His Robot Heart Can't Love

When I first met Tommy, he was alone. Stuck high upon a forgotten shelf, he watched people come and people go, most bissfully unaware as to how many lols a toy robot from the mid 80s with a few missing pieces still had in him.

In the spirit of full disclosure, it wasn’t actually me who found Tommy. A little while ago, @theguelphgirl and I were wandering around downtown enjoying one of her rare Sundays off when she suggested we hit up Chat Noir. As I was finishing my first lap, she called me into the back corner and pointed up at one of the top shelves. Sitting there and staring down at us was a Tomy Omnibot, one of the most awesome toys to come out of the decade of which we don't speak:

Impressingly advanced for something which debuted in the early to mid 80s, the Omnibot line will live forever in the annals of electronic toys as one of the most bad ass. Hell, even Robin Sparkles kicked it with one.

First Round of Repairs

After digging out my ancient power supply, I was pleased to discover that he seemed to be mostly working. His battery was pooched and his tape deck didn't work, but it was the original Tomy-supplied lead acid battery and tape decks really aren't that hard to fix, so long as the motor still works. As Sarah and assorted lower mammals watched on, I grabbed a screw driver and proceeded to rip the thing right the hell apart.

Opening one of these little guys is actually surprisingly easy. I started by removing the screws from the base and continued removing every screw I happened across until the whole thing came apart. The only thing you really have to pay attention to are all the little wires running from the PCB on the top of the cassette deck to the various speakers and lights, but it's fairly obvious where these things are. Just don't reef on it and you'll be fine.

Another pleasant surprise was this thing's guts or, more accurately, lack thereof. Not only were there no ancient spills or mysterious protozoan blobs, but from the top of the cassette player (which is a more than suitable platform for building off) right up to his eyes is pretty much empty space. The up side of this discovery is that whatever I eventually hack him into doing can be done without hampering his original functionality.

As I'd suspected, the problem with his tape teck was nothing more than a broken belt. There are some who will maintain that to properly repair something you need to spend days tracking down an exact replacement, but the rest of us just shrug and raid our girlfriend's extensive collection of rubber bands. I found one that I figured would've been the same size as the original belt before it broke, wrapped it around the various wheels and spindles and we were good to go. Needless to say, the change in Tommy was immediately apparent:

We look for things to make it go

The only missing piece of the puzzle was where I'd be able to find a new battery. It didn't really look like anything special, but I didn't have the time to track anything down in earnest so I let it sit until yesterday. The old man and I had headed to Sayal Electronics in Cambridge to grab some things for a couple projects (and many more things because, well, it's Sayal) and, among the various rows of awesome, I managed to find a very suitable replacement (it's a ToPin TP6-5 6.0v/5.0Ah, for those who need one) and it's pretty much the exact same size as the original Tomy battery:

The original battery had a tip-negative barrel connector (2.1mm if memory serves) and the replacement didn't, but that wasn't anything a couple female spade connectors and few inches off a wall wart for who knows what couldn't fix.

So, to recap: His tape deck is now working properly, he has a brand new battery with 1 more amp hour than the old one and the adapter I made was sufficiently tip-negative'd, there was really only one more thing to do, and that brings us to the most important lesson we can learn:

Always Check Your Shit

See that gross bit of hackery taking place above (and yes, for those familiar with the stuff I shot in college, that utility knife is the world famous Whatchamecallit)? That's because I broke the cardinal rule of not checking my shit before I left the store.

To charge the Omnibot, you need a 500ma 6vdc tip-negative adapter. The box claimed it was tip negative, but the printing on the wall wart and my multimeter verified that it was, in fact, tip positive. Rather than exchange it, I cut and switched the wires and, every time I see that unsightly lump, I'll be reminded that no matter how big a nerdgasm you happen to be having, you should always open the box and double check your shit.

The End

Well, not really. I would hazard to say it's more like the beginning. As I type this, I've already gotten up to some more fuckery that will be the subject of my second Tommy-related post and, suffice it to say, this little fellow's going to be keeping me in lols for a long time to come. Who knows? He might even wind up hosting the Arduino I picked up the other day.