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Microprocessor trainer for very intelligent youth

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by No email please!, May 30, 2004.

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  1. A year ago I got my nephew a Maxitronics 500 in 1 kit from Ramsey
    Electronics <> and he is almost
    finished with it, and I am looking at something a little more advanced
    for him to learn on. His favorite part of the kit was the software
    portion using the 4-bit processor to program, and I am looking for
    something along those lines. He can solder pretty well and has built
    other Ramsey kits, but we discussed it and I think a microprossing
    trainer should be next on his list.

    My nephew is 11 going on to 12, pretty smart, and has the drive to do
    this, so I am not too worried. The summer break is coming soon and
    this should give him plenty to do and learn, but I am needing
    assistance in choosing a good trainer kit for him to use.

    I have done some research and googled a lot, and based on his
    interests and skill level, I was thinking of having him train on a
    intel based processor. I know there are advantages to each trainer,
    but want everyone's experiences with 8051, 8085, and 8088 trainers.

    First of all, I got from my local used book store the 8088 Project
    Book by Robert Grossblatt. I do not know if this is going to be his
    second project or if it should be his first. Anyhow, I have been
    looking at microprocessor kits to start him off and found the
    following kits that I am interested in:

    I found EMAC <> has several 8085 based
    trainers. Any recommendation on these?

    Elenco <> has one 8085 based trainer, it appears
    to be a good value for the money. Opinions?

    Cygnal <>
    has 8051 based trainers with varying configurations.

    Flite <> has quite a few trainers,
    including Motorola based 68x trainers. If my nephew does well with the
    intel based trainers, I think he would be interested in these, but any
    other recommendations?

    I have seen others, but these interest me right now. I think I would
    rather go with the 8085 or the 8088 rather than the 8051, but I have
    seen the Cygnal kits very highly recommended by others here.

    TIA! Please respond here, emails will be most likely ignored.
  2. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    You'll find far more 'peer support' out there these days for people using
    Microchip PICs and Atmel AVRs than the 8085 or 8088. 8051 is certainly
    still popular as well, although it's on the decline. TI MSP430s seem to be
    rising in popularity. However, there are literally thousands of web sites
    out there devoted to hobbiest usage of the PICs, and although it's not
    exactly my favorite CPU, it's a perfectly good one to learn on... hence
    that's what I'd recommend for your nephew. If/when he does outgrow the
    PICs, the Motorola 68K series is a good 'step up' (but ask him if he sees
    the value in such a processor: it takes awhile to recognize why in the world
    you'd want a 'bare' 32 bit CPU core when you typically lose out on all those
    cool peripherals stuck inside of the 8 bit MCUs of the world)... the
    Coldfire processors are the current incarnation of 68K, BTW.
    That's a bizarre attitude (ignoring e-mails) for someone expecting personal
    advice! It's not like we'll necessarily know if you ever read these posts
  3. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    Actually, ignoring mail encourages good netiquette. There are a substantial
    number of USENET users who don't like it when people request email replies.
    Sort of like, "You ask here, you can come get your answer here." I tend to
    agree, albeit I try not to be a fanatic about it. So, saying email won't
    even be looked at is at worst, neutral. :)

    Hope This Helps!
  4. Al Borowski

    Al Borowski Guest

    I think you should choose a CPU with more newbie support, eg PIC or AVR.
    I think support counts more then technical advantages when first
    learning microcontrollers. Take a look at or

    Rather then buy a 'trainer', I personally would put the money into a
    decent but cheap programmer, and lots of parts to play with. A PIC can
    be easily built on a breadboard - no PCB required.

  5. maxfoo

    maxfoo Guest

    For heaven sake man! get the kid outdoors, have him join a little league
    baseball're gonna give him a heartache before he's 21...
    This hi-tech generation gets no exercise...curse those computers...

    Remove "HeadFromButt", before replying by email.
  6. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    Ah, hell, I didn't get any exercise either. This kid doesn't sound like
    the "hi-tech generation" you're talking about - it sounds like he's
    fascinated with this stuff and wants to learn more. I'd say that's
    a hell of a lot more important to society than another jock.

  7. (No email please!) wrote in message

    Let me clarify a few things. First, we had discussed getting a PIC
    programmer and prototype board, but his interest was more towards the
    80xx processors, especially after speaking with the digital
    electronics instructor at the nearest community college. There they
    teach both PIC and 8051, however much he wanted to take a summer
    course, both my nephew and the instructor decided that he was not
    ready for the mathmatics.

    I *know* that the PIC is much more adaptable, and that the learning
    curve is easier, but he felt that the 80xx was more interesting and I
    felt that the training materials were a bit more structured, and that
    is what I think he needs most. In a way, I was a bit disappointed that
    he did not go the PIC route, however its like to force him to play
    basketball when he really wants to play soccer. His interest and
    desires lie elsewhere.

    On the point of making sure the kid goes outside every once in a
    while, he does. I actually thought of posting that information in the
    original message. He does both winter and summer team sports, but that
    discussion is not germane, so I left it out.

    TIA if you can help out, I was hoping that someone could comment on
    the original trainers, or recommend a better one and let me know why.
  8. Kim

    Kim Guest

    I have used the AVR STK500 development kit for my son and he got up
    and running quite quickly (age 14) and it now writin some code in
    Assembly and some in C.
    You will need to seperate the software and hardware learning curve as
    doing both together can be a bit much for most.

