GETTING STARTED WITH PICs
in CGRAM locations 0– 7. From these new characters, you
can create the animation. Since the custom characters load
in CGRAM quikly, the person watching the display just
notices a frame change from words to large digits to
animation. I’ve seen custom characters that had the old
Pacman character eating dots across the screen.
By no means am I declaring that I invented this custom-character method. In fact, there are numerous sites on the
Internet that refer to creating custom characters on an LCD.
Scott Edwards (
even incorporates this type of
large-character generation into his
PIC MCU-driven serial LCD modules.
If you are really creative, you can
probably create a whole animated
cartoon on the LCD by constantly
changing the custom characters. It will
potentially take a lot of memory, but
most graphic programs do.
I once again used the BasicATOM
chip, because of the simplicity of the
software and the low cost for any
reader that wants to follow along by
doing the projects. I have received
many emails from readers asking me
to pick a platform and stick with it.
Because Basic Micro (creator of the
BasicATOM) also has a Basic compiler
— which is called the MBasic
Professional compiler — this platform
offers the reader the option to start
cheap with the BasicATOM software
via a free download and a $20
BasicATOM chip (which should be
cheaper by the time you read this).
Eventually, most people will move to
programming blank PIC MCUs, to
save money on larger-volume projects.
Here’s a tip for readers: There
is a book available in the Nuts & Volts
Hobbyist Store (
called Programming the PIC
Microcontroller in MBasic by Jack
Smith (this has a similar title and exactly the same publisher as my PICBASIC
compiler book). Jack does a great job
of detailing how to use the PIC16F877A MCU with MBasic
Pro. Best of all, his book’s CD includes a free version of the
MBasic Pro compiler, which is limited to working with the
PIC16F876(A). This offers you the option to take a 28-pin
BasicATOM chip design and move it pretty easily to a
PIC16F876A — all for the cost of a book and a programmer
(to load the .hex file into the PIC16F876A). Check it out.
Feel free to email me with your comments at
email@example.com, and thanks for all of the feedback I
continue to get. I do like reading the feedback and try to
respond to all of the emails as quickly as possible. See you
next month. NV
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September 2007 17