Microcontrollers?

Been playing with BEAM robotics, however I'm a software guy. I'm working on hardware for small 4 leg/8 motor walkers. New to this
microcontroller thing. Have programmer in BASIC/QBASIC/ASP and small ammounts of C. Is a STAMP controller the standard? And is it compatible with a mac/unix computer? Can someone lead me in the right direction to learning about microcontrollers?? Thanks in advance!
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Have a look at: http://www.dontronics.com/auto.html
there is a big pdf document there that will help I would think, and many other tips on micros
Don...
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not -the- standard, but a standard, you could fit just about any of the thousands of different kinds of embeddable microcontrollers into a robot design.

if there's a cross compiler and a serial port, it's compatible, sometimes parallel port, but itygtp.

one of the better places to learn about microcontrollers is the manufacturers, they usually have pdf's on their site that give the package dimensions, the pinouts, things to be wary of, design guidlines, special programming considerations. they have just about everything you need to know for building things, except, an idea what to build, but some also include ideas of what to build. the maufacturers will often provide reference designs which you can change to suit your needs, there's many sites with info on how a general microcontroller interfaces, whole worlds within worlds.     now, siphoning off the useful bits, there's a bit of trouble, but you can start by figuring out what kind and number of io's you will need, after that you can find processors like pics that have a broad range of types and numbers. pics come in packages that are 8 pins through 40, and more. for a basic robot you can get by with 2-3 digital io's and get fancy with a pair of adc's, all built into a pic. for more serious stuff you might even do avr's and 8052's. there's an 8052 available premasked with basic, it most likely won't do well in a robot, but as a terminal for it, ya, maybe.
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Hi
For hobby stuff, the Parallax stamp is kinda pricey, but there is excellent support in the online discussion forums they host, free downloadable books on robotics, microcontrollers, and electronics. Basically, no one can match them for the amount of support resources for beginners. As the Parallax programming software is free, and you don't need to buy an extra hardware programmer to download your code to a chip I guess that simplifies things.
If you want to learn industry "standard" then you could buy some PICmicros ( or get free samples from www.microchip.com ) and use one of the excellent free evaluation compilers from www.mikroelektronika.co.yu , they have free evaluation ( limited to 2k words ) C compiler for PICs. Watch this company, they have a cult following. This site also has excellent discussion forums, and some free online books, and on PIC hardware functions and assembly programming ( they also have BASIC and Pascal compilers ).
However, there is limited resources for beginners for C robotics in the form of a book. The authors of CCS C compiler have a robotics kit, but it is expensive.
If you want to learn industry standard, forget BASIC As my engineering teacher said today, BASIC for PICs is for 12 year old kids - it's not used in the real world of engineering - C is the standard.
You could also subscribe to "Servo" magazine, which deals in amateur robotics ( go to the Nuts 'n' Volts magazine site and look for a link ).
I am just learning too, so the journey is as enjoyable as the destination.
If you like BASIC programming and using PICs for robotics, go to Amazon.com and look at some robotics books Insectronics, Amphibionics, Build Your Own Humanoid Robots, PIC Robotics. The only problem with these is you need to fork out hundreds of dollars to buy PICBASIC Pro compiler, and have to buy a separate IDE. If you plan to go this way - scrap PICBASIC Pro and get the Proton+ compiler instead, it is much more powerful, is very similar to PICBASIC Pro, has free yearly updates, and you should be able to port the code from the books to Proton+ after some time.
An alternative is to buy a Lego Mindstorms kit, which can be programmed in C or dialects of it ( as well as Java, Forth, Visual/BASIC or even assembly if you like). They are lots of fun, and there are lots of good books on Lego robotics that use C and C-like programming, and the programming environments etc are for free on the 'net. You can build some serious robots using mindstorms, and it has quite a good processor.
Cheers
Dale
wrote:<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; &gt; Been playing with BEAM robotics, however I'm a software guy. I'm<BR>&gt; &gt; working on hardware for small 4 leg/8 motor walkers. New to this<BR>&gt; &gt; microcontroller thing. Have programmer in BASIC/QBASIC/ASP and small<BR>&gt; &gt; ammounts of C. Is a STAMP controller the standard?<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; not -the- standard, but a standard, you could fit just about any of the&nbsp; <BR>&gt; thousands of different kinds of embeddable microcontrollers into a robot&nbsp; <BR>&gt; design.<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; &gt; And is it compatible with a mac/unix computer?<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; if there's a cross compiler and a serial port, it's compatible, sometimes&nbsp; <BR>&gt; parallel port, but itygtp.<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; &gt; Can someone lead me in the right direction to<BR>&gt; &gt; learning about microcontrollers?? Thanks in advance!<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; one of the better places to learn about microcontrollers is the&nbsp; <BR>&gt; manufacturers, they usually have pdf's on their site that give the package&nbsp; <BR>&gt; dimensions, the pinouts, things to be wary of, design guidlines, special&nbsp; <BR>&gt; programming considerations.&nbsp; they have just about everything you need to&nbsp; <BR>&gt; know for building things, except, an idea what to build, but some also&nbsp; <BR>&gt; include ideas of what to build.&nbsp; the maufacturers will often provide&nbsp; <BR>&gt; reference designs which you can change to suit your needs, there's many&nbsp; <BR>&gt; sites with info on how a general microcontroller interfaces, whole worlds&nbsp; <BR>&gt; within worlds.<BR>&gt; now, siphoning off the useful bits, there's a bit of trouble, but you can&nbsp; <BR>&gt; start by figuring out what kind and number of io's you will need, after&nbsp; <BR>&gt; that you can find processors like pics that have a broad range of types&nbsp; <BR>&gt; and numbers.&nbsp; pics come in packages that are 8 pins through 40, and more.&nbsp;&nbsp; <BR>&gt; for a basic robot you can get by with 2-3 digital io's and get fancy with&nbsp; <BR>&gt; a pair of adc's, all built into a pic.&nbsp; for more serious stuff you might&nbsp; <BR>&gt; even do avr's and 8052's.&nbsp; there's an 8052 available premasked with basic,&nbsp; <BR>&gt; it most likely won't do well in a robot, but as a terminal for it, ya,&nbsp; <BR>&gt; maybe.<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; -- <BR>&gt; Using Opera's revolutionary e-mail client: </FONT><A href="http://www.opera.com/m2 /"><FONT face=Arial size=2>http://www.opera.com/m2 /</FONT></A></BODY></HTML>
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Awesome, I did order some free chips from there - so then if i get this right, the PIC chips at microchip.com can be programmed with either BASIC of C? However, generally the 'standard' for anyone but kids is to program them in C. Is that right? Also, when I look at pictures of the BASIC boards on parallax and other sites, I see a serial port, other thngs, maybe a LED. When you get a chip from microchip.com its just the chip, not the board also, how can I get a microchip with a board that I can program in C, a small one if possible, and suggestions for purchase of the complete setup?
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ed wrote:

