microcontroller/programming advice please

i'm looking for some advice please. i'm a mechanical engineer looking to get into amateur robotics. my mechanical background is obviously
strong, my electrical not too bad, my electronics is weak and my programming almost non-existant! initially i think i'd like to get my hands on a programmable microcontroller and try my hand at writing some programs to control, say, a motor.
i've looked on the web and found the basicX, basic stamp and oopic. which one of these would be recommended? i'm also keen to get into visual basic, if this is appropriate for programming these controllers.
would the lego inventions be a good option? does the lego microcontroller support visual basic?
thanks
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bob wrote:

The BasicX is a good, fairly easy-to-use-for-newbies controller, and supports a VB-like language. The OOPIC is also a decent and easy to use device. The Stamp is older, and has lot's of code (and great docs), but you will likely outgrow it quickly -- I usually recommend that people avoid it these days, but others may disagree. The Stamp's basic is not VB-like. The OOPIC allows you a choice of syntaxes (vb-like, java-esque, or c++-ish), and everything is done over a nifty object-oriented framework.
If you really want to learn VB (and I'm not a big fan of VB, personally) there may be better ways than go than using a microcontroller, as the implementations are all vb-like, but not really vb.
Personally, I'd go for the OOPIC, with the BasicX a close second.
Hope that helps -- m
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I'm not a big fan of any of these. I'm still pretty new to robotics, but my more experienced colleagues have strongly recommended the Amtel microcontrollers, which (among other advantages) have free, open-source development tools that run on any platform. Pololu makes a couple of very nice boards (at amazingly low cost!) based on these: the Orangutan and Baby Orangutan. Check 'em out at <http://www.pololu.com/ .

I don't think you can directly program any microcontroller from VB, but you *could* control something like a serial motor controller board (and again, Pololu makes a good one at a very low price -- and no, I don't work for them, I'm just a big fan!).

Yes, that's a great way to get started! The RCX controller is a decent one that is almost impossible to kill through abuse, and there are a lot of good programming options for it.

No, not AFAIK.
Best, - Joe
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Hi

I have personally bought Basic Stamp, which I highly recommend for fun and great resources, but have had more use using , Microchip PIC and recently AVR. If you want to get professional experience in programming microcontrollers-FORGET BASIC. One of my teachers said to forget BASIC for professional development. Programming in BASIC is fine for enthusiasts, however, C is the industry standard language for programming microcontrollers.
AVR is DEFINITELY the cheapest option, and a good introduction to C programming is a book found at www.smileymicros.com - using the *awesome* AVR Butterfly. I am going through that book myself. Later I will probably use the Butterfly on my first ( second overall ) AVR bot.
The Microchip PIC is the world's biggest selling microcontroller, and the best value C compiler is the CCS C compiler, which can be integrated into the free IDE from Microchip. According to EE Professor peter Anderson, this is the best for value and functionality.

Yes! I would recommend this as the best overall robotics solution. Even though there are relatively few inputs and outputs, it's a great little processor and you can do a lot of stuff with it. Great components, heaps of books available, can be programmed in 'pure' C, and derivations of C; Interactive C, and Not Quite C, and you can make your own homebrew sensors. Check out my (neglected) website for stuff on Lego Mindstorms, and for the official FAQ for this News Group:
http://www.users.tpg.com.au/daleste /

I have VB and it is a great way to create a GUI to any electronic peripherals projects. If you don't want to spend any money on a VB ( or C# ) IDE and compiler check out www.sharpdevelop.net for a free VB compiler and IDE ( actually for VB.NET ). It is a brilliant application for FREE, but would be a larger learning curve, as MS VB has hundreds of books etc out there. However, there is a helpful forum with SharpDevelop
By the way, get the earlier versions 1.0 or 1.5 of the Lego Mindstorms RCX with the serial conection to the IR tower. It is cheaper used, and the latest firmware can be downloaded any way. And it has a connection for a AC-DC power pack which is great if you have a static project and saves batteries.
Have fun!
| -]
Dale
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i second this about atmel AVR microcontrollers.. my uni seems to love them as all of the courses use them. in the past PIC was the microcontroller of choice, but has recently been replaced with AVR.
Joe Strout wrote:

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Joe Strout wrote:

Although it's certainly not VB (some might call that a good thing;), it may be possible to directly run Python on Atmel AVRs using PyMite (http://wiki.python.org/moin/PyMite ).
Chris
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PIC ( MicroChip ) is the largest sellor of MCU's . I hate the instruction set . h/w is just too old fashioned . I dont go near them , too much work to make them do reallly big jobs .
I have Atmel . The 8515/35 has limited Prog mem , but being a clever Forth programmer , i put the code outside !
I'm going for the ARM to build a PDA or buy and write an OpSys for it ( less work huh ?)
The TI 430F133 is here in Asia for $50 . The instruction set is the best ever !!! Get as much CMOS ram as you can , for its much lower power "on chip" than off . My specialty is instruction sets . The Intel P4 and AMD AXDA1800DUTC3 etc are crap and they will die . ARM will beat them out .
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