Microcontroller platform for hobbyists ?

Discussion in 'Embedded Systems and Microcontrollers' started by jeorge_kabbi, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. jeorge_kabbi

    Thread Starter New Member

    Oct 8, 2012
    I am a microcontroller hobbyist . from the research i did so far i found that i should choose the Microcontroller depending on what i want to do. this can work well for professionals since they work full time on it.however ,for the hobbyist that may not be a good option since the time available is not so much.

    If i were the designer of a microcontroller platform for hobbiest i would make a full range of microcontroller boards with varying degrees of speed/capabilities/prices ranging from very small cheap board with few I/o pins and low speed up to fast/capable/pricy high end ones , with one high level programming language / libraries working on all of them.

    I am aware of few of them such as arduino ,beagleboard ,netduino .. etc but no one of those has the "full range" that i imagined it should exist.

    the question is : any such platform?
  2. hexreader

    Active Member

    Apr 16, 2011
    I would think that MikroElectronika probably come closest to the listed requirements.


    There is no support for low end PIC controllers though (PIC10 and older PIC12 or PIC16 with 12 bit instruction size)

    Libraries work in very similar ways whether you choose AVR, 8051, PIC 12/16/18/24/33/32, ARM etc

    Processor specific code needs to suite the architecture of the chosen micro-controller.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2012
  3. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
    A programmer and a proper breadboard. Does it for me. This way you can think out of box as much as you want. And you are not fenced in like you will be with those boards
  4. BMorse

    Senior Member

    Sep 26, 2009
    I agree with t06afre. I mostly use pic microcontrollers for all my uC based projects, most pics can run with an internal clock source so makes for breadboarding and prototyping much easier, not a lot of components needed to get project up and running, just a breadboard, pickit2 or pickit3, and a pic uC.
  5. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    Hey, while some of us (me too) can roll out a PIC based project with little more than some perf board and some wire I really don't recommend a beginner starting out from this place.

    Mikro makes some excellent boards, I have their PIC32 graphics board and thing it is just incredible.

    It's just when starting out one needs some good support to isolate what the problems are. That means a good tested board, tested programmer (slash debugger), and a set of tutorials based on that board with code examples.

    With such a set of tools then the problems of getting the first project off the ground stand a very good chance of success.
  6. BMorse

    Senior Member

    Sep 26, 2009
    So you want a beginner to start off with 32 bit pics?
  7. rstevenson

    New Member

    Apr 5, 2011
    I learned from a pic and a breadboard. It took me awhile but it really helped out because I find it easier to troubleshoot my circuits. Go with the breadboard and PIC! If you need help, this community is better than any other one (not that I post, but I read a ton!)
    BMorse likes this.
  8. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    Why not? If I has two rooms of new microcontroller beginners and I gave one group a tested complete PIC32 platform, and the other group some chips, bits of wire, and a breadboard which do you think would produce the first working project?

    Getting the first thing to work is an essential step towards taking additional steps in other more complex projects.

    How many bits in the PC a beginner is working on anyway? Would you say a PC is too complex for a beginner to learn programming on?

    I mention the PIC32 board as it is a Microelectronica product I actually own and thus can speak on it first hand. They are a good source.
  9. BMorse

    Senior Member

    Sep 26, 2009
    But then you are stuck working with a PIC32 even with simple beginners projects, using a 32 bit microcontroller IMO, is a bit too much for a newbie. What if all you wanted to do is blink an LED when you push a switch? Would a 32 bit uC be a bit too much for that task? Would you use a PC JUST to ring a doorbell when someone pushes the switch outside?

    And if both groups were at the same levels of "Not Knowing" anything and just starting out? I would say the group with a breadboard and pic would have one working before the other group even gets done reading the datasheet for the pic32, then they have to learn how to use the micoelectronica board:)

    But as opinions go, in my opinion, using a Pic16F88 or something similar would be simpler to learn on than any 32 bit uC, and as for beginners, I am sure they do not want to spend all that kind of money just to learn (MicroC Pro for Pic32 is $299.00!! Even if free version is used, board with pic32 costs more than a breadboard, a pic and a few wires:) ) Then the board is around $169.00 (with the color LCD).... versus spending $39.00 on a pickit3 (which can be used for all kinds of PICs) and a few dollars on a 8 bit or 16 bit pic....

    But hey, if you have that kind of money to spend on that stuff, more power to you. (I also have all kinds of Pic32 dev boards, I got them for free plus the the Hi-Tech C Pro for Pic32, and I don't even use them) But most newbies or beginners I know do not have that kind of money to learn how to blink an LED.
  10. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 11, 2008
    Part of the process for a beginner is to learn the datasheet for the PIC, it's an important part and would probably save 90% of the beginner questions we see here on the forum! ;)

    Simple PICs like 12F675 or 12F683 have nice simple datasheets that are easy for a beginner to understand and are a great learning point. Once you get into the 18F or even some of the newer PIC16 the datasheets get big and scary, and for PIC32 just amplify that by 10 at least.

    Of course it depends on the beginner, someone with fair to good programming skills and some experience could jump in at PIC18F or even the bigger PICs, especially if they are a fast reader and not scared of massive datasheets.

    On the other hand someone very new to micros, with little to no programming experience (and/or someone young who would not read massive datasheets) would be better off learning on a really simple PIC with minimal peripherals like a 12F675. Once they have done a couple of projects and got used to the "flavour" of Microchip datasheets and appnotes then it is not too scary to reach out to bigger and more complex PICs.

    Re the hardware, I too like the MikroE dev boards. At $160 or so they are more expensive than just a programmer, but give a heck of a lot of "bang for the buck". I don't think anyone would regret that money spent on a good dev board, I've never regretted it.
  11. W4GNS


    Dec 1, 2008
    Yes, A programmer and a Breadboard. :) That being said all the folks that replied in this thread made good points. Personally I have a programmer and breadboard, and the EasyPic 7,and EasyAVR6 from MikroE and I love them both.
    In the end you will have to decide what your budget allows, and how serious you plan to get with the uC's. They are a great dealof fun! :)
  12. jeorge_kabbi

    Thread Starter New Member

    Oct 8, 2012
    i would like to thank everybody who contributed to this thread.

    for me money is not a problem ,i can spend 1000$ or more , easy.

    silicon chips became more and more powerful ,cheaper and power efficient these days ,so why don't we use higher level programming tools /libraries to gain productivity? especially speaking for amateur
  13. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
    The 16F5X is great for hobby use. The datasheet is only 50 pages.
    If you have the funds available, invest in a MicroE board.

    Also Arduino is good for hobby since it has a forum catering for questions from non-professional users.

    Maybe get some additional 16F5X as well (I would suggest SOIC + adapter PCBs). They are cheap after all. You can build a number of circuits and don't need to worry about costs. And the 16F5X does not need support parts except a crystal. Circuits can run from 2x AA batteries or coin cells for weeks.

    Breadboard has advantages but if you intend actually to use the circuits over long time, it is not so good.

    There are also cheap blank Arduino-compatible PCBs available.

    PIC32 is not really a typical hobby platform. These chips include a lot of pheripherals. You need ambition to use them for hobby purpose. It takes some consideration to build independent PIC32 circuits starting off with just a blank chip.
  14. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    Why not? "Just do it" as some have said. Microchip has many very good libraries and sample programs (not to mention free compilers) allowing *any* device in their product line to be developed on a shoestring budget.