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Which uController to learn?

Discussion in 'Electronic Components' started by John E., Mar 15, 2007.

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  1. John E.

    John E. Guest

    PIC is king, I'm sure. But I'd like to hear from those who are using all
    brands. Whichever you use, what do you like about it? What don't you like
    about others? Suggestions re. learning?

    I've programmed 68000 assembly and some higher-level languages (FORTRAN; some
    BASIC; COBOL if forced to admit it), so no stranger to programming, per se.

  2. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    8051 family. You can't keep a good chip down. It's been going since 1981 IIRC.
    NXP's (formerly Philips) variants do all sorts of useful stuff with the 8051 core
    plus their RAM is static now so you can reduce the clock to zero to save power.
    And the 8051 is multi-sourced !

    PICs are indifferently documented so I've heard. I also heard something about
    dodgy compilers.

  3. Ian Bell

    Ian Bell Guest

    The answer is strongly application dependent.

  4. Guest

  5. I'd start with lurking the usergroups, such as and avrfreaks,
    dont't know about a group for the MSP430. See what they are doing,
    then pic(k) one. Lots of cheap eval boards. Some of the ARM micros
    look amazing, but beyond my comprehension

    Comp.arch.embedded NG usually has a "my micro is better than your
    micro" thread going.
    Also checkout GCC compilers, Winavr etc. as you seem to be qualified
    for the dreaded makefile.

    And be sure to practice your soldering skills/ interfacing techniques,
    this is very important compared with the Windoze World

  6. jetq88

    jetq88 Guest

    AVR, M68HC, PIC, pick either one, find a C compiler, go with it, some
    chips have free compiler out there, like winavr for avr.
  7. Don McKenzie

    Don McKenzie Guest

    should provide a few pointers

    Don McKenzie
    E-Mail Contact Page:

    Crystal clear, super bright OLED LCD (128x128) for your microcontroller.
    Simple serial RX/TX interface. Many memory sizes.

    No More Damn Spam:
  8. John E.

    John E. Guest

    Thanks for your comments, Martin.
    That's really why I'm interested in getting into the u-controller world. To
    interface hardware to the "real world".

    Soldering iron warmed up and at the ready...
  9. You can't really say what one is 'best' - it depends on what you
    really want to do.

    Even with PICs it's hard to say which is best - from tiny 8 pin
    controllers to massive 44 pin processing beasts with hundreds in

    PIC assembly is tiresome at the least. The instruction set is tiny
    which means that they take considerably more coding than, say, x86

    Atmel micros are becoming popular too - though I haven't had any
    experience with them.

    Depending on what you want, you may look at *gasp* Basic Stamps, made
    by Parralax (sp?) if you know BASIC well - just don't count on amazing
  10. <sticking neck out>
    SPI interface, (realtime clocks, external eeproms etc.)
    I2C, the uberversal philips interface, same as SPI, but different, and
    pain in the neck IMHO
    logic fets
    H bridge
    opto isolators
    Reset and brownout detectors/ TL77xx etc from TI

    and the universal "why doesn't my 2*8 LCD work"
    Cos it takes many milliseconds to initialise, check the Fuckin* busy

    </sticking neck out>

    and get a decent bench/lab power supply with adjustable current
    limiting, and a scope

  11. Oh gawd. The biggest problem I've seen with PIC documentation is that
    people won't read it. Almost every quirk and pitfall now gets fancy shaded
    background balloons complete with code examples.

    The only "dodgy" compiler I ever dealt with was SDCC for the 8052, what a
    POS. It may be better now, but a few years ago it sucked bad. Of course I
    don't even bother trying to use C on a PIC, it's just not desiged for it.
    The 18Fs are different though, they do C ok. FWICT, everyone seems happy
    with Microchip's ever-lasting "trial" C compiler for the 18Fs.

    Multisourced, that's another misrepresentation. For the most part, chips
    from different vendors are just similar archetectures, not "compatible"
    chips insofar as actually being able to drop one in place of another. Not
    to mention how vastly incompatible the code internals are for anything but
    the most basic peripherals.

