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I have long been a computer nut. I was even hooked back in the Fortran punch
card days. Along the way I've owned a Kim-1 (6502 I think), a Radio Shack
Model 1, an Osborne, an XT, a 286, a 486-33, a 486 -66, a Pentium
233, a Pentium Pro 200 and now an AMD 450. The last couple I have built
up from cards.
When I started working on Robots I was introduced to microcontrollers and a new love affair began. Here are simple computers that can actually do something!
My mainstream PC software is pretty normal - Microsoft Office, Corel Draw and Photopaint (I do a lot of photo imaging work), Quicken accounting software and Microsoft Explorer. Utilities include Norton Utilities, Cleansweep, Network Ice (firewall software), Polyview, IXLA Web design, Napster and Winamp, and many others.
For PC development software I have done the most work recently with Visual Basic. It is a very good platform for microcontroller interfacing. I have written several monitoring programs for use with my RF wireless link to the robot. Make sure you get the Pro Version that includes MS Comm, the RS-232 communications object. I am now learning C++ using Borland C++ Builder. The advantage of this is that I could run my actual robot softare for testing and perhaps modeling. It's visual development looks similar to Visual Basic. In the past I had done work with Turbo Pascal (back in CPM days) and Delphi. As you can see I have a bit of a soft spot for Borland.