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Programmer / Evaluation Board / Development Board

Discussion in 'Embedded' started by Tomás Ó hÉilidhe, Jun 1, 2008.

  1. Are all of these the same thing?

    Once I take a fancy to a particular microcontroller, the first thing
    I'll want is a piece of hardware I can use for programming the chip.
    Now given that I'm just one person working away in my bedroom with my
    laptop, I'm not looking for some sort of industrial product the size
    of a washing machine that can program 72 thousand chips every minute.
    I'd want something small, no larger than the size of a CD dewel case,
    that can hook up to my laptop via USB port / COM port / LPT port. It
    shouldn't be too expensive either, but if it's pricey then I'll look
    for a second-hand one on eBay.

    Nowadays, are there some microcontrollers that are purely for "use in
    industry"? What I mean to say is: Is there some microcontrollers out
    there for which you CANNOT get a small programmer board, or perhaps
    one's for which the programmer board is ridiculously expensive?

    As I've mentioned here countless times, then only microcontroller I've
    any experience with is the PIC16F684 because we used it in my college
    course. I use the Pickit 1 to program it, which is a small programmer
    board about the size of a credit card that connects to my PC via USB,
    and the software I use for programming it is the PIC C compiler in
    conjunction with MPLAB. The software was free, and I got the
    development board for €10 through my college (which is about 15 US
    dollars), so I'm pretty chuffed with that.

    What do people call these "programmer boards" nowadays? I've heard
    terms like "evaluation kit", "development board", but I don't know
    what the difference is, if any.

    I've also heard of something called "in-circuit programming" whereby
    you can leave the chip in the circuit when you're programming it,
    which I suppose is convenient. For my most recent project I simply
    plucked the chip on and off the board, putting it into the Pickit 1 to
    program and then putting it back in the circuit.

    What I'm extremely interested in, however, are the development boards
    that let you actually debug the program, i.e. you can have the chip in
    its circuit and, while the program is running, you can pause the
    program and check the value of registers, and also single-step through
    instructions. In my most recent project, there were times when a bug
    in the program resulted in my circuit board doing absolutely nothing,
    so I hadn't a clue what was going on. Some sort of debugger which
    would have allowed me to single-step through the code and check
    registers would have been greatly beneficial! What I ended up doing
    was compiling the code for my PC and then single-stepping through it
    to find the bug.

    So anyway I'd like to ask something. For someone like me, who has an
    interest in embedded systems as a hobby, who wants to be able to
    program a microcontroller using a small USB-interface programmer, who
    wants to be able to do in-circuit debugging, and who wants to work
    with a microcontroller that has:
    1) Plenty of IO pins (as much as 20 or even more)
    2) A-to-D converter
    3) Interrupts
    4) Timers

    What's the best microcontroller and programmer combo to go for? I'm
    pretty happy with the Pickit1 but it can't program anything larger
    than a 14-pin chip (or then again maybe it can but I'm not clued in).

    People here have me paranoid about using PIC chips; I've gotten
    responses such as "don't use the PIC, use a real microcontroller", but
    I'd like to know why people have such a poor opinion of PIC's here.
    Having used them myself, and having used the Pickit1, and also having
    seen YouTube videos of some mad stuff that people have done with PIC
    chips, they seem pretty cool to me. Of course I'm not a veteran that's
    being playing around with microcontrollers for the last 20 years, but
    if there's a rational reason why I should PIC's then I'll be happy to

    Also, if I you have a microcontroller from a reputable manufacturer,
    e.g. a PIC16F684 from Microchip, and if you use it correctly (i.e. not
    drawing too much current form the IO pins, not running it at too high
    a clock speed), then should it pretty much last forever? I mean if I
    programmed one now and put it in a circuit, should it still be doing
    its job perfectly in 80 years time?

