A PIC for beginners

Thread Starter

Sparky49

Joined Jul 16, 2011
833
Hi everyone,

I've decided now is the right time to delve into the world of microcontrollers - I just feel that some much electronics involves the use of microcontrollers that I need to start to learn how to use them.

Would anyone recommend a good kit/language for me to begin with? I'm more interested in non-robotic stuff, so I hope that narrows that band done a wee bit!:rolleyes:

Would Arduino be a good starting point?

I've already been bitten a couple of times by buying outdated books and rubbish starter boards - so what setup would you recommend?

Thanks for your time,

Sparky
 

bertus

Joined Apr 5, 2008
20,448

Thread Starter

Sparky49

Joined Jul 16, 2011
833
Thanks Bertus!

I think it might be best for me to start with pics.

Any good setups (language, compiler, kits, etc) and books which I can look at?
 

Mickster

Joined Jan 10, 2010
32
TBH, for me, Maplin are somewhat of a last resort to get stuff in the UK. Compare their prices, for identical items, on the RS, Farnell & Digikey sites.

Prices and sourcing aside, what are you looking for with regard to microcontrollers?

Affordability, ease-of-programming, device features, learning-curve, programming language, available tutorial programs, etc are all factors to be taken into consideration when taking the plunge.

Do you have any familiarity/experience with programming languages?

Arduino could be a starting point, simply because there are a plethora of examples out there on the web. If you'd like to understand Microcontrollers at a much deeper level, you could study assembly language.
 

Thread Starter

Sparky49

Joined Jul 16, 2011
833
The reason I linked to maplins was I got a voucher for my birthday on friday!

I agree with you though - maplins to be used as a last resort.

I'd be looking for something which is quite easy to learn and use, but which prepares me for something a bit more complicated - I would be interested in assembly language, but the look I've had just makes me thinks it's abit OTT for my level at the moment.
 

Mickster

Joined Jan 10, 2010
32
If you're interested in PICs and assembly, with a view to looking at C in the future for more-capable devices, have a look at these tutorials:

http://www.gooligum.com.au/tutorials.html

If you're mainly interested in PIC assembler and would like to follow a set of tried and tested tutorials, along with accompanied layout plans for stripboard tutorial circuit boards, look here:
http://www.winpicprog.co.uk/pic_tutorial.htm
 

spinnaker

Joined Oct 29, 2009
7,835
Thanks Bertus!

I think it might be best for me to start with pics.

Any good setups (language, compiler, kits, etc) and books which I can look at?
Get a PicKit 2 or PicKit3. I recommend the 3. Don't even bother going cheap for a 3rd party programmer. You will have nothing but headaches.

You can also look at the PICAxe. Adrino version of the Pic I guess But it is really not hard to program Pics yourself.
 

Thread Starter

Sparky49

Joined Jul 16, 2011
833
Get a PicKit 2 or PicKit3. I recommend the 3. Don't even bother going cheap for a 3rd party programmer. You will have nothing but headaches.

You can also look at the PICAxe. Adrino version of the Pic I guess But it is really not hard to program Pics yourself.
Could you give me a link? I want to make sure I'm getting the correct thing!

Also, is the software compatible with windows 7?
 

T.Jackson

Joined Nov 22, 2011
328
I've already been bitten a couple of times by buying outdated books and rubbish starter boards - so what setup would you recommend?
It is actually all still relevant what these old books tell you. Old books dun lie either.

I have books here that go back the the early 90's, and they explain how a micro computing system works (same as they do today really) Today things are just much faster, smaller, and come with everything including the kitchen sink.

Internally there are still address, data and IO buses like in the beginning. You can learn much from old books.
 

thatoneguy

Joined Feb 19, 2009
6,359
I thought that PICs seemed to be used in most projects that I look at online - are there better alternatives?
There are more alternatives, but PIC is extremely well supported on this forum, and in general.

The other major contender is AVR, which also has the Arduino going for it, which has a lot of support. Though the Arduino guys are a bit cult-ish to me, similar to the apple snobs. "Looks cool, but it's not a (Apple/Arduino), so it sucks".

That attitude keeps me away from the arduino boards as much as possible, it seems they are meant for people with little knowledge of electronics, and just want to write code so they can plug in their shields and everything is happy. Nothing wrong with that, I just think people should have a concept of what is going on so when it stops working, they have a clue on how to fix it.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
20,866
Just to make sure that I am not misunderstood and someone wants to start a MCU debate, I work extensively with Atmel AVR, Freescale, Microchip PIC and others. I only mention the top three contenders here. I program in both ASM and C, often mixed in the same application.

Of course, I have my preferences. However, I choose the right MCU and language to suit the application.

You can seek out the quick and easy way (such as cut and pasting someone else's code or use built-in library functions). But if you want to build a solid foundation that can launch a very satisfying career, learn ASM at the very beginning.

If you want to learn ASM, I would choose one of the following processors: HC11, 6805/9S08, AVR.
 

Potato Pudding

Joined Jun 11, 2010
688
What trips some people up is the paradox that in order to make things simpler they have made these micros more complex.

All the off chip support circuitry is pretty much built into the new microcontrollers. You might never need to add EPROMs, RAM, Serial Comm Mediators, and a whole other bunch of support chips that were regular population for older boards.

You can probably find a microcontroller that has every feature - especially the basics - that you need for most applications. That makes for a nearly bare bare circuit board, with just a micro being enough to do a wide range of jobs. That is how they make things MUCH simpler by making the micros more complex.

Circuit design has turned into software design which makes things like increasing speeds a ten cent problem. You buy a faster version of the micro and the crystal. Before it might have meant a huge redesign.
 
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