You might want to look at some of the development boards that Microchip has (in particular the PICDem2 plus and PICDem4 boards:
http://buy.microchip.com/ProductDetails.aspx?Catalog=BuyMicrochip&Category=PIC%20Proof%20of%20Concept%20Kits&mid 
You can use Microchip's free MPLAB development software with these also and program in assembly language, C or Basic (don't discount Basic - it is used by a lot of serious hobbyist).
Jerry -- --------------------------------------------------------------------- -- Jerry Petrey - Senior Principal Systems Engineer -- Guidance, Navigation & Control -- Raytheon Missile Systems -- NOTE: please perform appendectomy on email address before replying ---------------------------------------------------------------------
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sure, if you wish to do either.

it's been told by many programmers that they had a harder time moving from basic to any other kind of programming language, and basic is not used in industry all that much, maybe visual basic. some yap on the topic, part of this http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html the basic skills section, has a kind of nice writeup, might be good for you to introduce kids in the sequence shown. every major operating system supports all the languages he lists as a good tool, then goes on in the faq to this http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html#closed_lang . you can cross compile for embedded hardware readily, there are special compilers to work with 8 and 16bit microcontrollers, you might even find a 4 bit compiler rusting away on an old dinnerplate hard disk somewhere.

what you do is connect a serial cable to the chip and download precompiled code from a host computer, there's even emulation that can be done to test the code before download. the boards are mostly just lights and a serial connector, little more than a programmer with a breakout space, in a robot you'd just use the chip and a purpose built board.
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G'day mate,
As a beginner myself, here are some tips:
1. Check out my intro to microcontrollers on my website ( just started up ) on stuff to get started: http://users.tpg.com.au/daleste/Microcontrollers/microcontrollers.htm
2. Get a programmer starter's kit for USD $17.95 from Sparkfun Electronics, and buy your breadboard and components from them. They are a small company, and they would appreciate your business. They are very helpful. www.sparkfun.com. Learn with the chip that comes with the kit - now the "beginner's standard" chip.
3. Get MPLAB from Microchip's website.
4. Go to this tutorial to learn about PICs and assembly language. ALSO check out the forums here. Read through stuff first before you start asking questions, but people are very friendly in these forums.
http://www.mikroelektronika.co.yu/english/product/books/PICbook/picbook.htm
5. Subscribe to or borrow from library the British magazine "Everyday Practical Electronics"
www.epemag.co.uk
They usually have at least two articles or PIC projects each month, and they have CD-ROMs for sale of previous projects, which include shematics and diagrams, and assembly code. They also have basic electronics articles for beginners. Remember the "Nuts 'n' Volts" magazine too!
6. Buy or borrow a book on basic electronics and electricity, and learn to read electrcial circuit schematics.
7. Muck about and have fun!
ps
8. If you can save your dollars up, get a test board. I just got one from here, and it takes a variety of PIC chips. I can't overstate the valuable resources on this company's website.
http://www.mikroelektronika.co.yu/english/product/tools/easypic2.htm
9. When you are ready to learn C, download the trial C compiler and IDE from
http://www.mikroelektronika.co.yu/english/product/compilers/mikroc/index.htm
- buy THE C book ( yep "the standard" |-:) ) "The C Programming Language" Second Edition, by Kernighan & Ritchie ( buy used from Amazon.com ). Even though it is not for PIC programming, you need to learn the basics structure, syntax, etc - as I am doing right now.
- try the trial version of the Aussie company HiTec's C compiler PIC C Lite ( industry standard ).
This should get you started on your PIC journey!
Hope this helps.
Cheers
Dale

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By the way...
I think the most authoritative reference book on PIC robotics in C is Myke Predko's "Programming Robot Controllers" book ( definitely not for the faint hearted ! ). Uses free PICC Lite trial version C compiler (this integrates into MPLAB from Microchip ). Not the easiest of reading, but this guy knows PICs and C programming. Definitely worth getting when you are advanced in PICs and PICC Lite C programming.
Sparkfun also has some tutorials on a robot you can build ( a great intermediate or advanced project to learn heaps about PICs, electronics, robotics, schematics etc ).
Cheers
Dale

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Myke's book is great, but don't try to use the PCB version of the elcheapo PIC programmer that comes with it. I wasted lots of time and parts trying to get that version working. Breadboard up a new one from his site http://www.myke.com/elcheapo.htm , that uses the 74LS05's, it configured quick and easily.
BB, TJ

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some can use low voltage programming, so maybe you did fry em.
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