The inevitable question which micro controller to use?

Hi Folks,
Well, I am still working on bang bang. I had some problems mounting the wheels to him. BTW, I named him that because of all the references (to
the bang on and bang off method of using the toggle switches to drive the motors from the RC servos ) last week when I posted my steering question. I had originally planned to use pressure treated lumber to mount the motors and wheels to, but the wood just doesn't have the strength. I am using a small (12"wX24"long) wooden box for the platform. So I was able to get some 16 ga steel plate that I can now cut and build the wheel/motor supports the right way. I painted it with rustoleum primer and paint, and now am waiting for it to dry before I start cutting the mounts.
Of course, I am now thinking about once I get tired of radio controlling him, which microcontroller to use. I was almost decided on the Basic Stamp after reading Gordon's book, but then a few people mentioned the oopic, including Gordon himself. So now I am not sure. I went to the oopic page, and just got more confused. The broken links, the object oriented language. I am an old school BASIC programmer. When I learned BASIC, it was the only language around (except maybe COBOL). I have learned fortran and Pascal since, but I was wondering how much of a learning curve there would be for the oopic compared to the Basic stamp.
So my understanding is that the oopic comes with more I/O ports, and A/D converters, a definite plus, and a language (I was able to read parts of the programmers manual) that I am not familiar with. Ultimately, what I would like to build is an explorer type, outdoor autonomous vehicle that will be able to navigate the trails in the woods around where I live and send me back live video, carry my gps along with it to plot the trails, stuff like that. That's just the start. I have a lot of other ideas too (as I am sure we all do), but was wondering what would be a good first ucontroller. Can memory (EEPROM, or Flash) be added to the Basic Stamp? Another problem with the oopic that I see is that it does not seem to be as widely available as the stamp. I may be wrong there, but the other day when I was at the local rat shack, they had a Basic Stamp kit for $79.99, it included the manual "What is a microcontroller", and a bunch of neat stuff to interface to the stamp, along with the serial cable, and what looked like a breadboard and wires, but no Basic Stamp. I don't know if that's a good deal or not. I know the stamps are about $50 a pop. I was looking more at the BS2 series. Anyway, if anyone has any ideas on which may be better for me in the long run. I would appreciate suggestions.
Thanks, Joe
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Joe wrote:

this may help: http://www.dontronics-shop.com/pages.php?pageid #
Don...
-- Don McKenzie E-Mail Contact Page: http://www.dontronics.com/e-mail.html
Crystal clear, super bright OLED LCD (128x128) for your microcontroller. Simple serial RX/TX interface. Many memory sizes. http://www.dontronics-shop.com/product.php?productid 460
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If you like BASIC, you should consider the ARMmite and ARMexpress: <http://www.coridiumcorp.com/
Both use BASIC; one has a compiler onboard and the other (the ARMexpress) requires a compiler running under Windows. But both are substantially faster than the BASIC Stamp, and quite powerful. The prices are good too. There are a couple of things I don't like about them, but on the whole they're great technology and value.
Best, - Joe
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Joe wrote:

Don't get the BS1, if that's what The Shack eas selling. The BS2 is okay, especially with the newer compiler, which has a more "QBasic-like" language structure.
My non-interpreted language controller of choice is an AVR, especially the Mega's in the DIP packages. They're relatively cheap, with all kinds of variations. When I need lots of IO I go for the Mega16 or Mega32, but the AT90S2313, and its newer counterpart, are good for smaller jobs. If you like BASIC, Bascom AVR is the way to go. The free demo version will suffice for many jobs, but the full package is pretty cheap -- $100. If/when you want to program in C, there are plenty of C programming choices for the AVR line as well, including open source gcc toolchains.
For a nifty first project you can try the Atmel AVR Butterfly, which is $19 and includes the chip, an LCD, and a basic board. There are a couple of books on using it, including one of programming it in C. You make your own cable for downloading.
One of the reasons to get a Stamp is Parallax's support. Excellent documentation, and their forums are very busy. Each one of these controllers has its place.
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

