microcontrollers under $50?



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.
Best, - Joe
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Thanks, Wayne. I've followed your RoboBriks2 project for a while, and been very impressed. This does look like a decent controller.
Best, - Joe
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Hi Joe
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) compiler.
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!
:-]
Dale

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Hi Joe, I've been lurking on this thread to see if anyone would think of New Micros, Inc. But apparently not. So I'll do my own "advertising" here. We have several boards offered under $50.
If you have a flavor for 8051's, here at $39, NMIY-0031with software and examples to program it in Assembler, Basic, C or Forth:
http://www.newmicros.com/cgi-bin/store/order.cgi?form=prod_detail&part=NMIY-0031
But we also have an ARM for $29, Tini2131 w/gcc ond other software which can fit in a stamp legacy socket with an adapter.
http://www.newmicros.com/cgi-bin/store/order.cgi?form=prod_detail&part=Tini2131
For minimalists, we have an 68HC11 stand alone board, $49, NMIN-0021A programmable in our Max-FORTH. Also we have the E2 processor which can be substituted in this board.
http://www.newmicros.com/cgi-bin/store/order.cgi?form=prod_detail&part=NMIN-0021A
-- Randy M. Dumse www.newmicros.com Objects in mirror are feeling older than they used to
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