Hi, I'm looking at buying a microcontroller and programmer for testing and learning with. I was wondering if anyone could suggest one that is a good balance of versatility and affordability. Thank you. Colin
You get PIC microcontrollers starting at $3, and programmers for under $30, oder less if you solder them yourself. PICs are extremely bare bones in programming, but you get the developer software and tons of documentation off the Microchip wensite for free.
Atmels are easier to write software for (no paging, etc.), but the documentation is said to be not as good.
Everything 'bigger' gets a lot more expensive for programmers, developer environments, etc. .
And in the end, all of them are very capable of outputting a digital signal on their pins ;-). (well, and analog input and output generally as well)
Not quite so. You can use ARM-based uCs which are 32-bit, quite powerful and well documented. Programming is usually supported via JTAG (the interface can be easily built or bought for a few bucks), and the development tools are free (GCC for ARM is pretty fine).
The LPC2106, for instance, costs about $20 a piece (ok, that's more expensive than most PICs or AVRs), has plenty of flash rom and ram and can run up to 60 MHz. Really something to think about. Of course, you'll need a real PCB (since they are not available as DIP packages)...
Oh, yeah, Pic, Atmel, a lot for under $5 a pop. Most of them programmable via JTAG, low voltage, etc. . Availability of DIP Ppackages is a big advantage if you want to stay bread boarding for a while or can't solder. TI's and ARM are also fine. But for the first few steps, I beleive that Pic and Atmel are even cheaper and have tons of sample code on the 'net.
And gcc supports Atmel as well. Pic support is close to completion, so you can finally write a C++ program for 1024 words of paged memory :-P
Yup. I think that's a relatively recent development; until a few years ago I didn't know of any uC-like ARMs (they were mostly designed for more microcomputer-like systems, requiring a lot more external support circuitry than a typical microcontroller).
For the OP, I'd recommend either the PIC or the AVR, simply because they're popular and there's a large community of other users on the net.
Wim Lewis , Seattle, WA, USA. PGP keyID 27F772C1