Well it's been a busy time in the garden shed since my last post especially on the iPhone/iTouch beta testing side. After providing Richard Lang with a new piece set for his iPhone/iTouch ChessGenius I then started beta testing Tord Romstad's excellent Glaurung iPhone program which also uses Richard's piece set but coloured differently (see photo below). For weeks, myself with a group of other beta testers where bombarded with a new version nearly on a daily basis as Tord made updates to his program. Finally on the 15th January, Tord sent an email saying that the attached program would be the release version and eventually it appeared in the Apple iPhone/iTouch Apps store. What is really good about this program is that it is very strong and free just like Alain Zanchetta excellent CEBoard for the Pocket PC. More recently, Mark Uniacke contacted me to see if it was ok to also use my piece set plus an additional new set (see photo below) for his Hiarcs iPhone/iTouch version.
Hiarcs iPhone/iTouch Glaurung iPhone/iTouch
On the hardware side, I decided to build a new 'Le Grande Citrine'housing that could incorporate a tablet PC so that I could use Arena without having to connecting up to my desktop PC. This project has taken many months but is now basically finished and can be used either as a table top chess computer or as a chess computer table. The following photos show both. It is now known as 'Le Grande Citrine Arena' complete with new larger pieces. This now gives me the opportunity to play against a host of strong engines including Rybka, Hiarcs and Zappa Mexico.
(Full size photos at botom of page)
It was sad to see Novag being sold and most people are under the impression that this will be the end of them making chess computers. This I am not too sure about because when I received my final email from Jeannine Curran the then MD of Novag, she asked me if I still wanted to test new models for the new company. In an earlier email Jeannine stated that there wouldn't be any new chess computers for the rest of 2009 but didn't rule out the possibility of a Star Citrine in the future.
Even more recently I have had received some excellent news from the Novag new owners Solar Wide Ind Ltd stating "We have not stopped and will not stop to produce chess computers. We will develop new models down the line, but for the time being we have no release dates for new models. Please be assured however that new models are in the pipeline".
Saitek UK have also confirmed that they intend to continue to produce chess computers but are downsizing the number of models.
TESTING FOR NOVAG
This is an account on how I became involved with the testing of Novag's 2Robot twelve months before it went on sale.
A few years ago I did a business deal with Novag which led me to be quite friendly with their managing director, Jeannine Curran. One day out of the blue she sent me an email saying "fancy testing one of these in the attached video" The video was of a 2Robot prototype. Of course you can imagine my reply and a few days later Jeannine advised me that there was at that time only one 2Robot prototype but the Novag engineers where busy hand building three new ones with one coming to my way. After a couple of weeks, Jeannine advised me that the engineers had finished building the three other prototypes and she had sent me one. Her main concern was that the packaging was good enough for 2Robot to be shipped half way around the world and the arm still work ok. Amazingly, it only took a few days to arrive and to my and Jeannine's relief everything worked 100%
Now the testing started in earnest but after a bout a month the calibration started going wrong. I kept recalibrating it but within a few days, off went the arm and would crash down onto another piece thus jamming the arm. This meant stripping down the arm and unjamming the small plastic rack and pinion gearing. There where also quite a few other problems that I came across missed by Novag and eventually they hand built another seven prototypes and sent me one of those to test. This one had all the reported problems fixed and it is still actually working 100% today.
Anyway after over twelve months of testing, 2Robot was finally released to the general public and the rest is history.
My two 2Robots are cosmetically different from one another and are also different from the one on sale at the moment so it's nice to own two hand build individual chess robots.
DAVE KITTINGER INTERVIEW
Staying with Novag, as you are probably aware I finally managed to track down Dave Kittinger. What was revealed in that short interview was quite an eye opener for many people and I hope that you enjoyed it. If for those of you who missed it, please click on the following link. http://kitinger.synthasite.com/
DAN & KATHE SPRACKLEN
Twelve months previous to this I also managed to track down Dan & Kathe Spracklen who kindly sent me their autograph.
If you haven't read The Computer History Museum's 'Oral History of Kathleen and Dan Spracklen' then click on the following link. It makes facinating reading but ignore some of the spelling. http://archive.computerhistory.org/projects/chess/related_materials/oral-history/spacklen.oral_history.2005.102630821/spracklen.oral_history_transcript.2005.102630821.pdf
EXCALIBUR PHANTOM FORCE NOW IN COLLECTION
Well as you all know, Excalibur's robotic Phantom Force has been available for some time but unfortunately here in the UK the price are still around £200. Luckily I managed to win one on eBay from a gentleman in Switzerland for only £32 plus £9 postage!
Le Grande Citrine Arena Photos