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Alternative to Basic Stamp?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Eric Griswold, Dec 9, 2004.

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  1. I'm looking for some cheaper alternative to the Basic Stamp, some kind of
    microcontroller:

    where I can write the program in Basic, and download it to the controller to
    test it out.

    reprogram it again if needed (eeprom, obviously)

    A byte or two of programmable i/o lines

    does not need a $1000 development system to get started, maybe just a dongle
    on a serial cable or something.

    cheap or free compiler.

    OK, it sounds like what I need is...a Basic Stamp! But they are so damn $$$.
    I design interactive art pieces, like colonies of interactive "insects", I
    don't want to pay $50 bucks apiece for a brain to read some sensors and make
    some lights blink...

    any good suggestions out there?

    eric g.
     
  2. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    Pay a hundred or so for a system where you can develop programs for a
    processor that's less than a buck. You only need the one platform - the
    chips themselves are way cheap.

    Do you have a Fry's in your country?

    Good Luck!
    Rich
     
  3. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    This will be easier if you are willing to consider learning to program
    in C. For the stuff you are doing I suspect it won't be too much different.

    And don't worry about learning the basics of C. Total idiots can learn
    to program in C -- I know, I've worked on some of their code.
     
  4. CFoley1064

    CFoley1064 Guest

    Subject: Alternative to Basic Stamp?
    Hi, Eric. If you're looking for a somewhat lower cost, ultra-simple
    "stamp-like" IC, try the PICAXE.

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

    The PICAXE is based on the PIC, like the original BASIC Stamp. You buy just
    the IC itself instead of a small circuit board or hybrid module like the Stamp
    (meaning you'll have to put a ceramic resonator, a 78L05 voltage regulator and
    a couple of caps on a perfboard with the IC to make it work). However, it does
    do BASIC, and your installed cost is a lot less than the Stamp.

    I haven't had a chance to play with the PICAXE myself, but I've looked at the
    docs, and heard from people who've had satisfactory experiences with them.
    They're slower, and they have a somewhat more limited instruction set, but,
    again, they're cheap. Pick the one you want to start with (if you're looking
    at Stamps, you'll probably want the 18 pin PICAXE), and get the development kit
    to start. For the simple bit-banging I/O stuff and timed control loops, it
    should do as well as the Stamp.

    If you're in the States, you'll have to order from England. They don't have
    any distributors on this side of the pond, AFAIK. Also, they're priced in
    pounds (you can use a credit card, shipping is somewhat slow, and be sure to
    look again at the exchange rates before you buy to avoid a shock -- the USD
    don't buy what it used to).

    Questions of this type usually get a friendly reception on s.e.b.

    Good luck
    Chris
     
  5. Hi, Chris. I think this is an excellent suggestion. I haven't used them,
    either. But I had looked at them some time ago and felt the price was
    reasonable.

    Another thought crossed my mind, though. And I really don't know how well
    beaten the path might be. Maybe not at all, and that would preclude it being
    useful here. But there was an MCS BASIC-52 for the 8031/32 and I'm wondering if
    anyone has tried to port it over to a Cygnal or Atmel incarnation. If so, the
    tools for either would be inexpensive, I believe.

    There may also be some free BASIC compilers and almost certainly some that are
    commercial, but free when used for tiny programs. And this sounds like a tiny
    program kind of thing.

    Just some thoughts banging around in me from your response.

    Jon
     
  6. Paul

    Paul Guest

    You don't need the ceramic resonator on the 8 pin - it's built-in. These
    chips are a breeze to program.

    All info you need is downloadable from site in one single file.

    On the hardware side -

    To run the 8 pin just add a 33k on the programming pin and a 5 V supply.
    To program just add a couple of resistors, 5 V supply and your computer port
    connection.

    Would take less than a day to conquer.

    Paul.
     
  7. You have to start by understanding what the 'stamp' is. It comprises
    either a PIC, or similar processor, with it's ROM, containing a fairly
    large interpreter. Attached to this, are a crystal/resonator to provide
    the clock, and an EEPROM to contain the 'code'. This is all built onto a
    small 'carrier' board, which then brings the I/O lines to the outside
    world. This obviously involves quite a lot of cost (the royalties for the
    interpreter, the board, and the support parts). Hence the price.
    The cheapest way to give a 'similar' operation, is to use an in-circuit
    programmer to program a PIC itself directly, and write your program using
    a Basic (if this is the language you are determined to use). There are
    some free Basic's on the web. For instance, 'Crownhill associates' do one
    for certain chips:
    http://www.picbasic.org/proton_lite.php?action=category&id=7
    Also:
    http://www.hippy.freeserve.co.uk/diystamp.htm
    Did a design to emulate the Stamp. But this is limited to only two now
    rather 'obsolete' chips.
    If you are prepared to try another language, there are several free 'C'
    compilers on the web.
    In either case, the 'support' needed round the chip will then depend on
    what you want to do. The 'simplest' situation will be where the clock rate
    is not terribly critical, and you may well then be able to use the interal
    RC oscillator built into some of the PICs. However if you are intending to
    support asynchronous serial comms, this is not really a 'wise' route, so a
    crystal/resonator will be needed. With most of the flash based PICs, you
    won't need external memory, since the code can be reprogrammed into the
    chip itself, and changed as needed.