    I know I've written a lot in this post, but really I just want to be
    sure I'm using the right equipment before I go too far. Actually one
    other thing: What's the most used microcontroller in the world, i.e.
    the micrcontroller that's used in the greatest amount of products all
    over the world?
    Tomás Ó hÉilidhe, Jun 1, 2008
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  2. Tomás Ó hÉilidhe

    Rich Webb Guest

    *Most* microcontrollers have moved away from parallel, high-voltage
    programming to on-chip, in-circuit serial programming (although some
    will support both). Generally, the in-circuit programmers are fairly
    cheap. However, they also generally only work with one family of
    microcontrollers. There are general-purpose programmers that will do
    microcontrollers, EPROMs, PALs, GALs, etc. Cost a bunch; you probably
    won't need one.

    Some dev boards come with a programmer (TI's MSP430 do (or used to))
    and some dev boards can be used as programmers (the AVR STK-500, for
    example). Others, like the ARM7TDMI can (mostly) use an inexpensive
    JTAG (Wiggler and clones). Family-specific programmers are out there,
    too although some can do double duty: Atmel's AVR ISP programmer can
    do AVR chips as well as Atmel's flavour of 8051 chips (AT89S-series).
    There's bound to be some but I'd guess very few, since bringing up a
    new uC is expedited if there's known-good hardware to bang on.
    No practical difference. An eval kit may have only power and I/O
    connectors where a dev kit may include a small prototyping area. Or
    maybe the other way around ...
    Even with a socketed DIP, it's nice not to have to wrestle with it.
    And there are programming adapters for SMT devices to use with general
    purpose programmers but that means two adapters (one for the board,
    one for the programmer) and those things are bleedin' expensive.
    Figure that most/all newer chips will support (and may JUST support)
    serial in-circuit programming, via JTAG or their own, proprietary
    Certainly useful but not as much as one may imagine since, when
    halting and single-stepping, think about what happens to on-chip
    peripherals like timers and interrupts. On the other hand, a new
    microcontroller's documentation can be obscure and can have related
    "you must do this" and "you must NOT do that" sections scattered about
    more than one may wish, so halting to examine register values can be
    an aid to understanding The Fine Manual. CAN peripherals, for some
    reason, seem prone to obfuscation ...
    There is no best.
    PICs are used an awful lot by industry. When I popped the cover on the
    controller board for my HVAC system, I found a PIC. They're in lots of
    white goods.

    has some opinions on some architectures. One quote from this is on my
    bulletin-board. ;-)

    "In spite of its numerous shortcomings a PIC is a remarkably useful
    tool for certain tasks. But then, so is a sharp stick."
    Personal preferences:
    8 bits: AVR
    16 bits: MSP430
    32 bits: NXP's LPC2xxx ARM7s
    Flash memory has a limited lifetime, usually (always?) spec'd at 85C
    and typically for 10 to 30'ish years It will probably last a product's
    lifetime at 25C but that needs to be considered for really long lived
    Whatever the automotive manufacturers are using nowadays. The number
    of uC per car is going up and there are a lot of cars...
    Rich Webb, Jun 1, 2008
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  3. Tomás Ó hÉilidhe

    Chris H Guest

    In message
    Yet you lectured many very experienced people here and on C.l.c that you
    knew what you were doing writing portable code and were abusive to many.

    I hope you learned your lesson.
    Chris H, Jun 1, 2008
  4. Tomás Ó hÉilidhe

    Chris H Guest

    In message

    Chris H, Jun 1, 2008

  5. By "core", do you mean the processing of instructions? If two
    microcontrollers have the same set of assembler instructions, then are
    they said to have the same core?

    When you say Microchip, are you talking about PIC chips, e.g. the
    PIC16F684? Is the PIC really the most ubiquitious uC?

    So do Freescale make more advanced uC's that cost more?
    Tomás Ó hÉilidhe, Jun 1, 2008

  6. What influences your choice of 8-Bit, 16-Bit or 32-Bit? Is one more
    expensive than the other? I understand that if you're commonly dealing
    with 32-Bit numbers on an 8-Bit uC, that you'll be using 4
    instructions (at least) all the time instead of 1. So, before
    embarking on the project, do you have a think about what kind of
    numbers you'll be working with?

