Recomend a Microcontroller Programmer for begginer?

Thread Starter


Joined Nov 23, 2010
Before we began let me start out by saying im dyslexic. So try not be so rude about how I type.

I'm super noob begginer, I've been building ic 555 to run servo's. Now I want to get in to programing.
Whats the best begginer program board with swapable PIC's in the mid range price.
Can you give me all price ranges from high medium low on these board as well as to where they sell them and possible photo?

also easy for a dyslexic person to understand.
Consider myself a Mechanicle Engineer. Student of devry university


Joined Jul 7, 2009
You don't define what you mean by "best" nor "mid-price", so there are no clear-cut answers.

If you're just interested in learning the programming, you can learn a lot by using the free Microchip IDE and the emulator built into it. But, at least to me, that's like reading about sex -- it might interest you for a while, but sooner or later you're going to want to get your hands on the real thing, so to speak. Thus, based on what I know now, I'd make the following recommendations.

If you're on a budget, take a look at the $50 PICkit 2 Starter Kit. This is a PICkit 2 programmer with a small PC board that holds a PIC16F690 20 pin processor in a DIP socket. There are four LEDs on the board, a switch, a pot, and a single decoupling capacitor. There's also a small amount of space for adding other components. You use the MPLAB IDE and this thing works with it. You can go through 12 lessons that teach you various beginning skills and do the programming in assembly. This is somewhat important, as learning the assembly helps you learn about the microcontroller's architecture.

If you have $125 and you're an experimenter, I strongly recommend the PICDEM Lab. This is a PC board that has a prototyping area on it and comes with a selection of components (resistors, caps, diodes, LEDs, MOSFETs, etc.) that you can build into some demo circuits. It's definitely for people who like experimenting. You can also go through some lessons to learn basic PIC programming. The thing I like is that it has sockets for different low- to mid-range processors and 5 different processors in the kit, so you can experiment. It can be run from a 9 V battery or a wall-wart. A PICkit 2 is included for programming. You just dump the parts out, install the software, build a circuit and start learning. This is excellent for people who like to build things and fiddle around. This is what I'd buy for myself if I were in the market (a friend visited last week and bought a bunch of this stuff for his visit and left it all here). It's also straightforward to start using a C compiler with both of these solutions too. The real reason I'd choose it over anything else is it lets me experiment with different ideas/chips and try things out to see how they'll work, and does this with minimum fuss. Microchip's documentation for the lessons with this device are also a bit more polished and complete than the lessons that come with the PICkit 2.

I like the look of blueroomelectronics' Junebug, but I have no experience with it, so I couldn't comment on it. The price is attractive for a beginner, but it's apparently a kit you have to build. That wouldn't bother me, as I don't mind building kits (I built a number of Heathkit things in the 60's and 70's), but others might not get the instant gratification that e.g. the PICDEM Lab can give you.

Some folks will recommend the PICkit 3 over the PICkit 2. I have both and have used both of them, but I'd probably pick the PICkit 2 over the PICkit 3, even though it's an older part. One of the major reasons is that the PICkit 2 comes with the port-toggler/monitor and logic analyzer program. These are valuable for experimentation. This program is not included with the PICkit 3, which is a real shame. You can view an EEVblog video about the PICkit 3 vs. the PICkit 2 and Microchip's humorous response video -- both worth watching.

When you're experimenting, make sure you have a digital multimeter to help check things. You'll use it a lot. I use the frequency measurement capability of my DMM to check the frequency with which e.g. a port is toggling at. I also have a scope on the desk and that's handy for checking things too. If you have a scope, DMM, and the PICDEM Lab, you can learn quite a bit about the practical side of using microcontrollers -- and you'll have fun at the same time.