Father of hobby robotics, Gordon McComb, has died

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/09/17/father-of-hobby-robotics-gord.html


I didn’t realize that there were later editions. (Curse the death of World’s Biggest Bookstore, killed by skyrocketing values of Toronto square-footage.) I have the feeling that I attended his presentation at the Ontario Science Centre during the book tour.


If he’s the father of hobby robotics, then it has to be like Apple invented the home computer. the beginning not counting because it got bigger later.

Byte covered robotics almost from the start. Not construction articles, but ideas, like making use of radio control servos. “The Door into Summer” was editor Carl Helmer’s favorite book. When he left Byte, he started Robotics Age, semed to be a mix of hobby and profesional.

In 1976, "Build your own working robot* by David Heiserman came out, got lots of coverage. No, nothing advanced, but you have to start somewhere.

In 1982, Heathkit offered their first robot kit, that was big news, even if it didn’t do anything practical.

So while I don’t know who the father is, I’d say he came earlier.

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His book was really good. I wound up blowing up an early 1990 portable laptop doing digital motor control through the parallel port (ground against esd or be grounded folks) and burning through 400$ of bar mitzvah money playing with ideas from his book.

I stole my copy from my dad and I still have it.

Goodbye mr McComb.

I bet I checked that book out 20 times over 3 years from the local library. I’ve told my parents I’d rather spend the time and money giving my kids the tools and resources to learn about what they show interest in, than just send them to private school. I mean my parents weren’t bad at it…I did go to computer classes in the summer, had the RadioShack 200-in-1 electronics kit, and so on. But when you don’t have a teacher other than a book, learning becomes trail and error. I burned up half of those pieces on the 200-in-1.

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Hello Gareth -

Your obit truly touched me. Gordon was my brother-in-law, and a friend. We all will miss him!

I love the photo you have of him here. I have very few photos of him, and wonder if I can use it? I would like to post an obit to our company’s website as well. (We are not a tech-related company, but we post personal items about our families.)

I hope this personal note doesn’t violate Boing Boing policy; I couldn’t find another way to reach you and didn’t just want to steal your photo.

Best wishes, Tisha Carper Long

When I saw this Hackaday article title, I was sure it would be about Gordon. It’s not, but he would have approved, I think. (Wait, no. His would have had actual motors scavenged from old printers.)

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