A New and Improved Handy Board
Posted 3 Apr 2006 at 23:51 UTC by steve
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outdated.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.
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.
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 »
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.
As posted on the Yahoo "Handyboard" group:
"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
Lots of info here, at the official site: