Best starter kit

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by jfeeney, Jul 15, 2008.

  1. jfeeney

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 14, 2008
    14
    0
    I have been looking at the various MicroChip starter kits.

    Is MicroChip a good "long-term" company to go with to start learning. Does it matter which company starter kits a person starts with - for example going from MicroChip programming to AVR or another company is easy and straight forward.

    If MicroChip is a good company is one starter kit better than another for a person with no background in programming a microcontroller.

    At this point, I have no purpose for learning .... other than learning. I may try to do some simple programs and build a board as a "small business venture"....but it would only be hobby and micro-business level at best.
     
  2. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
    22,182
    1,728
    Over the last 10 years, MicroChip has gone from being the #20 uC manufacturer to the #2 slot.

    You'll get varying opinions around here, but that's to be expected.

    If you just wish to dabble in it, and not really build anything serious, then go for Parallax's Basic Stamp. Easy to program using a version of the BASIC programming language. Their Board of Education gives you a very small prototyping area to plug stuff in, and a way to program a BS1 or BS2 via RS232 or USB, depending upon which version you buy (I suggest USB, as RS232 is on it's way out.)

    However, if you think you may wish to eventually take something to production, or build something large scale that will require synchronizing multiple processors, a MicroChip PIC uP would be a far better option just from the cost standpoint alone. Parallax' Basic Stamps are just plain too expensive to use in a production product. MicroChip's PICs are far less expensive; quite a few are less than $1.00US. I don't think you can get a Parallax Basic Stamp for less than around $25.00US

    MicroChip's PIC uP's will require a good bit of studying to get good results. You can program them in a mixture of Assembler and C, which are supplied free with a PICkit 1 or PICkit 2. If you wish to program in BASIC, a very limited demo compiler is available free (31 lines of code maximum) or can be purchased for $99 or $249, depending on if you want Stamp 1 or Stamp 2 compatibility.

    Atmel's offerings are pretty popular. I have no experience with them, so can't voice an opinion.
     
  3. nanovate

    Distinguished Member

    May 7, 2007
    665
    1
    Take a look at the STK500 for AVR. The AVRs have a common core so it is easier to go from device to another. They are also faster for the same clock. They have free ANSI compliant compiler that is not limited in anyway and the same compiler is used for all their devices unlike the PIC.

    see http://www.avrfreaks.net and http://www.avrfreaks.net/index.php?name=PNphpBB2

    As far as a company goes, Microchip is a very strong one. They sell lots of parts and are very popular with hobbyists. Most of their PIC12/16/18 parts (<40pins) are available in DIP. The PICKit2 is a good starter kit and it comes w/a limited compiler so you can get started right away.

    I have used both in commercial products and have been satisfied with their performance.
     
  4. jfeeney

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 14, 2008
    14
    0
    What is the major difference between PICKit 2 Starter Kit and Debug/Express - for someone brand new?

    From what I am reading on the screen, the Debug Express has some extra tutorials on debugging and programming. It comes with a lower processor but for myself that does not matter. Anything else -- of the two would the Debug Express be the better choice.

    Is there any need to start with the PICKit 1 and when you have worked through those examples and tutorials move up to the PICKit 2 (Debug Express or the Starter Kit). Or does the PICKit 2 start from scratch and you pick up all the information that you would have from PICKit 1.

    Also, are the Kits cumulative. In other words PICKit 1 - 8 bit controllers are totally different from PICKit 2 -- 16 bit controllers. So a person does learn something from the PICKit 1 but you have to relearn everything (maybe unlearn some stuff) again with the PICKit 2?
     
  5. nanovate

    Distinguished Member

    May 7, 2007
    665
    1
    I'd go PICKit 2 right of the bat since it supports more devices -- from the 8 to the 32 bit. Now the cores are not the same so you need a different compiler for each of the major types.
     
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