Let's Make Robots!

Terminology / acronyms / definitions

So reading around the site today, to get inspiration and to set a personal goal that I want to be at, I stumbled into more acronyms than the military throws around in a year.  So if anyone could direct me to a good repository of acronyms, or even a "Get Aquainted With the Terminology" site of some sort so I can understand the details, that would be awesome-o-tastic.

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Wikipedia is your friend.  There are a lot of good sources out there that explain the terminology and technology in great detail but alas robotics covers a wide variety of electronics and programming fields and you will be hard pressed to find just one with everything you need.  However, I've been playing with electronics and programming for years (long before places like LMR) so someone newer to the hobby might have come across a good "Get Aquainted With the Terminology" site in a more recent initial search.  If you clearly defined your goals we might be able to point you to a few useful sites.  Also check the Forums. a lot of good questions are answered there.
Well, I have a very generic background in electronics (read: What I remember from high school which ended 5 years ago for me) so I know a bit of the basics. But I have seen a large number of terms around here that I don't get, the only one I can think of off the top of my sleep deprived brain is PIC, though.
Some tla's are hard to google. PIC stands for Picaxe. That should help you engine your search.
uhm that's not really true.. pic and picaxe are two different family of chip.. someone better than me could probably elaborate :)
what he said!
ah? PIC stands for Programmable Integrated Circuit. I think...
Microchip Technology does not use PIC as an acronym[citation needed]; in fact the brand name is PICmicro. It is generally regarded that PIC stands for Peripheral Interface Controller, although General Instruments' original acronym for the initial PIC1640 and PIC1650 devices was "Programmable Interface Controller".[2] The acronym was quickly replaced with "Programmable Intelligent Computer".[3]

Here's my understanding of the differences between all the popular microcontroller options available. There's not always clear documentation available, so I might be wrong on a few details, and people should feel free to correct me if so.

PIC is a line of microcontrollers by the Microchip company (you know a company has been around for a while when their name is now the generic name for something. Kind of like coming across a company called 'Car' or 'Computer'). PICs, like other microcontrollers like AVRs etc, are simply hardware with no software -- you write the software that runs on them, in assembly or C, and a program on your computer compiles your come into raw machine code which is what gets stored and executed on the chip. It usually requires programming hardware to manipulate the voltages on the chip's pins to get the code into the chip's memory.

PICaxe is a product based on PIC microcontrollers, which adds a layer of firmware which runs on the hardware. You write code in a simpler language, PICBASIC, which gets stored on the chip, and then the PICaxe firmware running on the chip interprets your code. It's easier to use, and to program (the firmware lets you communicate with the chip using a serial cable, so you don't need special hardware to upload programs), but it runs slower, since there's two levels of abstraction -- the firmware first has to interpret each line of your code, figure out how to translate that into native PIC code, and then run that translated code. There's also less variable space available, since the firmware needs some to do its work.

Basic Stamp is another similar product also based on PIC microcontrollers, and it works in a similar way. It also has its own BASIC-based language, PBASIC, and firmware which runs on the chip and interprets your code.

Another major microcontroller company is AVR. They have a line of chips called ATmega -- those are equivalent to the bare PICs above. They're just hardware, and you write software to run directly on the hardware. You need a hardware programmer to be able to upload code to the chip.

There are also development boards available based on the AVR chips -- the Arduino is probably the best-known nowadais. Just like PICaxe and Basic Stamp, the Arduino consists of a layer of firmware that runs on the ATmega168 chip, except that the code you write isn't interpreted in realtime. It's compiled on the computer just like with a PIC or an AVR, and the firmware on the chip (really just a bootloader) only helps to get your program onto the chip without requiring all the programming hardware. After that, your code runs directly on the chip, so it runs at full speed and with access to all of the chip's memory. That's one reason why Arduinos run faster and have more variable space, but the programming is more complicated than PICaxe or Basic Stamp.


great summary cowgod :)

Chainer makes a valid point though. Without a little more system, we could be helping our LMR friends finding those hard to google words for all eternity. We are smarter than that!

Let's find a good place on letsmakerobots.com to compile a list of words like this. A Glossary. No need to explain every word in full detail. Just give a hint or two where to go or what to look for on the site or the rest of the web. I would use that!