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PICList Thread
'Parallax or Picstart?'
1994\08\30@204457 by crocontroller discussion list

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Thanks to everyone who has responded so far to my request for
opinions as to which PIC programmer to buy.  I haven't bought one
yet, but it looks like it's come down to either the PICSTART from
Microchip, or the Parallax programmer, mainly due to cost.

I thought I had settled on the Parallax one, but I found out that there's a
Microchip seminar coming to town (Vancouver), and that I can get the
"PICSTART development system" for $79US there. The seminar costs $99US, so
that puts my total cost at about the same as the Parallax programmer.  They
tell me that the seminar is very informative (5.5 hrs), and that you get
books and _product_samples_ with the PICSTART package.  That part sounds
good to me, but, as I am a beginner, I think the seminar may be way over my
head...

I haven't heard from anyone who has used the PICSTART.  Can someone
please give be a brief comparison of the PICSTART and the Parallax
programmers?

Thanks,


Richard Friesen                         Little Timmy took a drink,
(spam_OUTRichard_FriesenTakeThisOuTspammindlink.bc.ca)         But now he'll drink no more,
                                        For what he thought was H2O
                                        Was H2SO4
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
----


--


 Richard Friesen                        Little Timmy took a drink,
(.....Richard_FriesenKILLspamspam@spam@mindlink.bc.ca)        But now he'll drink no more,
                                        For what he thought was H2O
                                        Was H2SO4
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
--

1994\08\30@205739 by crocontroller discussion list

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I use the PICSTART all the time and think it is fine. It doesn't "remember"
the fuse settings so you will program them incorrectly sometimes if you don't
remember to "reset" them. The tools are fine, the documentation is adequate
but poorly formatted on the disk. Once you get past that they are fine. And
since the PICSTART uses the serial port rather than the parallel port it works
on more systems (like my IBM ThinkPad laptop which parallax has said they
won't make it work on, even though it is an *IBM* PC (ISA bus even), and
that is pretty stupid on my part. (ed note, yes I think the Parallax folks
are wankers but that isn't why I don't reccomend their stuff)).

--Chuck

1994\08\30@210154 by crocontroller discussion list

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Richard Friesen prophesized:
> I haven't heard from anyone who has used the PICSTART.  Can someone
> please give be a brief comparison of the PICSTART and the Parallax
> programmers?

Well, (lucky for me), I didn't have to buy two programmers to find one
that did what I needed.  So, I can't compare the two for you.  I have
been happy with Parallax' product.

The one HUGE selling point, in my book, are the Parallax mnemonics
which are very "8051-like".  Actually they're even better than 8051
mnemonics because there are things like "CJE" to complement "CJNE"
(unlike the 8051).  I have yet to learn the cryptic MicroChip
mneumonics which is kind of bad for me when I want to read sample code
from an app note or something.  Made code development a lot quicker,
though.

You should be able to get about the same effect with any decent macro
assembler and your own time.  Maybe the PICSTART package has a macro
assembler (?).


--
Greg Bell        | "Counting SUCKS!"
gregspamKILLspamcqt.com     |          -Beavis
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
CommQuest Technologies, Inc.     (619) 633-1618 x133

1994\08\30@223602 by crocontroller discussion list

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> I thought I had settled on the Parallax one, but I found out that there's a
> Microchip seminar coming to town (Vancouver), and that I can get the
> "PICSTART development system" for $79US there. The seminar costs $99US, so
> that puts my total cost at about the same as the Parallax programmer.  They
> tell me that the seminar is very informative (5.5 hrs), and that you get
> books and _product_samples_ with the PICSTART package.  That part sounds
> good to me, but, as I am a beginner, I think the seminar may be way over my
> head...

I attended the PIC seminar in Chicago and thought it was pretty
worthwhile.  Actually, it is pretty much targeted toward people who
know little or nothing about PICs.  So, if that's what you mean by "beginner"
I wouldnt' let that worry you.  It probably would be helpful to have some
experience with other microcontrollers (such as the 8051), but if you have
a whole ot of PIC experience, you would probably find the seminar a little
slow.

