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DPRG: Beginner

Subject: DPRG: Beginner
From: Kevin Ross kevinro at nwlink.com
Date: Wed Jul 16 00:13:28 CDT 1997

- ----------
> From: droid at bellatlantic.net
> To: dprglist at dprg.org
> Subject: DPRG: Beginner
> Date: Tuesday, July 15, 1997 6:49 PM
> Hmm....how should I start. 
> I know the eletronics but I don't know it too well...I't like this. I
have readed a 
made a simple 
> 555 clock and used that to power different logic circuits. Well.. it was
the best way to 
> learn the thing. But after time the logic itself is not enough. After
viewing almost all 
> of the FAQ on the WWW I have decided to go for the microcontrollers.
Hmmm...now that's 
> where it starts. After viewing information on BASIC Stamp, PIC
> Motorola 68hc11, Z80, 8000 and 6500 families...the best way to start
seems to be a BASIC 
> STAMP. But the dilema continues...with my amount of knowledge I wonder if
I won't 
> "outgrow" the Stamp and money invested in the kits would be lost. Should
I start with 
> the PIC and if so what book should I go for : Robot Builder bonanza or
Easy Pic'n.
> I mean....I have taken apart a commercial printer, couple of VCRs and
purchased TRUE 
> RMS VOM, Logic Probe...Prototyping board...and I think a whole research
center except 
> the oscilloscope. Anyway..If you all think that I should start With a
Stamp anyway ...I 
> will...I was wondering if after I learn how to use the PICs would Stamp
become obsolete 
> or would it be a very good addition to my robots...(I was wondering if
you can 
> communicate between Stamp I or II and PIC)...anyway...what should I do ?
> Any opinion welcome.

For beginners, I would suggest something along the lines of the stamp. You
can play with it for very little startup cost, the board will have a 99%
chance of working first time out, and you can download the software tools
for free. The only additional tool expense is making a cable for your
parallel port. While many will claim it to be slow, for most applications
it is 'fast enough'. 

If you would prefer to have a more standard controller, I would highly
recommend the 68HC11. You can download the software tools for free from
motorola, and the only additional hardware tools required are a serial
cable. This is one mighty strong point in favor of the 68HC11. It can
download code using free software and a serial cable. It also comes with 8
A/D ports and a good powerful timer section. You can purchase a board such
as the BotBoard from Marvin Green for $6.00. I have 68HC811E2 chips for
$18.00 (2k of EEPROM). Karl Lunt has SBASIC, which is a BASIC compiler for
the 68HC11 (not interpreted), and also the FORTH language, if you are keen
on it. All are free. You can put together a BotBoard for about $30.00 with
the 'E2 version. An A1 version (512 bytes of EEPROM) would cost around

The PIC is a good chip, but will require an external programmer to get
started with. Also, when programming a RISC microprocessor, a fair amount
of programming experience is desirable because you often need to pull
tricks out of your bag of experiences to make instruction sequences that

Most 8051 derivatives are reasonable chips, but also require programming
hardware or an external EPROM.

As for books, I would highly recommend Mobile Robots: Inspiration to
Implementation by Joe Jones and Anita Flynn. Check out
http://www.seattlerobotics.org/guide/index.html which has some more
information that you might find useful, including pointers to websites,



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