Hello Gordon,
I googled for the bascom avr and they have some starter kits as well the stk200 says it comes with everything to get started with. What do you think of these?
Joe
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Joe wrote:

The STK200 from Kanda is a good basic choice. It's relatively inexpensive. Make sure you get the updated version that can handle more chips. Atmel sells a more complicated cousin, the STK500, which is another consideration. They are available directly from Digikey.
I have these boards, but I mostly use a mikroElektonika AVR board (bought from a US distributor, circuit-ed.com) which has some additional features. For some it's overkill, with the LCD, buttons, Flash adapter, etc. already on it. However, I've found the board to be a time-saver in the various designs I work with. Saves me from having to hook up the accessories. It is pretty expensive -- $170 -- but with the cheaper cost of the chips over a microcontroller with an embedded interpreter, it should end up being more economical in the end. If you are going for BASIC, mE sells a BASIC compiler, but I don't recommend it. Still get Bascom. You can use it to compile your program to a hex file, then use the USB download utility that comes free with the board to program the chip's flash.
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

Hi Gordon,
I visited the digi key site today, and then called them regarding the stk500. I talked with one of their technical people. It sounds like a complete setup, he said it comes with cables, a board with all different sized sockets (for different microcontrollers), a cd rom, user manual, so I ordered it. It uses a serial interface from my computer to the programmer. It has a few doodads like LED's and I don't remember what else he said, but there's sample programs and a sample microcontroller with it. He didn't know if the cd rom contained bascom, but that is available at the mfr's site anyway, right? He said the cd rom contained atmel's programming suite (?), or something like that so I figured I would just go ahead and get it.
Thanks for the info.
Joe
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Joe wrote:

Hi Gordon,
I was out at the atmel site tonite trying to find bascom, but couldn't find it. Is there a link you may have to get me to the right place? All they have is the assembler, which is included in the stk500 kit. There is no mention of bascom, and when I searched it, nothing came up.
Joe
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You can download Bascom-Avr here.> http://www.mcselec.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id &ItemidA
Ian
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Joe wrote:

Atmel doesn't directly support Bascom. That comes from www.mcselec.com. The demo, limited to 4K programs (it was 2K, but I think Mark increased it??) works for most projects. The demo version is not always the latest release. I would recommend trying it out, and if you like it, springing for the full version, which is an Internet key sort of thing. Dontronics is one of the resellers -- http://www.dontronics-shop.com/home.php?cat '1.
Check out the forum at MCS for the user-to-user help. Fairly active group.
Once you get used to the chips and doing little things with them like lighting LEDs, displaying text on an LCD, and responding to button presses, you're ready for the big time! <g>
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

Wow! Found it. Thanks guys. I can't wait to get started with this now.. BTW, I also found their forum and asked where i could get a data sheet on the AT90S8515, since that's the ucontroller that's coming with the stk500. I have searched for it, and went to mouser, jameco, and even digikey. I think it may be obsolete?? Anyway, if anyone has a link to that data sheet, I would like to have a look at it.
Thanks again, gentlemen
Joe
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Joe wrote:

Atmel has all the data sheets on their site, though it can be a bit harder to find the obsolete parts, which the 8515 is. (However, it's still a great chip to start with, as it supports all of the basic functionality of the AVR line, except for analog-to-digital conversion.) You will definitely want to try one of the newer DIP chips in the MegaAVR line sometime. The Mega16 and Mega32 are awesome. The later chips have their own internal oscillator, which is a definitely convenience. Easy to use in simple solderless breadboard designs.
Try Digikey to make the search for data sheets easier. Here's what I do:
1. Go to www.findchips.com.
2. Enter the part number, as completely as possible.
3. Odds are, for AVR parts Digikey will have it.
4. Follow the link into the Digikey site.
5. Go to the item order page for the part, and look for the Technical/Catalog Information link. Click on that one, and you get the following page, which has has links into the datasheets on Atmel's site:
http://www.atmel.com/dyn/resources/prod_documents/DOC0841.PDF
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

