The RoboSapien must have triggered something way down deep buried in my past, because ever since I saw the first Roboguy video clip on the internet I've been obsessed by things robotic. All my memories of circuit design, sketching out mechanical linkages and drive trains, and cool ways to package robots have come flooding back in a hurry.
It's probably been a couple of decades since I last burnt my fingers with a soldering iron, or blew up a capacitor like a firecracker by applying the wrong voltage. Frankly I thought I didn't miss it at all, and that I would never revisit those days. Now I realize how much I really miss those experiments and adventures.
I've made one trip into Tokyo to visit the Akihabara electronics district, and I'm sure I'll be making a lot more over the days and weeks to come. I also found a lot of online resources. My favorite so far is called "Hobby Engineering" - the brainchild of Al Margolis. His site is a treasure trove of robotic stuff, kits, parts, books, electronics, and down-home advice from someone that has actually spent his life involved in the craft.
Not only does Al run a great website, he also has a walk-in store right on El Camino in Millbrae. According to the store directions, it's just a five minute walk from the Millbrae BART station. Needless to say, I will definitely be dropping in to see Al at the store when I visit the Bay Area this December. If everything goes according to plan, and of course it never does, I'll take lots of photos and post a report when I return to Japan after the trip.
I have to say that via e-mail Hobby Engineering has been extremely helpful and responsive so far - and I'm not even a real customer yet. They responded quickly (and accurately) to my questions about a couple of their kits, and even took the time to volunteer additional information that I hadn't specifically requested.