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Hobby uC's

  1. Jul 24, 2007 #1
    so, I've been looking into some uC projects as an extra hobby. no specific ideas yet besides a generic lil autonomous robot. but i am having dificulty deciding on what type of uC to use, and thats why I have come here :)

    my thoughts:

    i have experience with basic stamp, pic, and dsPIC(significant). I am also familiar with assembly(limited) & c/c++

    i would prefer using a high level language like c/c++, which the pic supports. but looking at the cost of the development boards and programmers that microchip offers, it turns out to be a very expensive solution.

    for the basic stamp, the actual modules themselves are expensive, but the devo boards, programmers, and the compiler (free!) are generally less expensive.

    as for capabilities between the two, the basic stamp uses PBASIC, and it would suit me fine for a while, but I think the relatively limited program space would not suit me down the road, for expansionary projects.

    so im torn between power and affordability,

    what do you recommend? are there any other uC's that would be appropriate for my experience/level/application?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2007 #2


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    Personally, I'd suggest the EZ-USB series from Cypress. They're a snap to connect to your computer, and they have a lot of features. I don't know how much the dev kits cost, but you may not even need one. You only need a couple of external components (oscillator, etc.) to build a complete system.

    - Warren
  4. Jul 24, 2007 #3


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    If you want to target the PIC 18F4455 (or similar) chip with its USB capability, you can get started for less than $200 by buying the MPLAB ICD2 PC interface unit, downloading the free compiler (it loses some functionality after 60 days if you stay with the free version, but that should be fine for you for a while), and building your own PIC circuits by hand using SMT --> through hole conversion boards (sometimes called "surf boards"). The PIC 18F4455 comes in a QFP-44 SMT package that is still pretty reasonable to hand solder. I don't know the price offhand, but building your own starter board with that chip and the two connectors for USB and the ICD2 would be way cheaper than the $200+ starter boards that Microchip sells.

    Microchip MPLAB software: http://www.microchip.com/stellent/i...E&nodeId=1406&dDocName=en019469&part=SW007002

    MPLAB with ICD2 interface: http://www.microchip.com/stellent/idcplg?IdcService=SS_GET_PAGE&nodeId=1406&dDocName=en010046

    Prices in US: http://www.microchipdirect.com/ProductSearch.aspx?Keywords=DV164005

    We've used the PIC 18F4455 on several in-house fixtures, and it's pretty easy to work with. I also like chroot's suggestion of the EZ-USB devices from Cypress. Having a USB interface into your projects gives you a nice natural way to combine your PC with your uC projects, and also gives you great experience in programming with the very popular USB interface.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2007
  5. Jul 25, 2007 #4


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    Look at what I suggested in this other thread:


    Basically I'd say
    a) embedded small PC

    b) LPC ARM7 from NXP

    c) MSP430 from TI; you can order the USB programmer and
    software kit from TI's eStore for $20 which is sufficient
    to program all the smaller parts with the SPI-BI-WIRE
    interface. For the larger pinout parts with true JTAG
    programming I believe you need a more expensive
    programmer but it's still cheaper than a lot PICs programmers.

    d) Something like the ARM9 AT91RM9200 from Atmel,
    though that's a pretty big PQFP package and a VERY
    powerful microprocessor, so it might be overkill if you
    want something more like a PIC.

    e) Look at the 68HCxxx type microcontrollers if those
    are still made/used, I recall those weren't bad in cost
    and programming options, though really I'd use an
    ARM7 before a 68HCxxx these days.

    f) The RABBIT stuff:

    g) THe TINI stuff:

    h) Other MAXIM uCs:

    i) Some of the Zilog and other compatible
    technology (Hitachi?) Z80 stuff is easy to program since
    you can use an internal bootstrap loader and/or external
    standard parallel FLASH / EPROM type stuff.

    The Cypress uCs can be ok too, as berkeman said.
  6. Jul 25, 2007 #5
    thanks for the recommendations
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