Thank you Gordon, I downloaded the data sheet(s), all 140 pages LOL.
Maybe I will visit digikey and see about the Mega 16 and Mega32 also.
Joe
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Did you try Google for the DS? My first hit got www.atmel.com/atmel/acrobat/doc0841.pdf
Good luck Ian
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Ian Drennan wrote:

Hello Ian,
I did.
All I got was one hit, but it had nothing to do with the data sheet. Maybe it's the way I went about it. I googled for "AT90S8515". Only received one hit in English, the other three were in different languages that I don't speak. That was why I posted here.
Regards, Joe
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http://www.avrfreaks.net/ is pretty useful
http://www.avrfreaks.net/index.php?module=Freaks%20Devices&func vCompare Can be easier to find atmel datsheets than on atmel.com
I have to agree with Gordon,and say that the avr butterfly is one of the best starter boards especially when combined with the butterfly carrier boards from http://www.ecrostech.com/AtmelAvr/Butterfly/index.htm
Apparently the latest avr butterflies don't have a light sensor due to the one that was on there being made of CdS and thats banned due to Europe's RoHS laws.
The great thing about the stk500 is you can also use it as a programmer for other boards
A more advanced board that will work with bascom or c for robotics is the mavaric board http://www.bdmicro.com/mavric-iib/ Brian has some handy source code for both c and bascom avr. http://www.bdmicro.com/code/
To see what you can do with avr's see http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/ee476/FinalProjects / http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/ee476/video /
Some interesting boards with ethernet or displays etc www.edtp.com www.ethernut.de http://www.drftech.com / http://www.achatz.nl webcat standalone , webtiger plugin for stk500 http://display3000.com/html/english.html
http://members.home.nl/bzijlstra /
Alex
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Another option to the Basic Stamp is the Pic-axe. programs in basic, is made much like the PIC but only needs resistors and a serial wire (serial mouse wire works well). The programing software is free. I'm not sure if it will help for your project but ar $10 for a 40-pin microcontroller it's worth playing around with.
It's been a while since I checked their site. google picaxe and use the london based company for information and there's another company that's cheaper to order from
Alex Gibson wrote:

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Another option to the Basic Stamp is the Pic-axe. programs in basic, is made much like the PIC but only needs resistors and a serial wire (serial mouse wire works well). The programing software is free. I'm not sure if it will help for your project but ar $10 for a 40-pin microcontroller it's worth playing around with.
It's been a while since I checked their site. google picaxe and use the london based company for information and there's another company that's cheaper to order from
Alex Gibson wrote:

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Alex Gibson wrote:

Alex,
Thanks for those links to Cornell. They even did a gps project where they essentially created a gps receiver using the mega32. I have been reading those projects for about an hour now. Fascinating. Thanks again.
Joe
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Gordon McComb wrote:

If you're going to use an Atmel AVR, take a look at "Wiring". ("http://wiring.org.co ") This is an open source development system for AVR machines. It has its own little language, which is a subset of C++, and its own little IDE. It's intended for artists doing interactive art, of all things. There's documentation on things like how to hook up an LED, a pot, a servo, a motor, and such. They have their own board, called "Wiring", which sells for $60, but in fact any Atmel AtMega 128 board can work with Wiring. It's really a front end to GCC for Atmel CPUs, which is why the download is 39MB, but they hide most GCC issues from the user.
This may finally make Atmel processors more popular with hobbyists. The PIC and Basic Stamp machines are popular with hobbyists because they're easier to get started with. But they're rather underpowered and dated as microcontrollers go. Wiring, although "user friendly", is a hard-compiled environment, not an interpreter. So you actually get the 16 MIPS or so an AVR can deliver.
Also see "http://www.dubel.org/atmel /"
                John Nagle
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