Thanks, that does look interesting. These Stellaris processors look
pretty neat -- 32-bit, and (perhaps most importantly, considering the
discussion in this thread!) they appear to have pretty extensive
documentation. Certainly worth looking at more deeply.
You sound a bit like I was a couple of years ago.
I wish I could say something brief, but you asked for it... :-]
It sounds like you are looking for a controller *board* (printed circuit
board, or PCB).
It is often a compromise of many variables, and trade-offs. There are
more permutations and combnations than you can poke a stick at.
There are several very good books on amateur robotics, some written by
people here. Some have detailed help in building specific projects,
including sheet-metal fabrication and circuits and even home-made PCBsas
well as all source code. They mostly cover BASIC programming (except
Myke Predko's book covering C and the free limited version of Aussie
Hi-Tech PICC compiler). Something you need to be aware of is that the
BASIC compiler PIC BASIC Pro (or the superior Proton+ PIC BASIC
compiler) are expensive @ USD $250. I discovered these details after
purchasing some of these books.
It is also noteworthy that the BASIC Stamp PBASIC code is very similar
to the examples given in these books, so it may be cheaper to buy a
BASIC Stamp, as the byte-code interpreter and programming harware are
economical. But you could always sell the BASIC compiler later and move
up to C for free, or half the cost for buying the CCS C (outstanding)
I (as have many people frequenting this group) have done a LOT of
similar research on 'controllers', robot kits, microcontrollers,
compilers, IDEs, and programming languages, and the list doesn't stop
there... Some here have written books and write articles for magazines.
*This is a good place to start. Research and planning are probably the
most important phases in a robot project.* You are on the right track.
There are many factors to consider, not just the cost of a 'bot
controller. It's like a non-programmer interested in robotics hardware,
but just wants the cheapest compiler/IDE, and doesn't really want to
learn how to program! :-)
Or a programmer who wants to program GUIs and looks for the cheapest
compiler and IDE say like Bloodshed Dev++. You need the right tool for
the right job.
You can buy a pre-built robot that to use a programming term,
encapsulates the hardware issues, and has a diagram-based programming
paradigm and engine, but at the cost of many hundreds of dollars.
You can save lots of money and get a free microcontroller sample from
www.microchip.com, develop circuits on a solderless breadboard, build
your own programmer, and use a student-version of a C compiler, at the
cost of more time spent on hardware.
You can buy a BASIC Stamp with the most comprehensive support and
resources in the world, only requiring a simple serial cable for
programming, with a free IDE and byte-code interpreter - but the
controller boards and robot kits are relatively expensive, and the
disdavantage (in my opinion ) of having to use BASIC, and a lack of
performance for more advanced demands. Although it *is* a good place to
start, and you could always sell the gear later on a Parallax forum.
Then later when you are more confident you could move over to C
programming and a more powerful controller, and building your own
circuits and hardware.
This like a beginning programmer learning procedural programming in C,
then moving up to OOP in C++, then to Windows programing, then a RAD
environment like Borland Builder, VB or VC++, etc.
To be a professional programmer doesn't happen by magic, it takes hard
work, maybe a university degree, experience, patience and time. It's the
same with any field of endeavour. Robotics is no exception.
*The US amateur robotics magazine "Servo" had/has a series of articles
on robotics on USD $50 per month from what I have read, it will give
starters like yourself practical advice on 'How To' step-by-step
robotics, as well as being of interest to others with some experience.*
Coincidently, I used the same gear-box and motors for my first 'bot, the
Tamiya kit is excellent.
I am building my second 'bot using a Mark III from www.junun.org. The
controller board is USD $30, and the optional Sensor board
(recommended)is $20 - right on $50. There are plenty of sensors to be
bought at reasonable prices.
Support (limited) for programming and hardware is via a yahoo! group.
The microcontroller (uC) is a PIC 16F877 or 16F877A with a bootloader
loaded on it, requiring only a serial cable to program it (and a
compiler & IDE of course).
*My experience with Futurlec is poor documentation and supporting code
for a starter, and the borad is not really commonly used by many roboteers.*
Hope this helps, without too much confusion!
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