A New and Improved Handy Board

Posted 3 Apr 2006 at 23:51 UTC by steve Share This

Most robot builders have used or at least seen robots based on the old MIT Handy Board. By today's standards though, the MC68HC11-powered Handy Board is a bit outdated. According to an EE Times article, one of the original designers of the Handy Board, Fred Martin, will announce the new Blackfin Handy Board at the Embedded Systems Conference this week. The new board is based on a 600MHz Analog Devices Blackfin 537 CPU (PDF format) and was created in collaboration with Analog Devices. It also includes 256MB of flash, Ethernet, digital video interfaces, a stepper motor controller, RC servo controller, H-bridge, an integrated battery and charger, 4x16 LCD, plenty of analog and digital I/O, a 2 axis accelerometer, and a Xilinx Spartan-3E FPGA. The board is supported by the GNU gcc compiler and runs Blackfin uClinux. Several proprietary tools chains also support the board. Like the original Handy Board, the new board is open hardware: the design may be freely used by anyone. Fred student's have been using the board and created a Blackfin Handy Board Wiki with some interesting info. One of the projects includes a few photos of the Blackfin Handy Board.

Interesting!, posted 4 Apr 2006 at 13:06 UTC by jeffkoenig » (Master)

As the owner of 4 or 5 Handyboards, this is great news. I've been waiting for a successor to the Handyboard for some time.

I'm curious to know the details of this board. The only downside I can think of is that it isn't going to be something that someone can solder together at home with scrounged parts.

Anyone wanna take a stab at the rough price of a populated board? I'll start with a totally random guess of $300.

Impressive but..., posted 4 Apr 2006 at 13:32 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

If I were going to spend over $300 for a bot board & try to write robot code from scratch, I would rather just take the plunge and buy a cheap laptop or even a cheap older laptop off ebay and get a few serial i/o boards or something? See what I'm thinking is that bot boards should be much cheaper than a laptop and laptops are pretty cheap these days. If this board is over $300 that sort of crosses that price point threshold where it's better to get a laptop with some cheap serial mcu i/o support board. With a laptop, you already have plenty of software to reuse. Laptops already have a battery & charger, vga video (with an lcd!), a keyboard, ethernet, gobs of memory and a hard drive and usb ports. I could buy some of those serial servo controllers and an h-bridge boards, and I'd have much more than what this bot board offers. I think robot boards these days should either be very, very cheap or don't bother.

Prices, posted 4 Apr 2006 at 14:33 UTC by steve » (Master)

I haven't seen anything on the price yet, but Roger is at the conference so maybe he'll be able to find out. If they make an official announcement at the show, it'll show up on the ESC breaking news page.

I noticed there's some similarity to the TS-7260 board I posted about last week. It has an Altera CPLD to handle motor encoders and PWM. It's priced at under $200, so maybe there's some hope the Blackfin board will be in the same range. The MRM board I'm using now runs about $100 and I could easily see paying $150-200 for something like this.

National Instruments announced that LabVIEW will support the new Handy Board today.

From Fred G. Martin Himself:, posted 5 Apr 2006 at 19:54 UTC by jeffkoenig » (Master)

As posted on the Yahoo "Handyboard" group:

Fred: "The design will be released as open source, including the PCB art, schematic, and code drivers. (There is a portion of code, which lives in the USB-to-processor communications unit, called the "debug agent," that is owned by Analog Devices and won't be publicly released.)"

"I am anticipating to license the debug agent code and include it in commercial boards to be sold by Gleason Research. Details have not been worked out yet."

"...Yes, it will cost more than the original HB. I don't have exact pricing yet, but it will be significantly more."

(Jeff's note: The Handyboard, with expansion board, presently costs about $360)

Blackfin Handy Board Website, posted 5 Apr 2006 at 20:25 UTC by jeffkoenig » (Master)

Lots of info here, at the official site:


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