New to microcontrollers, need help

Discussion in 'Embedded Systems and Microcontrollers' started by Crathes, Jan 31, 2012.

  1. Crathes

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 31, 2012
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    Hello

    I am currently studying programming and have just started a course on programming microcontrollers, and i am VERY impressed at what you can do with these things. Therefore i want to buy a board and start programming and such myself. I am however TOTALLY new to microcontrollers and I have no idea what to buy.
    So I have some questions:

    Can you do the same on a 32-bit controller as on an 8-bit? (I know it would not work the other way)
    Is a 32-bit a lot harder to learn than an 8-bit, or will the programming and operation of it be simlar?

    I am also wondering about some specific boards:
    http://viewitem.eim.ebay.no/STM32F103VET6-Development-Board--24-TFT-LCD-Module/200473154529/item
    and:
    http://viewitem.eim.ebay.no/New-ARM...ouch-Screen-AVR-ARDUINO-DSP/270851051006/item

    They are very cheap, i know, but will that limit what i can do with them too much?
    Would it be hard to attach input and output devices to them. I am talking about som of the stuff from arduino, like the combined I/O unit with 8 leds, 8 buttons and 8 single digit displays.

    If I am stupid for asking this I would very much like some pointers to some good, but cheap boards.
     
  2. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
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    As a general advice. I would say use a board that is close to what you will be using during the course. What kind of setup will you be using in course?
     
  3. Crathes

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 31, 2012
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    The board is not for the course as we are provided with boards and other equipment to test our programming(which is what the course is about).
    I want to buy a board for my personal use, and as I am a student I have very limited funds to do so.
     
  4. MrChips

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    Oct 2, 2009
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    This is a misconception. The early computers were 4-bit machines.
    An 8-bit computer can do the same task as a 32-bit computer. It just takes more steps to do the same arithmetic.

    32-bit computers are a bit of a nuisance if all you are doing is manipulating 8-bit text characters.
     
  5. Crathes

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 31, 2012
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    Well yes I know they can do the same as the 32-bit but, as you say, not at the same speed. I may want to do some heavier stuff after a little while, and I dont want to buy something new for that.

    What do you mean it can be a bit of a nuiscance?
     
  6. ErnieM

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    Apr 24, 2011
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    If you are working in C then how many bits are on the bus is mostly invisible to you. I jump between 8 bit and 32 bit PICs all the time. If you are looking to do color touchscreen applications I would strongly suggest you stick with 32 bit processors as they just have more resources available.

    I am unfamiliar with the STM32F103VET6 or the Arduino, I'm a PIC32 guy, and I really like the dev boards you can get from MikroElektronika which sells direct and thru several distributors (Mouser for one). You will need a programmer for these such as a PICkit 3 (which needs a wiring adapter) or an ICD3 (which isn't cheap).

    One huge advantage to going Microchip is they give away a very good C compiler, sample code, and other tools such as their Graphic Display Designer (GDD) which writes much of the start-up code for making custom graphical displays. It makes the basic screens, you still have to write the support code, but that is a huge head start.
     
  7. Crathes

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 31, 2012
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    I can program it either in assembly or C, i would not know how to code advanced things in assembly though.
    My final goal is to be able to make a Gameboy emulator(maby gameboy advance), so i will need to color a screen, maby even make it a touch screen.

    Wow, i love that page you linked to. How do I see what it there is an 8-bit or 32-bit controller on the card?
    Does the media boards come with a controller, or are they meant to be attached to a board with a controller?
    What do you mean going Microchip?
    I am not looking for a huge board, as another thing i want to make is going to be portable.
     
  8. mcgyvr

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    Oct 15, 2009
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    I love the Arduino platform... Very simple to get up and going and TONS of examples out there for just about anything you could do.
     
  9. Crathes

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 31, 2012
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    Is the board in the second link an arduino board? Will other stuff be able to connect to arduino extentions as well? They have a lot of nice stuff that can make your board better suited for different things.
     
  10. ErnieM

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    Apr 24, 2011
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    There are many many micro controller chip makers out there, and they do things their own way. It is easiest to stick with one manufacturer, and even with one particular device least you explode your brain. I can't tell you how many times I re-re-re-read a data sheet to find some feature only to finally realize that was on the device on the other project.

    As I said, I use Microchip products so I admit that bias up front. There are many other very good devices.

