The mythical $5 microcontroller



Yes, Michael Simpson has an interesting approach to the market. You've got to figure those are tight margins, though. You spend 10 minutes per, supporting a product like that, and everybody looses. So more power to him for trying.

And again, you are right. Kronos is ~$7 and not a system. Any additional anything, crystal, ceramic resonator, low voltage detector, RS232 buffers, LED's, regulators, reverse polatiry diodes, pull ups, PCB, solder even, and the system price goes up.
Short of a bare micro with nothing but machine code, you've found a chip very close to the mythical $5 system, but cost is off by atleast 2X to make even the most rudimentary system out of it.
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Randy M. Dumse
www.newmicros.com
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Yes, seems like for the most part, a $10 microcontroller is a more realistic aim. However, you might want to take a look at Picaxe microcontrollers at http://www.picaxe.co.uk . They also can be purchased in the United States through http://www.phanderson.com . You CAN get an 8-pin Picaxe 08-M microcontroller (based on pic 12F683) for under $5.00 USD. I have built a couple of simple robots with it. One using just one 08-M the other using three. For around $3.00 US for the chip, and making the programming serial cable yourself, and downloading the free software, you can have a working microcontroller based project operating, in a few minutes, for under $5.
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I went to the first site and found near the top of the page:
The Amazingly Inexpensive PICAXE PICAXE-18X - A bit over $10.00.
So as you say, the $10 microcrontroller is closer to a truth. Yes I did find under $3 PICAXE-08 and PICAXE-08M. I was thinking they needed a resonator or low voltage detect, or what have you. Apparently not. Pretty simple to use. RS-232 "interface" via two resistors apparently.
So they have a snazzy basic compiler on the PC, and you download via serial cable. You get like 40 to 80 instructions depending on 08 or 08M. That about right?
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On Sat, 9 Apr 2005 17:39:45 -0500, "Randy M. Dumse"
I've used PIC to mean any all-in-one microprocessor (PIC, Stamp, AVR etc).

I've only ever used logic gates and op-amps, which of course don't make a microprocessor.

If I remember correctly, the 8051 is a precursor to a Z80. I've done programming in both Z80 and 6502 assembler and I didn't enjoy it.

I've looked at the $39 board and it looks fairly complex. I think people might be put off by the complexity of such a board. That's why PICs are so popular, one IC and off it goes.

A PIC with free programming languages is mandatory.

I don't know about other hobbyists, but I would rather not be paying for the labour cost of construction and testing. I would want to solder it together myself. But I understand that most people aren't competent to solder up a board as complex as the 8051 boards. I've seen too many people plug something in the wrong way around and then return the product because it "didn't work".

It's difficult to justify that much cost for a single purpose robot like the hexapod. The buyer is paying for complexity (multi-legged) and quality (otherwise it would wear out in a few hours).
Look at the Robo-Sapiens, people were prepared to pay US$100 for them. In many countries they had completely sold out before Christmas. With clever design they have managed to make it walk, pick things up and speak. It can even throw things and turn around. It only uses 4 or 5 motors, for a robot that has up to 15 articulated joints. It even has an interface jack for hacking. It's only a toy though, it can't easily be expanded.

The hexapod is a good technology demonstrator for your company if nothing else.

That's the thing that's put me off buying PIC systems. I don't know which type to buy, or how much I need to buy to get a working system.

I don't know of any $5 microcontroller that doesn't need any more parts to work. That's not to say it won't become available in the future. Adding connectors and plugs drives the price up a lot.

We have the same problems in the computer industry. People look at a computer (just the box) and say they can buy it for $1000. Then they get it home and find they need to buy a monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse, power adaptor, cables, internet access, training, software, maybe more RAM and a DVD burner or TV card. Suddenly it costs $2000.
That's why I tend to buy complete robots. I have no idea which PIC I should put in a robot, what RAM requirements or even which prog language is best. If I select the wrong model, or the wrong brand I'll have to start all over again and I've wasted my money. Secondhand laptops are so cheap nowadays, it's just as easy to add a parallel interface controller and use dos or linux.
Sig: Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need. -Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)
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