    Micro consultants in Australia sell a "SPLat" boards for a reasonbly
    They have a emulator which is free and you can run all your software
    in the emulator and watch the input and outputs on the PC screen. They
    use a macro type assembly laungage.

    They have the best tutorials I have ever seen, free of course,
    downloadable from their web site. I can highly recommend their
    site/tutorials for anyone learning.

    google for it
  9. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    That's great that he wants to pursue the more challenging route, but if you
    get him an 80xx trainer you'll scar him for life. :) A ColdFire CPU is
    just as challenging, capable, and 'interesting,' and much cleaner than an
    80xx. BTW, you might also want to get the guy a copy of Patterson &
    Hennessy (the 'qualitative' book, not the 'quantitative' one)...
  10. onestone

    onestone Guest

    Although still out there in the millions the 8051 is largely a dead duck
    , it is popul;ar simply because it is so old it costs next to nothing to
    licence. It has some really bad quirks. The 8085 is even worse, I
    haven't worked on one for close to 20 years. PICs are popular, despite
    the smaller parts having paged memory, a real problem in many
    applications, AVR's are nearly as popular, but for all the years I treid
    to find a use for them I personally could never get along with them.
    Despite what your nephew thinks he wants to do, and despite the
    community college still teaching 8051 (a major problem with educational
    facilities is that they are so far beghind the times they are teaching
    old tech to people seeking new tech jobs) and PIC I would avoid both of

    Additionally, from your post, I would suspect that a training kit would
    soon be boring to your son. The one's I've seen are effectively useless,
    and tend to 'talk down' to the user. A cheap development kit that
    includes IDE, assembler, programmer and an experimentation board is the
    best bet. These offer scalable learning without compromise. I would look
    for a micro with built in JTAG or in circuit debug. I think AVR now has
    this, so I would certainly suggest you look there, but my personal
    recommendation, based on experience with just about every micro family,
    would be the Ti MSP430. It's architecture is excellent and in my opinion
    aids in learning. It has a very 'clean' design, having none of the
    strange quirks of the Intel architectures (80xx), the PIC or many
    others. It is also register based, rather than accumulator based, again,
    I believe simplifying understanding of how the thing is working.
    (Accumulator based macjhines require everything to be done to, or via
    the accumulator, for example to move memory A to memory B you would move
    a to the accumulator, then mov it to B. In a register based machine you
    can do this mov directly, and, in the case of the Ti every Each register
    can act as the accumulator, as can any RAM memory.

    There are, of course more opinions than there are micro families, so the
    ultimate choice is yours.


  11. Bravo Delta

    Bravo Delta Guest

    First of all, I got from my local used book store the 8088 Project
    I would recommend this book. I used it to help me learn embedded processors
    in college years ago and built several good lab projects based on it. It
    has the added benefit of being compatible with PC tools. I used Borland
    Turbo C 2.0 and Turbo Assembler to write code for it as though I was writing
    a DOS program. Ran EXE2BIN on the DOS executable file it created and put
    that into the EPROM. Old tech now, but the concepts are still good ones to
  12. ----------------
    True. But they have lots of free tools and code.

    The 8085 is fine, simple, and easy. The Z80 likewise. I suggest them,
    if your kid wants a simple to build with part that leaves the magic
    all available and out in the open.

    PICs are popular,
    Lots of projects. Nuff said.

    Pretty true.

    It is convenient, but you feel it is complicated at times.

    Another option you may be overlooking is that any PC can be used with
    the old DOS monitor utility DEBUG, to act as your controller, and in
    the process it teaches 80x88/Pentium architecture and code. PC machine
    language is no more difficult than an 8085, and you only need to learn
    a dozen commands or two dozen to start, and you already own one!!!

    Also check these out:

    You can use the parallel port directly for interfacing projects, and
    you have the advantage of a timers, counters, serial ports, a decent
    screen, lots of RAM and hard drive, and other utils and free progs to
    work with at the machine code/assembler level!!

    And it has the advantage of starting you on the most popular computer
    used by nearly everyone in the world now!!!
  13. Kevin R

    Kevin R Guest

    Although there is an awfull lot of 8051 stuff out there, I would regard it as being a bit
    dated. I doubt many new products are being built now with 8051 stuff. and by the time
    your nephew leaves school i think it will be a bit of a dinosaur.
    Personally, I really like the Atmel AVR stuff. There is a free C compiler which integrates
    with Atmels IDE. In circuit programming is really easy to implement, Atmel have a free
    schematic and code for building an ISP dongle. They are very well documented and there
    is an excellent suport comunity at
    At work I build quite a lot of test gear and other stuff and if I need a processor, I
    generally use an Atmel AVR.
  14. K Williams

    K Williams Guest

    I'd agree that the 8051 is rather dated, but after 20 years it's
    still going strong. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it goes
    another 20. I wouldn't suggest the 8051 because the memory rules
    and ISA are quirky. I'd recommend something more "Von Neuman" and
    with a more orthogonal ISA.
  15. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    Or if he's really all that smart, you could try one of these:

  16. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    If anybody's interested, I have a bootlegged copy of Microsoft
    C, v. 5.10, which I could upload somewhere. It's like 4X 1.2Meg
    floppies' worth.

  18. Tim Auton

    Tim Auton Guest

    Of you could download the command line version of MS VC7 free and
    legally from MS themselves.

  19. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    Because I don't know how to get MS Visual C for free.

  20. Tim Auton

    Tim Auton Guest

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