Pok : whast?
Jam : ya lets play generals
Ranji : ok. Gvive IP
Jam : 202.68.xxx.xxx < We used to have live IPs by default back then! Ah...
:
:
Jam: pok?
Jam : respond pok
Ranji : I shjall casll hiom
Jam : ok…
:
:
Ranji : he sayds hue cvamnot ciome
Jam : what was that again?
Ranji : not coming
Ranji : arey arey I dfidnt mkake any mistyakes in thast sentenced
Jam : hmmmm
Pok : haan
Jam : oh hello pok. finally gracing us with ur presence
Pok : i have to go down, mom is calling
Ranji : hmmmmmm

Pok has left the conversation.

The EVIL POK celebrates another successful mission against us with his mom...
Clearly you can see that Pok is an idiot who finds perverse pleasure in first raising the simple hopes of simple people like us engineers (back then!), and then once we are all hopeful and ready to play he shatters our dreams the way his teeth need to be. He seems to have perfected this art.

In one of our wiser moments Ranji and I realized we must look elsewhere to channel our powerful brains. The first idea that hit me was probably the smartest of them all…

Ranji
Jam : lets beat him up
Ranji : lets build a radio
Jam : lets build a radio controlled helicopter that I can fly from ur house to mine
Ranji : ya or what? Lets build a car
Jam : no something thats flying we can use outside, a car will just get run over
Ranji : hmmm
Ranji : let us first build a radio transmitter
Agreed. We should first build a transmitter before wasting our time building any machine to control using it, cos without the Transmitter (Tx) we can’t do anything anyway. So we delved into many hours of research and dug up a ton of designs online. But they all had these nasty things called inductors. And neither of us knew how to coil our own inductors, so the radio Tx thing died after a while, and we found ourselves engaged in more intellectual conversations with Pok like the one I presented above.

Then, around July 2004…

Ranji
Ranji : lets build a blimp
Jam : yes that should be easy
Ranji : and we can control it with radio
Jam : yes yes, let us
Ranji : we can make it crash into pok and blow up
Jam : self immolating blimp
Ranji : yes!!!

"Muhahahaha Pok! I know where you live...."
Okay so now it was a self immolating radio controlled blimp targeted at our good friend Pok. A little research by me on the feasibility of building a blimp showed us that:
  1. you cannot join together 2 plastic waste paper bins, fill it with helium and expect it to float
  2. it takes a 20 foot long blimp to lift a 4kg payload
  3. Rajiv loves Google cos it fixes all his typos (which I have stopped simulating cos it’s quite tough actually to match his skillfulness)
So the blimp in the end was all hot air, and we were back to square one. It couldn’t get worse, we thought. And then…
Ranji, Pok
Pok : My father has ripped out all the internet cables on the terrace and broken the hub in two.
His dad is an orthodontist, before you get ideas. He’s also the building secretary, impatient and not very tech savvy. A wall needed to be painted, the wires were in the way, so… rip them out. He didn’t do that to my teeth luckily when I went to him for my braces.

It was now August, and my “multiplayer gaming” had been reduced to Yahoo Literati (Scrabble, for the uninitiated) with my then-GF. Things looked bleak.

I noticed Rajiv seemed to be mighty busy all of a sudden. I asked him what was up the next time I met him and he spilled the beans. No he hadn’t found some to play Yahoo Literati with. He’d been busy building a robot with a few of his classmates for a robotics competition in his college. I was like “Ya or what?” and he was like “Ya.”

The robot he built with his VJTI pals looked like cross between a rickshaw and an ancient expansion card served on a steel tray of the sort used in Udipi restaurants, with a few bits of thermocol here n there to make it look more complex and deserving of being labeled a robot.

I’m not joking. It was literally a steel plate with some thermocol taped on at strategic locations to support a PCB, 2 motors, 3 wheels and 4 IR sensors. The sensors were on its underside to detect a silver strip it was supposed to follow along the track. It was wired to an 8085 kit that did all the processing for it and it had an external power supply.

It was also completed last minute. This seems to be a standard feature that comes with all models made by Rajiv. And it barely did anything on the track (perhaps another feature…)

RanchuBotTM
Rajiv was not impressed. He wanted more. So once that fiasco was over, he decided he’d like to involve me in the next one… err, robot. That’s what friends are for after all.

The image used behind Rajiv in "Attack of The Blimp Pimp" is a screen capture from the opening cinematic of Red Alert 2, copyright for which is most likely held by the game's publisher or developer. This image seems to have also been released as a wallpaper by the game's publisher or developer, and is freely available on the internet.