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Old 22nd July 2006, 03:21 PM   #1
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Default PIC Microcontroller starter kit??

Anyone know of a good PIC Microcontroller starter kit? something that has everything needed to get started. MY Nephew wants to build a robot like on robot wars. so he wants to learn how to program basic stamp and PIC Microcontrollers. So i thought i would ask if anyone has experimented with any of these kits?

I need something that is easy to understand and learn, he is 16 and very bright, but he has little experiance. Most of the kits i have seen require an external programmer, and software etc. Is there an all in one starter kit someplace that has a good tutorial???


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Old 22nd July 2006, 03:57 PM   #2
Jeb-D. is offline Jeb-D.  United States
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I think radioshack actually carries one, but I don't know all the details. Or you can build your own programmer and use MPLAB for software(which is free from microchip). Though it's assembly programming and isn't that easy to use. I have a kit from BasicMicro which is a compiler for basic programming(it's the pro version), with a programmer. I haven't used it in about 3 years, so it probably isn't the newest version. I would be willing to part with it for cheap, to a good home. If your interested, let me know. It works for microcontrollers and stamps. I have a few Microcontrollers I'll throw in with it.
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Old 22nd July 2006, 03:58 PM   #3
poobah is offline poobah  United States
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Seriously look into the ATMEL AVR series of processors. I used to be a PIC man; but changed a few years back.

ATMEL hit the market a few years later, and as such, really have a better piece of gear in my mind.

* All memory is continuous... no paging and the grief it involves... my biggest complaint.

* PIC started out with a Reduced Instruction Set Core (RISC) that keeps growing... ATMEL's started a bit bigger in the first place and remains more firm.

* All the chips are flash based... so no UV erasers and window chips are required.

There is a kit called the STK500 which will support DIP versions of all the AVR series cores. It will double as a programmer too. About $150 as I recall. The separate programmer is $30.

The manuals and documentation are a notch or 2 better in my mind. The assembly programmer is nice, and free. C compilers area available for about $200.

Give it a look... they have the "kit" board you want...

As far as the STAMP is concerned... well, I don't think it will hold on much longer. The STAMP was an effort to put BASIC on a fat microcontroller... great for people who knew BASIC... and for the hobbyist. I don't think the stamp winds up in too many "pro" applications... too quirky.

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Old 22nd July 2006, 04:14 PM   #4
Jeb-D. is offline Jeb-D.  United States
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I don't think the stamp winds up in too many "pro" applications... too quirky.
That is true, but my basic compiler is for microcontrollers, not just stamps. It is assembley macro's setup to perform functions common to basic programming. It lets you see your programming in assembly when you compile the basic code program. A good code written in assembly will be most efficent and perform best; without a doubt, but is too difficult for most beginners.
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Old 22nd July 2006, 04:32 PM   #5
poobah is offline poobah  United States
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I have been tempted to use some BASIC stuff now and then... primarily because I couldn't program in C and had to hire out for code work. Software guys are worse than cats when it comes to following instructions. I always opted away because BASIC is officially a dead language and the software guys clamored for C. Octagon, Stamp, and others all have their active versions of BASIC of course. But Basic's future is uncertain and code is rarely portable.

Basic came about when Fortran was considered the Latin of languages. C is now considered the latin as I understand it (not really a software guy).

I would turn a 16 year old loose on C and assembly... especially assembly. Quite a thrill just making an LED flash in response to a keypress. I stress assembly, because alot of software guys just won't do it... and people pay very handsomely for those that do.

Your offer of a system for cheap can certainly throw all that reasoning in trash though -
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Old 22nd July 2006, 11:38 PM   #6
hoshy is offline hoshy  United Kingdom
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I have the USB PICKit1 from Microchip themselves, I'm a complete beginner but it seems very good. You can also buy as I did 101 PIC Projects for the evil genius, a book that's written around the PICKit1 starter kit.

The programmer / evaluation board has LEDs, pot and switch. USB interface. Software wise it comes with MPLAB and you can code in C or ASM.


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Old 23rd July 2006, 01:24 AM   #7
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I have programmed both PIC's and AVR's -- the AVR's have a lot to commend them but the popular literature (like Nuts N Volts in the US -- the last standing survivor in monthly mass media) is full of more articles on PIC's --

there's nothing wrong with learning on a Basic Stamp and no programmer is necessary -- it then becomes pretty easy to move on to Visual Basic or C.

what ever happened to Lego Mindstorms, btw?

and to think that in 1966 we made a binary "adder" with relays which Ohio Bell Telephone had gotten rid of.
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Old 23rd July 2006, 01:28 AM   #8
imix500 is offline imix500  United States
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RE: mindstorms
Lego is currently redesigning the whole Mindstorms line.
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Old 24th July 2006, 01:13 PM   #9
Schaef is offline Schaef  United States
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A couple of things,

First, I would second looking at the AVR line from Atmel. The STK500 is under $100, or, if you want something else to play with, you can pick up an AVR butterfly for $50, which comes with an LCD. They also have a new product coming out called the Dragon which is supposed to retail around $60 and should be quite nice.

For a good resource on the AVR lines, check out AVRFreaks . The forums are very active, there's an academy section where you can download full projects, and there's a section talking about the different compilers available.

As to the language, I won't say much, its really a personal preference for each individual. It all depends on whether your nephew is a hardware guy or a software guy and whether he wants to possibly pursue embedded programming as a career.

And one last thing to Poohbah, as a software guy, I just want to say that you've found the wrong software contractors. I'm always appalled when I hear about contractors who argue with customers and tell them that they don't really want something they asked for. If I disagree with something, I'll discuss it with you in an attempt to either see why you want it that way or show you a different way to do it or why its not a good idea. I wouldn't argue languages, as I wouldn't accept a job that's not in a language I use. (And BASIC isn't one that I use) So, I'm just saying, all software guys are not like what you describe.
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Old 24th July 2006, 04:25 PM   #10
poobah is offline poobah  United States
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I second schaef...

Yes, with one exception, I have found nothing but the wrong contractors, and money doesn't seem to have much to do with it. I have a guy now that codes C at light speed... very good.

My problem to date has been is that some coders refuse to go back to square one and rewrite something, this because they didn't do things the way they were asked to in the first place. When they are forced to go back to square one, they say, " Well if you'd told me that in the first place (we did)"... We are working on a project where we simply don't know what the end result is. We have always tried to structure their efforts into modules that could be reused or adapted to move forward... like pulling teeth.
So... we wind up with code that has patch on top of patch. And getting these guys to comment their code is near impossible.

Enough already... I'll stop.

By all means send me a PM. We need a PHP4/5 guy now real bad... someone that can do extensive stuff with MySQL as well. But even if that is not your gig... let me know.

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