1. logmode

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    48
    0
    Hello,
    I am not near university level, sorry, but I do know a little when it comes to electrical stuff. I am interested getting my computer to do a very simple task, like put out a 5v signal, from a very simple program. I am pretty sure this is not simple. Should I start will programming language? Would it be better to buy a microcontroller, like what sparky49 is helping with? Serial port, USB, or even put a card in is ok. What I am really asking for is a direction to go in. Electrical diagram, read stuff would be great to.

    Thank you so much.

    logmode
     
  2. bretm

    Member

    Feb 6, 2012
    152
    24
    If you have a serial port (and a lot of new computers don't these days) I would start with that. It's usually easy to send data to those and interface with them from most languages on most OS's. What do you want to connect to?
     
  3. logmode

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    48
    0
    Hello,
    I am so sorry; I thought and did not look. There is no serial port. It has an ASUS P5K-E mother board, and OS- XP. The connectors are- one 6 pin fire wire IEEEE 1394a, USB 2.0 4 pin ports, one LAN RJ-45 port, and SATA ports on the outside.

    There are some PCI slots on the inside, so I could buy a card.

    What do I want to connect to? Since this is a lab it don’t matter, but let say a led. Give me the current and volts and I will make the LED whatever works.

    Again, I am sorry for the miss understanding.
    Thank you

    logmode
     
  4. Markd77

    Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    2,803
    594
    USB to serial and USB to parallel converters are pretty cheap on Ebay and probably other places.
    If all you want to do is turn a single LED on or off, serial has a couple of pins that can be used for that purpose. A parallel port has over 8 that can be used.
    For more complex communication with a microcontroller serial is usually easier because it requires fewer pins on the microcontroller.
     
  5. BMorse

    Senior Member

    Sep 26, 2009
    2,675
    234
    Just to toggle a 5 volt logic level is very doable with a USB to Serial converter, you can even use an existing application such as Hyperterminal to toggle the DTR line on or off to switch a TTL signal on or off....
     
  6. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    7,388
    1,605
    (This gets asked a lot, so I am going to make a post to add to the sticky above.)

    You could find some things to add on to a PC to begin with, but it's a lot more fun and useful IMHO to jump right into micro controllers that run by themselves.

    Anyone starting out in microcontrollers has several large humps to get over. You need a good electrical design and good build, you need a good programmer, and you need to run some good code. If anything goes wrong you tend to sit there and wonder what to do next as any link in the chain can be bad and that is a very difficult problem to solve even when you have a ton of experience.

    So I STRONGLY recommend getting a development kit and a programmer. I mostly use Microchip products so as I am most experienced with them that is what I will discuss.

    Microchip has two nice started kits that have a pre-built and tested development board to use. The board has some LEDs and buttons and even a pot to give you ways to get information into and out of a simple project. You can learn a lot that way.

    The kits also include a programmer that also works as an in circuit debugger so you can watch your code as it runs inside your project. In circuit debugging is a very helpful tool to have.

    The kits also have a set of lessons to introduce the concepts you will need to know to use these things.

    Your top two choices are:

    The PICkit 2 Debug Express has lessons in Assembly language. More info It costs $49.99USD.

    The PICkit 3 Debug Express has lessons in the C language. More info It costs $69.99USD.

    The "More info" links to the lesson plans so you can see if this is something you would be interested in. You can even download everything but the hardware and test out the programs using the (free) simulator.

    The PICkit 2 is older and doesn't support all the latest devices but it is solid and proven. The PICkit 3 is the newer device and covers the entire line of controllers, but it is 20 bucks more.

    Learning either assembler or C may not be the best way to learn programming on your own, but there are places (like right here) where you can ask for help when you get stuck.

    While you do need a PC to write the program and load it into the dev board once this is complete you get a board that will run by itself without a PC: just give it some power and off you go.

    Radio Shack also has a Vellman kit for a PIC, but I don't know much about it. They also carry the Basic Stamp development unit: this comes with a solderless breadboard and some parts to do their tutorials. It programs in Basic which is probably the best programming language for beginners. The Shack also has some other micro boards like the popular Arduino.
     
  7. logmode

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    48
    0
    Hello Markd77 and BMorse, Thanks so much for your time.
    I found a serial card and a serial cord. So now I do have a serial. I found the Hyper terminal. So now what?
    thank you
     
  8. logmode

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    48
    0
    Hello ErnieM, thank you for all that. I am interested and it’s on order.
    I like the kitties.
    Thank you
     
  9. logmode

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    48
    0
    Hello,
    I used the DTR and toggled voltages -10.75vdc to 11.5vdc. cool!
    Thank you
    logmode
     
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