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Old 10-23-2010, 02:30 PM   #1
Sydney
 
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Default Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

I've been working on a pulp setting and want to include robots (the idea of a depression with people losing their jobs and companies laying off workers with robots can make for some interesting ideas, but anyway...) I was thinking of having the robots "programmed" via punch cards, they're not AI but it can seem like it some times...How well would such a situation be? Would it be possible to do some kind of data storage as well for multiple programs?
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Old 10-23-2010, 05:56 PM   #2
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Default Re: Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

I'm not quite sure what you're asking. Since you're postulating robots in the 30s, I'd say "sure, if that's what you want". Punch cards just store bits; they could be programs or information. The robots presumably have some sort of internal storage as well.

Realism is out the window to start with, so there's not much point worrying about how much data you can actually get on a punch card, and how many bits it would take to encode a real robot program or information about whatever it is that they're doing. Warehouses full of cards wouldn't do it in real life. So, whatever works for the game.
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Old 10-23-2010, 05:59 PM   #3
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Default Re: Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

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Originally Posted by Sydney View Post
How well would such a situation be? Would it be possible to do some kind of data storage as well for multiple programs?
Very very poorly, a program (a very simple program by current standard) takes a BIG stack of cards, and Murphy forbid movement jostling knock a card out of alignment... (let along the card spilling out!)
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Old 10-24-2010, 03:08 AM   #4
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Default Re: Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

It is quite possible to create a truly mechanical computer. Babbage designed a working programmable computer (the Analytical Engine) but never properly built it. (He built a partial version, which worked, but had no memory. It did have a JMP command equivalent.)

It is entirely reasonable that, given the proper motivation, it could have been miniaturized by the Swiss watchmakers into something small enough for a robot...

Babbages was desinging a 5 ton monster with 20kB and <10Hz... my TS1000 was 4kB and 3.25MHz...

Given 20 years and decent funding, plus a half dozen swiss watchmakers, I'm certain that by 1930, the analytical engine could have been reduced to about 5L (and some 10-20kg), including a punchtape interface... but you're still looking at SLOW... possibly as high as 100Hz... 30,000 x slower than the TS 1000, 50x the size.

The theory was present by 1880... just not the funding.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytical_Engine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine
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Old 10-24-2010, 04:56 AM   #5
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Default Re: Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

Heinlein's The Door Into Summer may prove useful as an alternative here. The main character designed trainable robots that used fuzzily-defined "tubes" to store learned routines. The idea was that these would be more "versatile appliance" than "sentient robot," though.
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:00 AM   #6
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Default Re: Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

Quote:
it could have been miniaturized by the Swiss watchmakers into something small enough for a robot
Well, no. You could make some mechanical computer small enough to fit into something human-sized. But we can't yet build a robot that can replace workers (as in the OP), even with the size of individual features at 40 nm. Even the gnomes of Zurich don't have fingers that small. (Besides, their fingers are sticky.)

Not that that should stop you. It's a postulate of the game world that there are such robots. Feel free to fill them with whirring gears, and have a few punch cards give them instructions. Completely rewiring them into killbots or whatever ought to require the mad scientist to take them apart, if for no other reason that it will be more fun to discover him in his laboratory that way, rather than just watch him feed card after card into a slot in the chest. This technology works entirely on the Rule of Cool.
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:08 AM   #7
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Default Re: Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
Not that that should stop you. It's a postulate of the game world that there are such robots. Feel free to fill them with whirring gears, and have a few punch cards give them instructions. Completely rewiring them into killbots or whatever ought to require the mad scientist to take them apart, if for no other reason that it will be more fun to discover him in his laboratory that way, rather than just watch him feed card after card into a slot in the chest. This technology works entirely on the Rule of Cool.
You primarily just need to postulate that form gives function, so that if you build a two legged robot that forms gives it the function to walk, and you don't need to program it how to walk, just program it where to walk.

With the given that form gives function you can easily have clockwork robots receiving instructions from Punch Cards, pretty much in the same way you can feed instructions to a Golem by putting notes in his mouth.
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:53 AM   #8
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Default Re: Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tal...the_Steel_Flea

Might give some inspiration. :)
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Old 10-25-2010, 01:52 AM   #9
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Default Re: Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

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Originally Posted by Ze'Manel Cunha View Post
You primarily just need to postulate that form gives function, so that if you build a two legged robot that forms gives it the function to walk, and you don't need to program it how to walk, just program it where to walk.

With the given that form gives function you can easily have clockwork robots receiving instructions from Punch Cards, pretty much in the same way you can feed instructions to a Golem by putting notes in his mouth.
Walking Robots date to Da Vinci. His were mindless automotauns, big wind up toys. Japan had walking bots as well. Walking balance can "easily" be done by purely mechanical reflexes; the computer doesn't have to compute it, just tell it forward, backward, left or right turn, and leave the gyro to keep it stable.

Any realistic robot in such a situation is likely an industrial tool. It might have a sensor for the part it needs being present, but it should be about brain dead. But, give it a new program...

Also, it should be slow.

As for miniaturization: the components used by Babbage were not small; his analytical engine could be scaled down readily; watchmakers of the period routinely (and still do) make fairly standardized parts in sizes much smaller than Babbage had by 2-4 orders of magnitude. 3 orders converts cubic meters to liters, and his Analytical Engine was, using the parts he did, supposed to be about 5 cubic meters. Swiss watches of the 1930's were quite accurate; top-end non-digital watches are not much better accuracy now than then.

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/imag.../10303307.aspx shows Doron Swade with his build of the difference engine. The parts can be seen, and could easily be compressed vertically. Henry Babbage himself implies this in his paper on it... http://www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/hpb.html

Swade and the other modern builders did so to the original plans with common manufactury techniques; the high end watchmakers were using far superior machining.
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Old 10-29-2010, 02:41 PM   #10
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Default Re: Programming Robots w/Punch Cards?

They had player pianos for quite some time. You can program a human-shaped (or dog shaped or whatever shape you like ) piece of machinery to do certain repetitive, predictable tasks using that kind of tech.

If you are looking for more interactive bots, you'd have to hand-wave the bot's OS into "weird science". It would have to be complex enough to be able to read a card and self program the distinct actions required to carry out the request on it.

One semi-creepy idea is thinking of the cards as the only sensory input the robot has. This is very very creepy if you make the bot extremely "advanced" or a "brain in a jar". The former makes a robot a clumsy golem that takes your "input" and carries it out as best as it can figure out. And the later, because functioning human brains in jars running sensor-less robot bodies and only "seeing" input cards would just be evil.

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