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'[PIC]: Beginner Needs Advice'
2001\10\13@113820 by Steve Greenfield

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I subscribed to the piclist and have been reading posts but nothing posted has
answered my questions.  When I tried to search the FAQ list it is too busy so
I decided to send a post.  Please bear with me!

I am a computer sysadm with no electronics background.  I bought the book:

       "PIC: Microcontroller Project Book" by John Iovine

The book suggests to buy:

       PICBasic compiler program

       EPIC Programmer (programming carrier board)

       PIC Chip(s)

The compiler costs around $100, the EPIC programming board & programming
diskette costs $59, and the PIC 16F84 microcontroller goes for $7.  This
is $166 that I might spend, which to me is a lot of money.  I would like to
learn the technology and use my book but is there a cheaper alternative?

Please be specific if you respond because I don't understand much of the
jargon used in the posts.  I want to use my book so I guess I am stuck
with the basic language in the beginning.  Thanks for any help you send my
way!

Steve <spam_OUTfeatsTakeThisOuTspamiceberg.icam.vt.edu>

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2001\10\13@114917 by Roman Black

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Hi Steve, unless you have a particular need to use
Basic I suggest learning PIC assembler. You can use
MPLAB (available from microchip.com for free) and
this lets you code in asm and even run the code
in it's simulator. It's cheaper and much more
powerful once you are comfy with it.

There are a few cheap programmers you can build
yourself for the 16F84 or 16F628 etc.

If money is a real issue, try downloading MPLAB
and have a good play with it. I did that and
was coding PIC asm and running it on the inbuilt
simulator before I ever bought a PIC chip.
Also download the 16F84 datasheet and print it out,
then read it from cover to cover. By that time
most of it will make sense, just take your time.

It's just as easy to learn asm as basic, but much
more powerful in the future.
-Roman



Steve Greenfield wrote:
{Quote hidden}

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2001\10\13@163839 by Olin Lathrop

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> The compiler costs around $100,

Since your objective is to learn, I suggest you get the free development
software from Microchip.  This is called MPLAB, and includes an assembler,
librarian, linker, and integrated development environment.  That will save
$100 right there.

Even if you eventually end up writing PIC code in a high level language, it
will be very useful to have the kind of understanding about what goes on at
the machine level that only comes from assembly language experience.

Mircochip also has all the literature on their web site for free that you
need to program PICs.  Some publications may be more useful in paper form.
I suggest you ask your local Microchip office for an MPLAB package.  It
includes the software on CD, a CD with all the data sheets and other
literature, and hard copies of the assembler and MPLAB manuals.  This will
be exactly what you need.

> the EPIC programming board & programming
> diskette costs $59, and the PIC 16F84 microcontroller goes for $7.

Don't get the 16F84.  At the very least, there's a new chip that is pin
compatible, does more, and costs less.  I forget which one, but I'm sure a
dozen hobbiests will jump in here and tell you.  Personally I would start
with the 16F876.  It is a full featured chip that will still be useful for
your next project and a few after that.  These can still be had for under
$10, so no big difference in price.

> I would like to
> learn the technology and use my book but is there a cheaper alternative?

You've already spent the money for the book, so its cost is irrelevant at
this point.  Book or not, I still recommend Microchip MPLAB.  It's also what
you'll get the most help with here on the PIC list.


********************************************************************
Olin Lathrop, embedded systems consultant in Littleton Massachusetts
(978) 742-9014, olinspamspam_OUTembedinc.com, http://www.embedinc.com

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2001\10\13@190753 by Byron A Jeff

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On Sat, Oct 13, 2001 at 03:09:57PM -0400, Olin Lathrop wrote:
> > The compiler costs around $100,
>
> Since your objective is to learn, I suggest you get the free development
> software from Microchip.  This is called MPLAB, and includes an assembler,
> librarian, linker, and integrated development environment.  That will save
> $100 right there.

Excellent idea...

> > the EPIC programming board & programming
> > diskette costs $59, and the PIC 16F84 microcontroller goes for $7.
>
> Don't get the 16F84.  At the very least, there's a new chip that is pin
> compatible, does more, and costs less.  I forget which one, but I'm sure a
> dozen hobbiests will jump in here and tell you.

Thanks for my cue Olin ;-)

The family is the 16F62X of which the top part is the 16F628. It has so many
advantages over the 16F84.

>  Personally I would start
> with the 16F876.  It is a full featured chip that will still be useful for
> your next project and a few after that.  These can still be had for under
> $10, so no big difference in price.

