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cwd10

New to microcontrollers. Need help PICking one out

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Ok. here's the deal. I'm a seasoned electronics tech, so I know my way around the stuff. My problem is that I don't know much about microcontrollers and would like to get into this the right way. The right way being, that I want to start small and relatively cheap, but have the ability to grow without having to spend a lot of time/money to expand my capabilities. I have been looking at starter kits, but don't see too many that allow you to program and remove a chip to put in an external circuit though. Am I mistaken? I also need to keep the chip/circuit small and light for RC use.

This all stems from my desire to duplicate MR RC-Cam's "Nav-Lights" project, and that is my immediate goal. The problem is that it's a fairly old article and I'm not sure if/how the technology has changed. So far I've been looking at stuff from "Microchip Technologies", "Parallax", and PICAXE. I would like to be able to duplicate the "Nav-Lights" project without being limited to having to do the "One time burn" routine if possible. In other words, I would like to be able to use the RAM based technology if possible. I'm not dead set on it though.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by cwd10

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Hello

I Use the Mikroelektronika EasyPIC 4 development board, which i find really easy to use, its also cheap! (well i think it is for what you get) Start with a 16F84A pic which is flash programable and have a play, you get a code editing program with the board which allows you to write in basic, so its easy to get started.

EasyPIC4

Martin

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Thanks for the info. I'll check it out right away.

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Hi, Cwd

Easy Pic 4 is probably THE tool you need !!!

and for first steps ...free IDEs ( C, Basic or Pascal ... you choose !!! ) available from the same factory ...

Surely the most cost and use effective pack !!!

Alain

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you get a code editing program with the board which allows you to write in basic

Personally I'd recommend going for C instead. That might take you a tad longer to get a grip on it, but then you'll be able to easily transition to pretty much every platform as C is very commonly available. BASIC will limit you to... a few basic platforms that have compilers for it.

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Thanks for your suggestions everybody. I guess have a lot more research to do. Although I want to keep it simple at first by using the basic stamp style chips, I do see the value of going to the "C" language based options for the ability to get more complex/powerful programs. Man, this is tough. It was easier to decide on my last car. :blink:

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http://www.rev-ed.co.uk/picaxe/

this is one of the easiest kits and based on microchip's PICs. Download the programming editor software, read the first pdf and you will be surprized how easy it is to program these things.

I my self - without any programming backround - could not understand the other vendor's instructions. They just take too much for granted from the beginning.

Dimitris

Edited by Dimitris76

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I probably shouldn't add my 2-cents since it will just confuse you more. But here are my observations and some fatherly advice.

1. Don't be paralyzed with the PIC/AVR/Assembly/C/Basic/EasyPic/Stamp/fill-in-the-name-here decision because you don't know which is best. If you are serious about doing it, then any choice you make is good since it will get you started.

2. If you keep the initial cost low, you won't be reluctant to try other opportunities later on.

3. When it comes to hobby use, the microcontroller family you initially get comfortable with will probably be the one you stick with for the end of eternity. So, keep that in mind.

4. The microcontrollers with the built in language support (Picaxe, etc.) are nice for folks that won't be building many gadgets. Their start up cost is attractive too, which is a plus. On the other hand, their slightly higher chip price will become a drag if you want to make a lot of copies of the doo-dad.

5. Don't expect to understand it all on your first attempts. There's a huge amount of stuff that you'll need to juggle; chip hardware, language syntax, programming techniques, debugging techniques, and so on. Begin by blinking an LED (a classic embedded "hello world"). Build upon your successes.

Having said all that, I think if I had to recommend a solution to someone that had a strong electronics background and wanted to learn a high level language, but had a limited budget, it would be the AVR series. Mostly because of the free GCC C compiler. I wish that compiler was ported to the entire PIC family! However, becoming proficient at C is a lifetime adventure, so be prepared to roll up your sleeves. Assembly language is a good skill to know too, so don't ignore it.

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cdw10,

I've been thinking about doing the same thing and ordered an Arduino last week. It arrived Friday and I had it blinking lights in about an hour using the online tutorials. There are variants of this board that are smaller and lighter like the Boarduino and the Arduino Mini which is the smallest.

The first goal is to use it as a camera gimbal/camera shutter controller on my Joker heli. After I get that working I'll add the blinking lights. I'm hoping to have everything working by March.

Phil

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