It all depends on your knowledge, both software and hardware. Do you
have a lot of experience with electronics in general, and digital
electronics in particular, or are you really just getting started?
The Pictstart Plus is a good system, but to put the chips to use after
you program them you will need to build something. Are you up to that?
If you'be built PC boards before, hopefully with some digital logic,
then go for it. If you're really a beginner, I would suggest starting
with something like the Basic Stamp from Parallax. They have a few
options, like a basic stamp, programming software and a solderless
breadboard and a handful of parts to get you started, prices are
reasonable and some come with introductory manuals that will jump-start you.
If you just want to start playing with them a little, seeing what they can
do, etc, and don't have your employer/university/whatever paying for your
gear, I'd recommend this:
The PIC Kit 2 Debug Express let's you work with their introductory range
of microcontrollers, and it's 1/4 of the price. It's also nice to have it
running via USB. It is also capable of powering the included demo board
entirely via the USB connection. The downside is that it does not support
their full range of products, but it is good value for your money. Best of
I got my degree in electrical engineering in 1990.
I never did any design...actually I never did any electrical
I'm good in BASIC, and I'm working on my soldering skills.
I want to introduce my kids to electronics, so I want to start from
the very basics.
I like making gadgets for Halloween, and I'd like to use
microcontrollers for things like this:
I just got the Parallax "What's a Microcontroller" kit.
It's great! It uses BASIC, so I don't need a separate compiler.
So it's working out well as an intro, but I eventually want to be able
to flash a PIC and use it in a standalone circuit/project.
I was reading about MPLab, and how PICBASIC can now be used with it.
Is that a good way to go if I don't want to learn C (or re-learn
In addition to the good suggestions made so far, if you're planning on
building projects, invest in a cheapy little solderless breadboard /
protoboard. It helps if it has a built-in power supply but if not, you can
get a wall wart with a regulated +5VDC output and run the system from that.
You can get small protoboards from DigiKey or Jameco or the like. Then you
just get the chips (from DigiKey or Jameco or the like) and plug everything
together with jumper wires. It's a great way to test your circuit concept
without having to go to printed circuit board (yet). It's a lot easier to
make quick modifications, also. Of course, this assumes you have a way to
program the PIC, too (like the starter kits mentioned, etc.).
This also gives you the ability to assign your input/output pins wherever
you want them instead of the way they're layed out on the prepackaged
development boards. You can also experiment with running short-range RF
transmitter/receiver pairs, light sensors, LED outputs, etc., etc., etc.
I have been programming PICs in Basic for a while now.
I find that for the price MikroBasic
is the most
flexible Basic compiler I have found on the market.
It has great customer support (via forums), constant updates, and you can't
beat the price.
I will also agree that the PicKit2 is the perfect tool for a someone that is
just getting started.