    "PIC" usually means 8 bit processors. "PIC32" means, well, 32 bit processors. In between they have 16 bit processors too (PIC24, dsPIC30, dsPIC33). The "ds" line is for digital signal and they are optimized for signal processing.

    I own a PIC32MX4 MultiMedia Board from Mirko and just love it to death. I'm still learning to use it and waiting for a killer application to use it on (there should be one coming up soon). The PIC32MX7 MultiMedia Board may be better, it is the same price, and came out a week after I bought mine. Both are $149. Their mikromedia for PIC32 at $99 has the good touchscreen stuff, just leaves off some not really essential frills.

    Sparkfun has a few nice dev boards too, I don't think they have a display however. One nice board does not need a programmer; you upload code thru it's USB jack. But if you do have a programmer it can work as an in circuit debugger too, and in circuit is the way to go when you get stuck.

    I don't have a link handy but you can even get an Aurduino chassis built with a PIC32 chip.
     
  11. Crathes

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 31, 2012
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    I would really like to buy that mikromedia for pic32 board, but its too expensive for now. I have to find out if this is something I really like before i spend a lot of money on it.

    I think the Arduino chassis with PIC32 chip you mean is the chipKit uno32 and the chipKit Max32. I think maby I am going to end up with the smaller one of those(the uno), and if I figure out how to do it connect an LCD from a mobile phone.

    As to connecting up an LCD, are some screens compatible and others not? How do i figure out what to get if this is the case?
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2012
  12. MrChips

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    Oct 2, 2009
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  13. Crathes

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 31, 2012
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    I was thinking of a colour LCD for a mobile phone or a PSP or something like that(or a finished LCD board). That would not have been for some time though, I just dont want to have to buy a new board to do it.

    The first display i am going to get is probably this one:
    http://www.dealextreme.com/p/jy-mcu...tube-8x-key-8x-double-color-led-module-104314

    @MrChips
    You said earlier that 32-bit chips can be a bit of a nuisance, what do you mean by that?
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2012
  14. ErnieM

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    Apr 24, 2011
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    I haven't looked too deeply at the ChipKIT Uno32 but what I know I like. Being an Arduino chassis you should be able to find lots of shields that work with it.

    The seven-segment/LED/button board you found looks interesting. The only thing I don't like is they didn't link a schematic so I can see how it works, but from the pictures it looks like a data & clock serial data input, and 6 strobes to latch that data somewhere. I have some guesses how data (ie, the button states) gets out of it. Starting with something like that may be better then running up the big hill of color graphics all at once.

    Arduino does have shields for a graphic display so that should plug in and let you code away. Color displays need a lot of low lever software and it is best you find a display with a "driver" your board supports. If it's on a Arduino shield chassis then the driver should be there.

    So it looks like a good pairing of stuff to me, but I'm NOT an Arduino guy. I've never used one, never even seen one for real.

    Good luck!
     
  15. Crathes

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 31, 2012
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    I am currently trying to decide between the ChipKIT Uno32 or the Max32. Its hard to decide!

    Anyways, the full colour graphical display is not something I want to take on just yet. But as I said, I dont want to have to buy a completely new board for it. (Although i know i am going to buy the Mikromedia for PIC32 board if i like doing this stuff)

    Thanks for the help guys! All that remains now is figuring out what other stuff i need. Like resistors and diodes and stuff like that. I have one more question towards this... I see buttons have different voltage levels, does this matter much when i use it on one of these boards?
     
  16. ErnieM

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    Apr 24, 2011
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    Huh? Do you mean push button switches to tap in data? Umm... you really should start another thread for another question but...

    Generally no it should not matter, the voltage is how much they can safely open without arcing. However, most switches need a little zap of current to burn off any oxide layer that grew. Run a switch at very little current and it may not close. For that either waste a little current or use gold plated contacts.
     
  17. Crathes

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 31, 2012
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    Thats what i thought.

    I ended up with buying the Uno32 and some other stuff to play around with on it. Hope it works out well!

    Thanks for the help guys!
     
  18. rk1genius

    New Member

    Jun 25, 2011
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    i would have suggested lpc935 . Its a very reliable board as i have used it for a lot of projects .

    For more stuff that you can do on the board check out my blog :

    www.embeddedshare.blogspot.com
     
  19. ErnieM

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    Apr 24, 2011
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    Nice choice. Let us know how it goes.

    You can be the Uno32 ex-spurt here now. :D
     
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