Resources for beginning embedded systems...

Discussion in 'Electronics Resources' started by liquidair, Sep 1, 2012.

  1. liquidair

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Oct 1, 2009
    Hi all-

    I am wanting to start designing some things using embedded systems but I'm quickly becoming overwhelmed with all the information out there and how to narrow it down to what I want to do.

    The types of things I want to do are: Use a rotary encoder to control a relay based attenuator, do switching functions so the state can be stored/recalled digitally, write system status to an LCD screen (such as the amount of attenuation), read and recall motorized potentiometer settings, etc. I guess this is all the types of functions a modern stereo reciever has.

    I have a background in computer programming and most of the code snippets I've seen seems simple enough. The hardware used to do these things is what gets confusing. For instance, say I have 5 switching functions. Using toggles or electronic logic switching would require 5 traces to a controller, but it seems like with embedded systems you can use a single trace with some sort of encoder that listens for a specific code, say "Mute" or "Mono". This is where I'm starting to not be able to find the info I need.

    Can anyone recommend any books or online resources to help with this? Thank you in advance!!

  2. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 11, 2008
    I think you'll have a steep learning curve, as you are asking about doing some complex functions and have zero experience with microcontrollers.

    At the start people can find it very daunting just getting the micro to program properly, and flash a LED. :)

    It helps if you have a support group of friends etc who already have some skills and equipment and can get you up and running faster. If not, you really are starting from scratch and need to look at what development system you like, then climbing up that learning slope to become familiar with the software, dev board, coding, programming, debugging why the heck it doesn't flash the darn LED etc. ;)

    As far as books and resources go it's probably better at this point to spend some time on the internet looking at the chip brands and their own support groups and forums and trying to get a feel for which direction you want to go.
    absf likes this.
  3. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    Question: how many computer programmers does it take to change a light bulb?

    Answer: It's a trick question. Computer programmers can't change a light bulb, it's a hardware problem.

    (Sorry, couldn't resist). But seriously, as I mention here "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."

    That link has other links to Microchip development kits. Get one and a programmer for whatever platform you choose. Choose wisely, PIC, Arduino, AVR, whatever, as each manufacturer does things differently and you should concentrate on one and only one manufacturer.

    There are boards that come with buttons, LEDs, pots, even alphanumeric or graphic displays. Get one. Get another. Do all the tutorials they come with. Then see how to add on those nifty controls you want. Some are kinda exotic, but once you can run the stuff on the canned tutorials you should have the skills to get them working.

    Now back to that joke. How is your soldering and assembly work? Can you, or would you want to build your own circuits? You pretty much have to if you want to do what you want to do.

    If you keep at it you'll get there.
    absf likes this.
  4. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
    Start small. Take baby steps, one step at a time.
    Write a program to make an LED turn ON.
    Write a program to make an LED flash at a high rate that is only measurable on an oscilloscope.
    Write a program to make an LED flash once every second.
    absf likes this.
  5. liquidair

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Oct 1, 2009
    Thank you all for the replies. I haven't checked in a while because my post had a huge number of views but no replies after the first day. In the meantime I have bought and read a couple of books, as well as taken apart a piece of digital audio equipment I have (they use the Motorola 68340). By jotting down all the chips I saw, I got the gyst of how these systems work. Looks like the 68000 will be where I want to end up, but for the project I am working on now (A monitor controller), it looks like I can use anything, PIC, AVR, etc.

    Ernie, loved the joke! However I forgot to mention that I am also experienced in electronics design as well! I started with tubes, then went on to solid state and recently logic. Assembly is no problem for me, nor is hand soldering SMD components. Your post and link had good information, and that PICkit3 looks nice. I infer that you like PIC, any specific reasons why PIC over the others?

    MrChips, I completely see the logic in your suggestion!