it is basically their Cubloc 280 with the relay board and set screw terminals attached.
When I get it, I would like to, first, just play with it a little bit, write some hello world types of applications, etc. Do you know of any websites that discuss how would discuss how one gets started with microcontrollers. I am a computer programmer, so programming as such is not a problem, but controlling a microcontroller seems to be a different paradign from just writing "apps".
I am not too worried that I have to use BASIC. How do people write these things in general? Do they have a main loop and a state machine?
What about timings, looks like this C280 does not have a built in timer. And yet sometimes I need to do things for a certain time (such as open gas valve before starting TIG welding), but they can be interrupted, by, say, releasing foot pedal.
Am I stuck with having to use a counter sensor and external oscillator?
It's an odd beastie. I never heard of ladder logic before, but seems to be a combinational logic on inputs that happens in realtime. Equivalent to stringing a bunch of switches in series/parallel strings.
On its basic-language side it has OnTimer() which lets you set an interrupt period down to 20 mS. I would think this should be enough for your interval issues.
You need to download their development environment to program the thing.
Doesn't seem like it has much memory, but hopefully enough for your welder needs. Has built-in AD and DA and PWM so that's helpful.
I probably would have done it with a PIC or something, but I've done that before so I know where to start.
The usual language is C or C++. Some use an OS, some don't. I usually don't use an OS and have a loop in the main function which calls a main routine for all modules. This keeps functionality seperated yet has very little overhead.
On the other hand, there are also PLCs which are industrial machine controllers. These have very limited functionality (throwing switches based on a combination of input states and / or time), but they may be more appropriate for what you want to build.
The manual should answer all these questions.
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A general approach to bringing up a new processor is the embedded equivalent of "Hello, world!" of simply making one specified output pin toggle at an intended rate. If available, having a one of the chip's timer/counters do the timing along with an interrupt service routine is recommended.
Simple as this exercise is, it requires getting a working toolchain setup and running, an understanding of the architecture and its coding, correctly getting the working code onto the chip, and feeding the chip the clocks, resets, and voltages that it wants.
I agree, I think that the main thing is to get started, the rest should be just programming. There is no big realtime issue here as well, if I can do the right things without 1/20 of a second, I will be fine.