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Cheap µC boards to discover embedded programming ?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by theBrave, Mar 14, 2007.

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  1. theBrave

    theBrave Guest


    I want to learn to program micro controllers but I don't know how to
    start. I've seen some development kit from manufacturers but I think
    most are too expensive. On the other hand, searching for "atmega" on
    eBay, I found those ( cheap board that seem
    powerfull. They seem complete, with everything needed to program them.
    Do you think they are a good deal ? Is buying in asia the key ? Do you
    know other better "sub-or-around" $100 dev kits ?

  2. J.A. Legris

    J.A. Legris Guest

    What's wrong with the Atmel STK500? US$79.
  3. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    It looks good value to me. You really can't go wrong with that it seems.

  4. EdV

    EdV Guest

    You can get Basic stamp kits at Radio Shack. It depends on what you
    are trying to accomplish. If you want to learn assembly language or
    embedded C Basic Stamps are probably not the way to go. Checkout
    Mouser and Digikey also.

    Good luck and have fun,
    Ed V.
  5. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

  6. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Can't beat that, I guess:

    $20 for a kit that gives you all the tools. AFAIK they also sell
    MSP430F2012 adapters for it. Three for $10 which sounds like a really
    good deal.

    The programming environment is quite nice, I am using it.
  7. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    Apparently, you're in France. I'd say, if it's in your budget, go for it;
    in any case, (i.e., no matter which kit you buy), you'll have to take some
    time to learn it, but I guess we could ass-u-me that you're already aware
    of that. :)

    Have Fun!
  8. linnix

    linnix Guest

    It ties up an XP for development, and that's costly for me.
    I run Xilinx cpld, Keil Arm and Gcc Avr on cheap Win98 PC.
    I download codes on another cheaper box.

    I occasionally use the MSP, but not very often.

    Atmel made $20 AVRbutterfly and $30 USB eval board,
    but they seems to have disappear from the market.
  9. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    I have used a Win2K PC for IAR and the MSP430. No problems. Couldn't try
    it on the old NT4 machine because that one does not have USB ports.
  10. linnix

    linnix Guest

    Last time I tried. It didn't work on my Win2000 usb.

    Keil Arm needs Win2000 to install, but the installed image
    can run on Win98 and the USB download can be done on Linux.
    So, I wiped by Win2000 clean.

    I run the Xilinx, KeilArm and WinAvr from a network drive
    without installation, since they sometimes kill each other.
  11. Can't beat that, I guess:
    Sounds like a bargain and ... 128 bytes of RAM ? Guess you have to
    learn its assembler to use it, but it is definitively a bargain for
    someone who wants to experiments with a small, low power

    I have found those two on Atmel's site. I have one of these new laptop
    that doesn't have an serial port so dev kits with an usb port could
    ease a lot of problems. I have heard about issue concerning the
    Butterfly saying that 1) There is a bug in the bootloader that require
    the board to be reprogrammed using the stk500 2) RS232 part is not
    very compliant especially for those using usb converters. This is sad
    because I found some carrier board that makes experiments a lot

    Also, I guess I'll have to order them at digikey, but shipping is
    expensive (yes I'm french), hopefully they don't weight much. Just a
    last question for tonight: JTAG adapters can be used for both
    programming and debugging, true ?
  12. linnix

    linnix Guest

    Sorry, should have checked first. Both are now available from
    Yes, the hacked-up 232 signal booster is not very reliable.
    I replaced mine with a Max232 driver.
    Alternatively, hook it up to a FT2232 USB to Serial.

    Actually, I use FT2232->ARM->AVRs.
    Or actually, X86->X86->FT2232->ARM->AVRs.
    Yes, Jtag Ice I for butterfly and Jtag Ice II for usbkey.
  13. Guest

  14. linnix

    linnix Guest

    I switched to the 64K/4K (flash/sram) version just for the sram.
    I would prefer even more sram if possible.
    For bigger apps, I would go to Arm.
    Not a problem with Avr, there are several Usb-Serial and Usb-Jtag
    programmers for Avr.
    The Jtag ice works well enough for butterfly, before I burnt out the
    and the programmer (my fault). Anyway, I have since replaced it with
    Atmega649 (which can't be Jtag Ice I anyway). I can spi download the
    flash and jtag the i/o pins, but nothing else yet. I've been chewing
    spec for days trying to make it run.

    I verified the flash (via spi), checked the pins (via jtag). Vcc and
    are 3.3V. Internal RC clock source with max. startup time.
    But the damn (pardon my French) thing won't do a simple pin toggling.
  15. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    If you go easy on the variables 128b is plenty. Remember that these are
    16bit uC. Which also means they pack quite some MIPS horsepower. Most
    F2xx family parts don't have a HW multiplier but there are larger
    versions that do (and also contain a lot more RAM).
    I was told by a TI app engineer that a converter would most likely not
    work which is why I switched to the USB programmer. To my surprise, when
    I bought my latest laptop it had a RS232 port. Strangely, they had not
    mentioned that in the advertisements.

    Yes. I am not sure about the new spy-by-wire (SBW) since I have so far
    only used it for programming.
  16. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Just to avoid a misunderstanding: I meant the MSP430. Don't know about
  17. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Yes. I bought some of their boards through this company in the US:

    However, Jean lives in France. Maybe he could order directly from
    Bulgaria or email Tsvetan Usunov at Olimex.

    Price-wise the TI deal of three F2012 header boards for $10 is hard to
    beat though, or shared $3.33 a pop plus shipping. BTW, since you are at
    University of Akron this also seem to be the perfect fit to have
    students do some real prototyping. I mean, they probably can't even buy
    a decent Latte for that kind of money.
  18. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Now don't throw any tomatoes but, ahem, is the WDT disabled or handled
    properly? I am not familiar with Atmel but I remember a MSP430 app where
    that was the issue (the guy had wrestled with it for a whole day).
  19. linnix

    linnix Guest

    I'll check it again, but I think the WDT is disable by default.
    The board worked with the 16K version, the only thing different is
    the 64K part. Perhaps there are more "upgrades" than memories.
    I need the 4K sram because my communication buffer size is 2K.
    Ethernet (10T) buffer is 1.5K, so 2K is the most efficient size.
    My actual data path is:

    x86 <10T> x86 <usb> Arm <232> Avr(s)

    The Avr needs to be able to handle data dump of 1.5K,
    as well as sampling buffers of 20KHz.
  20. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    On the MSP430 it isn't. You have to turn it off as one of the first
    commands after reset has finished or have the handler in place in due
    course. Else it'll time out on you.

    That doesn't sound like a WDT issue. Maybe there are some subtle
    differences or "improvements" beyond the larger memory size.
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