While I can agree on the 16F876, there is a big difference in price. At $8.23
apiece at Digikey, it's more than twice the price of the 16F628. Throw in the
fact that it has an internal 4Mhz RC osciallator, it's a single part solution
that requires no external parts to start working with it.

Finally it's low voltage programmable like the 16F876 and can be programmed
with really simple programmers like my Trivial LVP programmer:

http://www.finitesite.com/d3jsys

It's really worth taking a look at.

>
> > I would like to
> > learn the technology and use my book but is there a cheaper alternative?
>
> You've already spent the money for the book, so its cost is irrelevant at
> this point.  Book or not, I still recommend Microchip MPLAB.  It's also what
> you'll get the most help with here on the PIC list.

Agreed. Also make sure that you download a copy of the Microchip PIC Midrange
manual. It has detailed explanations of the instruction set and all of the
peripherals. I've found it to be an invaluable tool.

BAJ

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2001\10\13@212211 by James Caska

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The shareware version of Virtual Breadboard, http://www.virtualbreadboard.com is a
free simulator ideal for getting started when learning about PICMICROS :-)
It has a PIC16F84 and some other popular low end micros and you can't blow
anything up!!

James Caska
RemoveMEcaskaTakeThisOuTspamvirtualbreadboard.com



{Original Message removed}

2001\10\13@220939 by Allen Mahurin

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The only problem with using a "16F84 alternative" for
people in my situation is that I bought a programmer
(Pic Lite) which works for several PICs ... but
doesn't have these replacement PICs listed.

Also, JDR Microdevices (http://www.JDR.com) sells both the
4MHz and 10MHz versions of the 16F84.  The 4MHz
version is only (about) $5.60 in single quantities.
They're very reliable ... I've used them numerous
times (twice in the last month for that matter).  Of
course, having the oscillator built-in is a plus ...
they're an extra $1/each at JDR.   :)

Good luck,

ATM

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2001\10\13@224134 by myke predko

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Hi Steve,

A couple of comments (although you've already got a lot).

If you are going to stick with John's book, then I would recommend getting
PicBasic Pro instead of just straight PicBasic.  This is $300, but a much
better package as it will work with virtually any PICmicro MCU and is not
crippled or restricted in any way.

As other people have indicated, Microchip has done a wonderful job of making
free assembly code development tool (MPLAB) available.  They're probably the
best of any manufacturer.

Note that PicBasic is not well integrated into MPLAB - you can simulate your
PicBasic applications in MPLAB, but you will discover that you will have to
convert the output into assembler (with source code as comments), which
makes it more work than it is really worth.

If you don't want to learn assembler, I have written a simple BASIC
interpreter that can be loaded onto a PIC16F877/PIC16F876 and you can run
your (source) code directly inside the PICmicro - you can find it on my web
page:

http://www.myke.com

There are also a number of other compilers available, a Google search or a
review of various web sites will give you some pointers to them.


There are a *plethora* of simple programmers available on the Internet.
Also on my web page is the "El Cheapo" programmer which you can build
yourself for just a few dollars.


Good luck and let us know how you make out,

myke
{Original Message removed}

2001\10\14@014815 by Tsvetan Usunov

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>I am a computer sysadm with no electronics background.  I bought the book:
>
>        "PIC: Microcontroller Project Book" by John Iovine
>
>The book suggests to buy:
>
>        PICBasic compiler program
>
>        EPIC Programmer (programming carrier board)
>
>        PIC Chip(s)
>
>The compiler costs around $100, the EPIC programming board & programming
>diskette costs $59, and the PIC 16F84 microcontroller goes for $7.  This
>is $166 that I might spend, which to me is a lot of money.  I would like
to
>learn the technology and use my book but is there a cheaper alternative?
>
>Please be specific if you respond because I don't understand much of the
>jargon used in the posts.  I want to use my book so I guess I am stuck
>with the basic language in the beginning.  Thanks for any help you send my
>way!
>
>Steve <RemoveMEfeatsspamTakeThisOuTiceberg.icam.vt.edu>

Hello Steve,

You can check our development tools at http://www.olimex.com/dev
I can suggest you PIC-PG4 PIC16F84 starterkit which have everything you
need to start programming with PIC16F84 and cost $19,95 complete assembled
including 20MHz PIC16F84
if you have experience with electronics and soldering you can do some of
them by yourself as we have posted all schematics on the web.

Best regards
Tsvetan
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Development boards for PIC, AVR and MSP430 (http://www.olimex.com/dev)

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2001\10\14@083406 by JP

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I will agree with that.  FOrget using basic if you can, ASM is not hard, it
takes a little while to get in to the ASM mode of thinking (e.g. carrying
out complex opperations with only 35 instructions) but once you get the hang
of it, it gives you amazing felxability.

