BIG TRAK / bigtrak is a programmable electric vehicle created by Milton Bradley in 1979. The original Big Trak was a six-wheeled (two-wheel drive) tank with a front-mounted blue "photon beam" headlamp, and a keypad on top. The toy could remember up to 16 commands, which it then executes in sequence, such as "go forward 5 lengths", "pause", "turn 15 minutes right (90 Degrees)", "fire phaser" and so on. There is also a "repeat" instruction allowing simple loop to be performed, but the language is not Turing complete, lacking branching instructions; the Big Trak also lacks any sort of sensor input other than the wheel sensors.
The US and GB/European versions were noticeably different. The US version was moulded in gray plastic and labelled "BIG TRAK" whereas the GB version was white and labelled "bigtrak" with a different keypad.
Bigtrak also included an optional trailer accessory, with the US version being gray to match its colour scheme. Once hooked to Bigtrak, this trailer could be programmed to dump its payload.
In 2010, BIG TRAK was relaunched in the form of a slightly modified replica (cosmetically very similar to the original European bigtrak), produced under licence by Zeon Ltd.
Big Trak in psychological research
In the early 1980s the psychology of science community, lead by the laboratory of David Klahr at Carnegie Mellon University, adopted the Big Trak as a research vehicle for the study of Instructionless learning, Scientific discovery, View application, Cognitive development, and Dual Space Search
In the Soviet Union, a clone was made under "Elektronika IM-11" designation. The early production version was named Lunokhod after the Lunokhod programme. It featured an obstruction sensor disguised as a plastic front bumper, which would stop the program when the toy got stuck. However, there was no provision for an accessory, and its motion sensor was based on a cheaper reed switch instead of an opto-isolator. A later version, named "Planetokhod," additionally featured a shootable rotor blade as an accessory, LED head and rear lamps, and the on/off switch was relocated to the rear side. A Soviet popular science journal Nauka i Zhizn published a detailed article on the IM-11.
All programming to BigTrak was done through the keypad shown here. There were no LED displays or ways to display program instructions, beyond actually running the program, which was done by pressing "GO". Other function keys included:
- Forward/Backwards: Move forward or backwards in units of body length
- Left/Right: Turn left or right in units of roughly 1/60th of a full rotation
- HOLD: Pause in 1/10 of second time units (GB version; P: Pause)
- FIRE: Fire the light bulb "laser" (GB; Photon Symbol)
- CLR: Clear the program (GB; CM: Clear Memory)
- CLS: Clear Last Step (GB; CE; Clear last step)
- RPT: Repeat a number of steps (primitive loop) (GB; x2: Repeat key)
- TEST: Run short test program
- CK: Check last instruction (GB; Tick symbol)
- Out: Dump optional trailer accessory
- In: Reserved for future expansion (GB; missing. Disabled or not implemented on most if not all BigTraks)
Dubreq Ltd under license from Zeon Ltd has released a desktop version of the Bigtrak toy called "Bigtrack Jr".
- "Big Trak 2010 – History". Retrieved 14 December 2010.
- Ciarcia, Steve (February 1981). "A Computer-Controlled Tank". BYTE. p. 44. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- D Klahr, 2000, Exploring Science: The Cognition and Development of Discovery Processes, Cambridge , MA:MIT Press
- "Lunokhod for informatics study." – Nauka i Zhizn,1988,№4 (Russian magazine)
-  New bigtrak by Zeon Ltd
-  Stuff.tv article
-  bigtrak iCalc iPhone app
- "Bigtrak Jr".
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