The Micromouse tournaments started in the 70s and reached Europe in 1980 (and on to the world at large) - and they are still going. Seehttp://cyberneticzoo.com/category/maze-ssolving-mmachines/
for a big maze solving computer from 1971 but I think micro mice are supposed to be self-contained. There's some history of the contest at http://davidbuckley.net/RS/mmouse/micromouse78.htm
and there are links there to developments in the 1980s.
There's an article on the original contest in the US athttps://web.archive.org/web/20070722204022/http://www.todaysengineer.org/2007/Jun/backscatter.asp
I was fascinated by the idea of these little micro processor controlled robots - I'm sure they appeared on British TV.
From the UK's New Scientist magazine:
"""A Swiss entrant, whose mouse was built with a watchmaker's precision, complained that the maze itself was not built precisely enough. As if to underline the point, a toy-car style entry from Lancaster University got bogged down attempting multi-point turns in narrow corridors.
Some mice bristled with sonars and photocells. But the home-built winner used two bits of bent-brass shim and half a dozen bare metal contacts to feel the maze walls. It worked almost perfectly, and like all good engineering it looked simpler than it was.
Two mice which failed to negotiate the maze nevertheless shared the prize in the Virtuoso Display section. Fred danced the Blue Danube Waltz to his own accompaniment; Midnight Sun from Finland wrote its name and then played a Beatles' tune while gyrating on the spot. Neither of these preprogrammed displays, of course, required an ounce of artificial intelligence.
Actually, entrants admitted that even a maze-solving program is not hard to write. "Anybody can write a maze-solving algorithm in a day," said Phil Yeardley, whose mouse was built from Lego bricks. The Lego mouse ran well until one of its feelers got stuck in a piece of sticky tape. "The biggest problem is steering," said one of the Finnish team, confirming that the mechanical problems are the toughest."""
Hat tip to +John Metcalf
for posting about Apple II Robot Wars which reminded me of this alternative type of robot contest.