I can't say too much about the PICSTART since I haven't used it for any
real projects yet.  I did put it together and verify that it works.

Peter Fales                       AT&T, Room 9C-242
N9IYJ                             2000 N. Naperville Rd.
UUCP:   ...att!intgp1!psfales     Naperville, IL 60566
Internet: .....peter.falesKILLspamspam.....att.com     work: (708) 979-8031

1994\08\31@063339 by crocontroller discussion list

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> I thought I had settled on the Parallax one, but I found out that there's
a
> Microchip seminar coming to town (Vancouver), and that I can get the
> "PICSTART development system" for $79US there. The seminar costs $99US,
so
> that puts my total cost at about the same as the Parallax programmer.
They
> tell me that the seminar is very informative (5.5 hrs), and that you get
> books and _product_samples_ with the PICSTART package.  That part sounds
> good to me, but, as I am a beginner, I think the seminar may be way over
my
> head...

Richard,

I have a PICSTART programmer here and it works ok, and it accepts standard
Intel-hex format files so it will work with all true PIC assemblers
(including, of course ASPIC).  I don't use it primarily due to it's lack of
command line automation, but I believe it can program fuses from the INTEL
HEX file, it's just that MPALC and MPASM won't let you.

DEMO.ZIP  gives an example of programming the fuses for any PIC from the
hex file (including seting the device ID to the compile date and time).
DEMO.ZIP is the complete source code (writtten in ASPIC) to my pocket logic
analyzer that was a winning entry in the Picstart design contest last year.
You can pick it up from my BBS (which should be local for you) at (604)
597-3479 if you want (schematics and block diagrams are available only to
registered ASPIC users though).

The Parallax programmer seems to require that you use their special
assembler which does not compile real PIC code, but rather some sort of
80xx style pseudo-code cross compiler code which is really difficult to
read if you can actually program a PIC.

BOTH Picstart and the Parallax programmers use non-standard interface
protocols and
user-interferance screens (which is why in real life, I actually use the
Microburner from Baradine in North Van.).

I attended the Microchip seminar last time it was in Vancouver and it
really geared towards beginners to the PIC, but I still found it
interesting. The audience ranged from people who wanted to find out what a
PIC is, to people like myself who have written tens of thousands of lines
of PIC code.

- Don
This is not a TRUE internet message since the body is probably longer than
the message header.

1994\08\31@070738 by crocontroller discussion list

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Richard,

I'm glad you put your question about programmers on the table.
As a result, I hope to build a programmer based on the
16c84 programmer that was located at bode.ee.ualberta.ca .
I know it will be a bit of work to make it program a 16c64,
but I think that it will be worthwhile.

Good luck with your decision, and please let us know what
you think of the seminar.

Yours,

Derrick Early

1994\08\31@092117 by crocontroller discussion list

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Hi,

Derrick Early wrote:

> As a result, I hope to build a programmer based on the
> 16c84 programmer that was located at bode.ee.ualberta.ca .

Just a few words of caution about this programmer:

* I developed this project using a 20MHz 386DX machine and have
subsequently found it to be unreliable when used with my 33MHz 486DX.
Obviously a timing problem.  I will try to fix this when I get some
spare time.  It would be useful if anybody that has successfully got
the programmer to work could let me know what type of PC they used.

* Please note that the executable packaged with the programmer info
was built for hardware using a 7406.  If you use a 7407 you must
recompile.  The Qbasic source is also intended for hardware using a
7406.  If you want to use the Qbasic program with 7407 based hardware
then use these definitions

CONST DataInv = 0
CONST VppOn = 8, VppOff = 0, VddOn = 4, VddOff = 0
CONST ClkHi = 2, ClkLo = 0, OutHi = 1, OutLo = 0

Note, due to a typo, the program erroneously suggests that you
should use ClkHi = 4.  Sorry about that.

* If you don't use LS buffers you should substitute a 7805 for the
78L05.