    I've only ever done one full embedded project and I didn't use
    anything larger than an 8-Bit number. However, if I were making
    something like an internet router, would I be wise to get a 32-Bit
    microcontroller because I'd be dealing with IP addresses all the time?
    Or then again, what if I can find an 8-Bit CPU that runs 6 times
    faster and is half the price... would I be better going with that?

    What other reasons are there for deciding on bitness of the core?
    Tomás Ó hÉilidhe, Jun 1, 2008

  7. But aren't the old PC's like the 286's still running perfectly? Or are
    they on the brink of failure in the next few years?

    I've got two cars at the moment, one is from 1990 and the other is
    from 1991, and they're both running well. That's an 18-year-old car
    and a 17-year-old car. Granted, one of them is a Toyota and is a much
    nicer driver than the other, but they're both still running well.
    Would it be fair to say that today's cars won't last as long because
    of all the electronics in them? Will the engine's electronic
    management unit fail before the engine does?
    Tomás Ó hÉilidhe, Jun 1, 2008
  8. Tomás Ó hÉilidhe

    Chris H Guest

    In message
    Possibly. If you can find any and more to the point any cards for them.
    They stopped making ISA cards some years ago. Also you have a problem
    with software. Not sure 286's had CD's and floppy drives have a finite
    Yes. Hard drives probably are, also floppy drives. The contacts in
    the slots will tarnish over time and RAM has a finite life too... many
    years it is true but...

    Also of course the weak point is the PUS and the electrolytic capacitors
    on the mother board
    You really have no understanding of electronics or software do you?
    No. The engine requires servicing and will wear out in *00,000 miles.
    But us serviced and as long as parts are available the engine will last
    a while... other moving parts will also wear.

    Think about the amount of maintenance and spare required for cars
    (dependant on usage and environment)

    The electronics will outlast the engine but the problem is getting
    Chris H, Jun 1, 2008
  9. Tomás Ó hÉilidhe

    Chris H Guest

    In message
    Sort of.
    As far as most programmers are concerned the 8051is a family with the
    same core as code that runs on one will run on another, even at a binary
    level... but why am I telling you this as you are the resident genius on

    In fact for the 8051 family there are over 40 cores currently in use.
    Whilst the basic instruction set and the basic core has the same API
    they are very different being 12, 6, 4, 2 and single cycle cores with
    several different memory systems. Especially the extended ones...

    There is a Lot more to it than just changing header files.

    However whilst, if you are careful a small program from one 8051 will
    run on any 8051.... but once you start using the peripherals and
    extended memory and registers you loose the portability even though you
    can use the came compiler for all variants. .
    Wow! Your lack of knowledge even on the things you have worked on is

    When some one tells you that you don't have the first idea about
    portable C you really only argued because you had so little grasp and
    understanding of the subject. I hope you realise that now.
    No. But PICs in general might be. They are very low cost small parts.
    Though about 8 years ago the 8051 family was the most ubiquitous with
    about 30% of all micros (including the x86 family as most PC's up to
    then had a couple of 8051's in them)
    Yes... The Power PC range.

    BTW what is your collage course on?
    It does not appear to be on software or electronics.
    Chris H, Jun 1, 2008
  10. Tomás Ó hÉilidhe

    Rich Webb Guest

    Essentially, matching the requirements and constraints to the
    solution. Engineering, ya know. What parts are actually available? Is
    EOL an issue, and what's the manufacturer's EOL history? What's the
    cost? The lifecycle quantity? Production quantity? Should we spin our
    own board or use somebody else's? What peripherals are needed? How
    complex is it? What tools are available? Cost? How are they supported?
    Personal project, where free is good and the GPL isn't an issue or
    commercial where it may be?

    An ATtiny15 that has 8 pins and no RAM at all, just the processor
    registers and a 3-level stack, was great for a little temperature
    monitor and fan controller.

    OTOH, an Infineon C515C (MCS51-family) was the solution for something
    else because it was living on the best-fit SBC.

    For a CAN gateway, is it better to use a couple of small 8-bitters
    with one CAN controller each and an SPI link between them, or an ARM
    with two integral CAN controllers? It depends ...
    Rich Webb, Jun 1, 2008
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