THE LATEST IN PROGRAMMING MICROCONTROLLERS
GETTING STARTED WITH
■ BY CHUCK HELLEBUYCK
I often receive great article suggestions and sometimes I receive pre-released
products for review. I recently received a development setup that I found
quite interesting, as it’s targeted at my favorite audience—the beginner
market. It is called the CHIPAXE system (see Figure 1) and it is designed to
be an open source-style development tool initially based on the PICBASIC
PRO™ compiler from microEngineering Labs. However, it can also be used
with Assembly or C programming languages. Because the system is open
source, you don’t need to purchase a pre-programmed chip. It comes
with a blank, eight-pin PIC12F683 eight-bit microcontroller from Microchip
Technology. You can purchase this part just about anywhere, including from
many of the advertisers in this magazine.
The board is not dependent upon a custom bootloader, as some open source systems require. The package
relies on an interesting programmer/cable which is actually
a clone of the Microchip PICkit™ 2 programmer; however,
this isn’t the only option. The board can also be used with
an actual PICkit 2 or the latest PICkit 3 programmer, if you
prefer. I’ll update you on those programmers a little later.
A breadboard version of the CHIPAXE development board
is also available, and it gave me a great setup to revisit
how to program an eight-pin microcontroller. Many
beginners find it more comfortable to start with a
smaller-sized and less intimidating microcontroller.
The CHIPAXE system uses In-Circuit Serial
Programming™ technology to program the chip and the
board is powered from the programmer connection, so
you don’t need an external power connection. Figure 2
shows the breadboard module wired up to LEDs. I wanted
to create a few simple projects for anyone just starting out
with the PIC12F683. I initially created a traffic light project
using the CHIPAXE board and the sample version of
PICBASIC PRO. This is a great project to show a kid since
a traffic light is something they immediately understand
and it may get them interested in what you can do with a
microcontroller. I will show you the traffic light project and
then a few other sample projects for this small eight-pin chip.
■ FIGURE 1. CHIPAXE Starter Package.
■ FIGURE 2. Final LED
Traffic Light Project.
LED TRAFFIC LIGHT
This project reproduces a traffic light with red,
yellow, and green LEDs. The timing of each LED is
separately controlled which allows you to control how
long each color is lit. The project also shows how to
control multiple LEDs from one microcontroller. The
completed project is shown in Figure 2.
This breadboard is available from All Electronics
( www.allelectronics.com). It has letters designating columns
and numbers indicating rows. This helps me in explaining
the connections for those just getting started with building
electronics. The connection table for this project is
shown next and the schematic is shown in Figure 3.