JP.

{Original Message removed}

2001\10\14@101354 by Byron A Jeff

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On Sat, Oct 13, 2001 at 07:08:43PM -0700, Allen Mahurin wrote:
> The only problem with using a "16F84 alternative" for
> people in my situation is that I bought a programmer
> (Pic Lite) which works for several PICs ... but
> doesn't have these replacement PICs listed.

2 points:

1) Both of these new families can be programmed with the 16F84 algorithms.

2) Building a low voltage programmer takes less than $10 in parts and a hour
  or two worth of time.

>
> Also, JDR Microdevices (http://www.JDR.com) sells both the
> 4MHz and 10MHz versions of the 16F84.  The 4MHz
> version is only (about) $5.60 in single quantities.
> They're very reliable ... I've used them numerous
> times (twice in the last month for that matter).  Of
> course, having the oscillator built-in is a plus ...
> they're an extra $1/each at JDR.   :)

That may even be a fair assessment if you were comparing apples and apples.
But it's not. For example with the 16F628:

- Double the program memory
- three times the RAM
- double the EEPROM memory
- built in hardware UART
- 3 timers instead of one.
- Built in voltage comparators
- The aforementioned built in oscillator
- Programmable up to 15 I/O, using MCLR and OSCIN as inputs
- Low voltage programming mode
- CCP registers

I see this part as a member of the 16F87X family in the 16F84 package. And it
costs way less than the others ($3.88 in singles, $2.21 in quantity 25)

It's significantly better than the 16F84A and costs significantly less. It'll
run all 16F84 code with minimal modifications and fits into the same socket.

I really see it as a no brainer.

BAJ
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2001\10\14@201729 by Alexandre Domingos F. Souza

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>I will agree with that.  FOrget using basic if you can, ASM is not hard, it
>takes a little while to get in to the ASM mode of thinking (e.g. carrying
>out complex opperations with only 35 instructions) but once you get the hang
>of it, it gives you amazing felxability.

       I agree with JP. My first days using PIC ASM were a walk in the hell! I came from CISC processors and found it hard to "shift" the thinking way. BUT after a week, some things shifted to 2nd gear and I started to do something interesting.

       My timeline, if you are interested, along with the prices

       1 - downloaded MPAsm - cost zero
       2 - downloaded NoPPP - cost zero
       3 - Constructed NoPPP - I had all the parts in my dust bin, so it costs zero. But If you had to buy all the parts you would spend something around $5. Hint: A DAT plastic box is excellent to fit the circuit ;o)
       4 - bought some PICs. Since I live in Brazil, these were expensive, so I'll not mention the costs here
       5 - I had a protoboard at hand. Also some components. But for beginner's play, I'd buy (or build) these things:
               - Some 15 LEDs. Red ones to be cheap ;o)
               - a handful of 33pf caps (for the clock circuit)
               - 4MHz crystals
               - 220R resistors (also a handful)
               - A small protoboard (mind in spending a bit more money? no? Buy the GSC ones. 3M ACE also are the good kind)
               - A little +5V power supply (do it yourself hehehe)
       6 - Installed everything in der puter, started to code a SMALL application - a led blinking.
       7 - Took a good can of water, happy doing my first PIC ASM program

       An EXCELLENT resource for pic small projects are a file called "examples.zip" I took from a site from someone here on this list, that I don't remember who or where, but I can look for it and send you if you want. Also, the pic course from...ih...I forgot, I'll look for it here :o( Bad memory in a sunday morning ;oP

       Good luck! You'll have lots of fun in the end!


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Alexandre Souza
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2001\10\15@024831 by Vasile Surducan

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You'll already get a bunch of good advices. I will only sort from them and
add my own ideea:

1. Olin had a good ideea, if you aren't beginner in electronics, and
you're comfortable with CMOS and TTL design begin with PIC16F876.
It's not far away from 16F628 or 16F84 and you'll have the bootloader
advantages ( also free)
2. Don't buy anything, there are a bunch of free compilers and free
programmers on the net, ( assuming you can built your on hardware and you
haven't two left arms <just joking...>)
3. Learning assembler for the first time is extremely difficult, personaly
I've recommend you a structured programing language like Jal ( or C
) which allow you to learn quicly assembler. Pic Basic pro is not so
malefic like other guys said. ( but like some programming rules
said: don't ever use basic or flowcharts...<grin> )
Take a look on my site for Jal applications and follow the electronics
link:
http://www.geocities.com/vsurducan

best regards and succes, Vasile



On Sat, 13 Oct 2001, Steve Greenfield wrote:

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