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Parallax Propeller
programming : by Tommy - July 21st 2012, 11:20AM
programming
I recently picked up a Propeller Board of Education from my recent trip to Parallax, Inc to teach the Teachers' Institute for the ARRL. The Propeller is Parallax's latest microcontroller platform that offers far more than the old beloved BASIC Stamp could. Digging back through my old posts, I found my initial review of the Parllax BASIC Stamp from 2006. (Little did I know that about 5 years later I'd begin teaching classes on the Stamp, visit Parallax HQ, and befriend the author of the "What's a Microcontroller" book (among other titles).)

The Propeller is a programmable multicore microcontroller that can be programmed in Assembly, Spin (an Object-Based programming language that I'm still learning), or, most recently, Standard C. The multicore design lends itself well for many, many projects, chief among them is robotics. Now your creations can take in and process loads more data at once. And with robotics, the more sensory input your bot has, the better equipped it will be to handle various tasks.

I just recently began to fully grasp the power of the little Propeller chip. Once the relative simplicity of utilizing the 8 cores available (known as "cogs"), the possibilities begin to multiply and compound one atop the other. My initial reluctance to the Propeller was the Spin language. The operators seem a bit foreign compared to the C-style languages I've been comfortable with for so long. The various code sections also seemed confusing initially. After reading through the tutorials posted on the learn.parallax.com website, I was up and running in a relatively short amount of time. I also took advantage of the Propeller Manual (pdf) and Programming the Propeller with Spin (pdf). While both offer great starting points, be sure to reference the learn.parallax.com site first - the Programming the Propeller text has its weaknesses.

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tags: microcontroller parallax propeller boe

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Arduino Microcontroller
hardware : by Tommy - May 25th 2009, 01:15AM
hardware
The Arduino microcontroller platform is probably one of the coolest things to happen to microcontroller hobbying in a long, long time. I'd seen them featured on Hack-A-Day performing various silly jobs for their programmer, I just had never taken the time to look into why people were using them or what made them unique. Last week (at the urging of Bre Pettis) I bought the Arduino Duemilanove. Wow.

First of all, the Arduino is an open, "free" (as in beer) platform running atop the plentiful (and cheap) Atmel AVR microcontroller line. The open nature of the platform allows each revision of the platform and IDE to improve. The current 2009 model is very easy to use. The documentation is pretty good and (imo, best of all) it uses the C programming language. This rounds off the learning curve quite a bit since I have more than a couple years working with C-style programming languages. Now I don't have to fool with BASIC or assembly. I really disliked the patty-cake approach that the BASIC Stamp provided (i hate BASIC), it's easy to get bogged down in assembly, and most C-compilers for microcontrollers are well over $200. The BASIC Stamp pales in comparison to the Arduino in just about every category. The Arduino is cheaper, faster, offers libraries and has a much wider audience than the Parallax BASIC Stamp. The PIC and standard AVRs have a relatively steep learning curve and is easy to get buried in the syntax.

The Arduino abstracts quite a bit for you, freeing you up to be creative and rapidly develop whatever interests you.

What's interested me lately is parsing the WWVB atomic clock signal from Ft. Collins, Colorado. Thanks to a C-Max CMMR-6P receiver chip that I got from DigiKey, I have a data stream going right into my Arduino.

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tags: arduino microcontroller Atmel electronics

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