About the book

The writing

I first started to write this book was in 2003-4 but I changed job, my life just got too busy and it went nowhere.

The second, and successful, attempt began in 2009 when I was able to take a very long holiday. I started at the beginning of April, and then spent three wonderful and productive months in a tiny apartment in Paris, near Rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement. I adopted a writerly routine of writing from very early in the morning, and spending the afternoons walking and exploring. This was followed by an equally enjoyable and productive few months at Oxford.

By early 2010 there was a pretty substantial draft, and during a 1 week visit to MIT I hammered out the first substantial draft of all but the last Part. I queued a massive print job late on Friday night and took the T upto a Kinkos in Harvard Square, they opened early on a Saturday, where they bound it for me. It looked like a book! The rest of 2010 was endless revisions of the book and a simultaneous massive overhaul of the two MATLAB Toolboxes. The manuscript was uploaded to Springer on the second last day of 2010. The book still didn't have a title.

While the book itself was being typeset there was still plenty to do, much more than I had anticipated. In the final manuscript I had used lots of images that I lifted from the internet, and I needed to get licences or equivalent images that I could licence to use in the book. This took many months and hundreds of emails.

The biggest image licence saga was the ``Where's Wally/Waldo'' example on pages 313-15. Astute readers will notice that although I provide the images as files distributed with the Toolbox the image is not printed in the book. The images came from the internet but have unknown provenance, I suspect it's a screenshot from an old PC game by a company that is no longer in business. So the company that owns the Where's Wally/Waldo brand was unable to licence me to use it. Ultimately nobody would own up to owning it, which makes it prudent to not print it just in case some angry owner pops up down the track. Neither could I get images of Valentino Braitenberg or Rudolph Kalman so I've used images of their publications instead, on pages 88 and 113 respectively.

The galleys came back from Springer mid year, coincidently during another visit to Oxford. I got my first copy of the book in mid September, a few weeks before IROS 2011 and the official launch. All up it was 30 months from starting to holding a copy of the book in my hand. The book writing itself was 21 months, on average 1 book page per day!

The binding

From the start I wanted a book that would lay open, I was thinking of the spiral binding on my old first edition of Lamport's LaTeX book. Springer weren't very keen on spiral binding and came up with the wonderful plastic cover.

Writing tools

The book was written in LaTeX, with lots of macros and Python scripts to actually run all the MATLAB examples and automatically create the figures. However once it got to Springer it was ingested into an Adobe layout package so this automated example testing and figure generation is no longer possible.