On a happier note, I have designed a PCB for the programmer which
should make life easier for intending constructors (it was while
testing my PCB that I found the timing problem).  The details will be
packaged with the next release of the software (i.e the one that
corrects the timing bug).  I can't promise when that will be ready
though.

It doesn't seem to be as widely known as it should be that there is
information on another 16C84 programmer available on the net.  This
one was designed by Henk Schaer and is (at least was when I last
looked) available as

ftp://sunshine.informatik.uni-wuerzburg.de:/pub/private/danny/picprog.zip

I haven't tried it but it might work better than mine :-)

Hope this information will be useful to some of you - sorry for the
junk if not.

--David

P.S. These programmers were both released as copyrighted freeware.
Nobody makes money from them.

1994\08\31@190557 by crocontroller discussion list

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  I thought I had settled on the Parallax one, but I found out that there's a
  Microchip seminar coming to town [...]

The seminar is excellent and I'll admit that if you consider the two
programmers equal, you get better value buying the picstart,
especially at the seminar.  Here in Albuquerque it was an even better
deal -- the PICSTART was US$99, and the seminar was free!

I have the parallax, and I tend to prefer it.  Here are some opinions.
Others may differ.

In Favor Of Parallax:

1. I like the parallax pseudo "8051-like" instruction set.  Parallax's
assembler will work with native instructions as well, so you're not
stuck.

2. Their examples are simple and easy to follow, software is well
documented and easy to use, you're up and running in no time.  Book is
excellent.

3. Programmer remembers fuse settings.

4. Can assemble native code from Microchip's assembler.  Microchip's
assembler doesn't grok the Parallax pseudo instructions, though it's
probably possible with macros.

In Favor Of PICSTART:

1. Both the assembler and the simulator are more sophisticated.
Harder to get used to but definitely more capable once you get going.

2. Assembler can accept more file formats, if you care.

3. Has a ZIF socket.  Parallax uses LIF which is not as nice.

4. Comes with product samples to play with, worth $$$.

Other Info:

1. Parallax uses parallel PC port, PICSTART uses serial.  You could
probably use PICSTART from Linux with the DOS emulator, but you can't
do that with the parallax since the DOS emulator doesn't support the
parallel port.

Well that's all that comes to mind right now.  Generally I'd say if
you're a beginner you'll want the Parallax cuz it's got the easiest
learning curve.  If you're an advanced Microchip hacker, you may want
the better simulator and assembler in the PICSTART.  I'd say if you're
that hardcore, get both kits.  They're cheep!

David

1994\08\31@191842 by crocontroller discussion list

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Hi PICers,

David said,

>
> 1. Parallax uses parallel PC port, PICSTART uses serial.  You could
> probably use PICSTART from Linux with the DOS emulator, but you can't
> do that with the parallax since the DOS emulator doesn't support the
> parallel port.

I know this list is not for Linux discussions, but I must disagree here.
The parallel port works fine under DOSEMU. Add the following line to your
/etc/dosemu.conf

ports {range 0x378 0x37b} #For LPT1

--Jason


'Parallax or Picstart?'
1994\09\01@101122 by crocontroller discussion list
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> on more systems (like my IBM ThinkPad laptop which parallax has said they
> won't make it work on, even though it is an *IBM* PC (ISA bus even), and
> that is pretty stupid on my part. (ed note, yes I think the Parallax folks
> are wankers but that isn't why I don't reccomend their stuff)).
>
> --Chuck

Interesting! Neither does the Parallax programmer work on HP Omnibook.
Parallax told me essentially "We don't care". I'm a bit surprised that
Parallax writes their software so machine dependent that it can't be
run on these machines. Using the parallel port in a portable way isn't
really hard.

-- Martin

Martin Nilsson
Swedish Institute of Computer Science    E-mail: EraseMEmnspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTsics.se
Box 1263, S-164 28 Kista                 Fax: +46-8-751-7230
Sweden                                   Tel: +46-8-752-1574

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