Getting started with AVR - newbie question


I've picked up my soldering iron again after 30 years in software. I've been at it for six months, and I'm at a point where I want to start working with a microcontroller. After doing some research (rhymes with "boogle"), here's what I came up with as far as requirements:

  • Inexpensive (both the chip itself and the development hardware/ software. E.g., I don't want to buy compiler and have to pay to upgrade every time a new chip comes out).

  • Programmable in C (vs. BASIC or some custom language). Ability to write bare assembly a plus.

  • USB/Flash programming interface (serial and parallel ports are getting scarce on PCs these days), and I don't particularly want to by an EPROM burner...

  • Decent memory (both program and data) - I want room to write however complex code I need without having to count bytes. 32K (program) seems like a comfortable minimum. I could probably get by with less RAM.

  • Decent speed - Less critical since I'm not writing in interpreted BASIC, but still nice not to have to count instruction cycles during an interrupt service routine when coordinating umpteen sensors and motors.

OK, so I've looked into PIC, BASIC Stamp, AVR, and a few others. I'm leaning toward the AVR (the ARM sounded promising, but I can't find much on it...).

Any comments about my conclusions so far?

I'd appreciate any advice about a good AVR kit or bundle that includes Chip, Compiler, Programming software, ISP hardware, etc.

Thanks very much in advance.


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