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USENIX Technical Program - Abstract - USENIX Annual Conference, Freenix Session - June 2000

An Operating System in Java for the Lego Mindstorms RCX Microcontroller

Pekka Nikander, Helsinki University of Technology


The Lego Mindstorms is a Lego bricks based robotics toy series produced by the Lego Group, based on the ideas developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Programmable Brick project. The heart of a Lego robot, the RCX microcontroller, hosts a Hitachi H8 microcontroller with 28 kilobytes of memory available for downloadable firmware and applications. In addition to the GUI based programming environment provided by Lego, a number of alternative programming environments have been developed for the RCX. However, these alternative programming environments are written in C, tightly bound to the hardware, and provide only relatively low level services. The strong hardware dependency makes it hard to debug programs; in practice, a hardware simulator is needed, and such a simulator does not yet exist in an open source form.

In this paper we present a new type of operating system and new programming environments for the Lego RCX brick. The operating system is written almost completely in Java, and currently provides runtime support for Java, C and C++ programs. In the case of Java applications, simulation and debugging is relatively simple as it can be performed on a standard Java Virtual Machine with just a small hardware simulation package.

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Last changed: 6 Feb 2002 ml
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