The hardcovers were titled in an orange monospace font on a dark background. This was in elementary school, and they were pretty worn, so from about 1990 at the latest (I think it was unusual that the kid had a computer at his house, and there was no GUI, but I think it had a regular CRT monitor, not a room-sized dinosaur.) The computer had a name - not Herbie, that's the lovebug, but something similar - but I don't think it was actually sentient, just anthropomorphized like you do with important machines. Might have had emotions like a pet, though.

The one specific story I remember is about a contest with a smug kid at school and his supercomputer (Oxford/Ocelot/something like that?). The contest was to find a submarine somewhere in the Atlantic. The supercomputer had more MIPS and was the obvious favorite, but our heroes won the day by looking up actual ocean currents and stuff and plotting a likely course to search first instead of brute-forcing it.

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    I know the series you speak of. I will seek for the name. – FuzzyBoots Jul 1 '19 at 19:19
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    Och. Having difficulty finding it. It's not really SciFi though. Other stories involved a video game high score contest (the girl cheated by unplugging the machine to reset it), a robot gladiator fight (close to SciFi), a hotels security getting hacked (the clue to the hacker was his toys still worked), and having to explain to a teacher that a microchip couldn't give him math answers. – FuzzyBoots Jul 1 '19 at 19:28
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    I want to say the kid's name was Chip (Carson?). He solved the submarine problem by researching its likely path, and searching along there. Oh, and there was something involving a programmable robotic turtle powered by LOGO. – FuzzyBoots Jul 1 '19 at 19:30
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    On the cover, the computer had a pixelated smiley-face, I think in green, as was the tendency in CRTs at the time. FWIW, the one thing I remember, vaguely sci-fi, had two bipedal robotic gladiators with sword and shield. The main character was against his female rival (the same as with the video game high score). She kept winning until he found a button that maybe his robot spin at the waist. Her robot starts attacking the area where her console is. Turns out, she'd cheated by advance practice, and the robots were used for search and rescue and could sense infra-red. – FuzzyBoots Jul 1 '19 at 19:45
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    @FuzzyBoots After a bit of looking up online, it seems as though this story is often counted as sci-fi. ISFDB lists it as "juvenile SF", [SF Encyclopedia also has it](sf-encyclopedia.uk/sfeshop.php?field-keywords=The+Case+of+the+Stolen+Computer+Brains&field-author=Dignazio+Fred), and there's a sequel about robot warriors which definitely sounds sci-fi. Are you sure this is off-topic? – Rand al'Thor Jul 3 '19 at 8:08

This is Chip Mitchell: The Case of the Stolen Computer Brains (and sequels) by Fred D'Ignazio. Found it by searching variations of book series + computer + "boy named Chip" (thanks FuzzyBoots!) The submarine problem is basically as I remembered it, the robot's name is Herm (for Hermes V), and the front cover was as both FuzzyBoots and I remembered it (interestingly, the font is not actually monospaced, just gives that impression.)

Front cover of Chip Mitchell #1 by Fred D'Ignazio

This blog post has several additional helpful photos.

  • Glad I could help. I loved the series when I was a kid. – FuzzyBoots Jul 1 '19 at 20:53

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