    But that's just my opinion. ;-)
  12. John E.

    John E. Guest

    and get a decent bench/lab power supply with adjustable current
    Still looking into the former (many decent PS models coming out of Asia,
    recently); got a couple of scopes.


  13. I often point to
    for an intro in PIC micro's.

    If you have experience in 68000 then AVR may suit you better.

    petrus bitbyter
  14. PIC and Atmel AVR battle it out for the top spot in the entry level
    market, you will get tons of beginner support (hardware, software, and
    sample code) for either platform, arguably more than any other

    Which is the "best" is dependant upon your application. For example,
    if you do *really* low power stuff then the MSP430 series is very
    popular. If you want seamless migration from Flash to OTP to Mask ROM
    then PIC might be the way to go. If you want fast processing with a
    reasonable number of options then AVR might be the best bet. The list
    is endless...

    For starting out, stick with AVR or PIC, and use a high level language
    like C. Both platforms have free C compiler suites, but IMHO the AVR
    GNU compiler is a PITA to get up and running, and the worst problem
    you can have when starting out is having to fight your tools. Also, I
    think the AVR STK500 programmer is (or was) a complete dog, horrible
    for a beginner. PICs have their quirks too, but I had a *lot* more
    trouble when starting out with the AVR's. But no doubt the AVR crowd
    will shoot me down in flames...

    The PIC 18 series C compiler is essentially free from Microchip, and
    that combined with an MPLAB compatible programmer would be a very good
    and powerful starting platform if you don't want to play with the
    kiddie kits. However there are tons of good PIC starter kits and demo
    boards around, just look at the Farnell catalog or any of the
    multitude of PIC supplier website for starters.

  15. If you use a good C compiler like HI-TECH PIC-C then it works just
    fine on any 16series (or even smaller) PIC. You can do heaps with C on
    only 1K memory devices with a good compiler.
    Yeah, very few limitations by the looks of it. I don't know why they
    don't just make it free and be done with it. It would put a lot of the
    other tool companies noses out of joint though I guess...

  16. TT_Man

    TT_Man Guest

    For a no frills easy to understand and get going, I'd say 8051 series.
    The Dallas 89c450 and Atmel 89c51ED2 both have hardware boot loaders so you
    can get code into them very quickly and see whats going on with your code.
    I hate C
  17. Ah grasshopper, but that's the whole problem. You can't check the busy flag
    when your doing initialization. At least it used to be that way. Most
    circuits I've seen hard-wire the R/W pin so that they can't even read the
    busy flag, they just do the delays. So sad, cuz some displays really haul
    ass if you do the busy flag thing.

    Most definitely gots to have that scope. Speaking of which, I just got my
    very first DSO today. Ahhhhhhhhh..... this is the coolest thing ever.
  18. I've never used it, but I've heard good things about it. I always use
    assembler on the PIC. I've used the Keil compiler on the 8052, sweet. It
    really generates dense code. Never done anything with an 18F yet, but I
    plan to whenever I need that much horsepower. I have to admit that there
    have been times that I've longed to be writing something for the PIC in
    other than assembler.
    I'll have to order some 18Fs and give it a try. I got my Rigol scope today.
    Oh man this is just way too cool. :)))
  19. John E.

    John E. Guest

    Which is the "best" is dependant upon your application.

    Well, to be fair, I didn't ask for "best". That's always a dead-end (or
    open-end) discussion.

    I'm really interested in my options for assembly programming for interfacing
    with sensors, switches, etc., and controlling relays, LEDs, maybe the odd
    7-segment or serial display. I don't think I'll need networking, or such, nor
    that I'll get back into learning a high-level language (never tackled 'C' - I
    think that would be a show-stopper, re. getting started with u-controllers).

    So, I guess I'm asking for the the product line with the most supporting
    (good) documentation and examples and which has the potential for easing me
    toward my goal (ie, my previous para.) with the least hair-pulling.

  20. john jardine

    john jardine Guest

    And the 1 by 16 LCD, is electrically still a 2 by 8.
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