    Best Wishes
     
  8. On Wed, 08 Dec 2004 21:44:44 -0800, in sci.electronics.design Tim

    snip
    I dont remember sending you my code!




    martin

    Serious error.
    All shortcuts have disappeared.
    Screen. Mind. Both are blank.
     
  9. Ken Moffett

    Ken Moffett Guest

    Neither the Pixaxe08, 08M, 18, 18A, or 18X require a resonator. They
    have built in oscillators. The 28's and 40's do.

    I started out with the Stamp, but was turned off by the high price for
    small projects. The Picaxe, especially the 08 and 08M, are great to
    replace circuits that required several logic chips to impliment.

    The exchange rates, $USD vs. GBP, don't make me happy, but they are
    still relatively cheap. And the delivery time has been surprisingly
    quick.
     
  10. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Hi Tim,

    Agree. But you also might want to point the OP in the direction of a
    good web publication or book to learn the ropes. Down-to-earth stuff
    such as which header files to include and why, pitfalls, when and why to
    pack stuff in ISR and so on. The compiler packages, including free ones,
    are way too brief and cryptic on this for a beginner.

    ROFL! Agree, too. I am in no way a C expert but once when I debugged a
    system design I found that someone had poured tons of stuff into tables
    and it choked it off. At first they thought the HW guys must have messed
    up and as a consultant I had to tread carefully when this stuff arose.
    Didn't wan't to get into the middle of the SW-HW scuffle. Then, since
    the SW guy was gone, I re-wrote the code so it was formula based. Bingo,
    no more problems. The only thing they criticized me for afterwards was
    that I wrote 'formulas' instead of 'formulae' in my report. Ahem. Guess
    the Romans held the patent on that word.

    Regards, Joerg
     
  11. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    I wish I knew one (or several). I never learned that stuff from a book
    - I just picked it up as I went along, starting when I was 12 or so with
    BASIC and assembly language. From there picking up C was no problem.
    With that kind of experience I am simply not equipped to choose a good
    reference for the beginner.

    I do think, however, that if the OP can get a compiler package with some
    working example that he could modify the example and get things working.
    He may not have the worlds best code, but if it works it works, right?
     
  12. Rileyesi

    Rileyesi Guest


    For the micro, I would strongly suggest that AVR family of Atmel.

    http://www.atmel.com/dyn/products/param_table.asp?family_id=607&OrderBy=pa
    rt_no&Direction=ASC

    A wide variety of on-board options (i.e. RTC, A to D converters, PWM, SPI,
    etc.) and and 'expensive' chip is less than $10 US. Fast and powerful.

    As to the programmer, look at BASCOM.

    http://www.mcselec.com/

    This is a BASIC compiler designed for the AVR family of micros. You can
    download the demo software for free or buy the registered version for about $80
    US. The difference between the demo and the registered version is the size of
    programs you can generate. TONS of support, too.

    To show how simple the software is, here is a program that will read all 8 ADC
    channels on the AT90S8535 and display the results on your computer screen.


    $regfile = "8535def.dat"
    Config Adc = Single , Prescaler = Auto
    Start Adc
    Dim W As Word , Channel As Byte
    Channel = 0
    Do
    W = Getadc(channel)
    Print "Channel " ; Channel ; " value " ; W
    Incr Channel
    If Channel > 7 Then Channel = 0
    Loop
    End


    Good luck!
     
  13. I am playing with the 18X and highly recommend it. Buy one here for about
    $10 (http://www.phanderson.com/picaxe/picaxe.html).
     
  14. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    I gave a "seminar" once - actually, I stood at the white-board while three
    cow-orkers watched, and described the "post-office model" of a computer.
    Service desk=Terminal, Pigeonholes=Memory, Person=CPU. Storage, no big
    deal, right? But the Person can get "Instructions" which are stored in the
    Pigeonholes, which can tell him what pigeonhole to go to next. This is a
    "branch", or "jump." Otherwise, she just gets her instructions
    sequentially.

    And in the slightly bigger picture, a program is a list of stuff you want
    the computer to do in sequence, which can have alternatives, which is
    where the "compute" part comes in. The rest is just a big ol' adding
    machine. ;-)

    Cheers!
    Rich
     
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