Let's Make Robots!

microcontrollers and programming

ok i would like to have a go at using a microcontroller and programming it and so on

im in the uk what is a good cheap one ?

or a basic cheap one? i dont have much money soo any links would be very nicee thank you or any ideas what i should do

oh and software and shiz

 i havnt had any programming experiences

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Solarbotics Ardweeny is the way to go. Dirt cheap, learn to solder (take it easy on the actual processor chip!), full arduino interface. That is if you don't have the money for a true Italian made Arduino.

If cost is an issue (when isn't it?), the cheapest way to go is a arduino clone from hong kong on ebay.

Noob to leet in a couple of easy steps

1. picaxe - simple and easy to grow with. Feature rich but somewhat limited with the earlier chips. X2 series are the way to go if you want advanced features that are comparable to the arduino but still using the basic programming language.

2. Basic Stamp 2 - expensive but a rather nice feature set. unfortunately they lack built in adc and interupts...

3. Arduino - The intro to C programming though not quite. Easy to use but not efficient in terms of it's programming langauge.Good starter if you plan to go to AVR or PIC procs.

4.PIC/AVR - Advanced version of Arduino. Does what you want it to do if you know how to program. Options for C/assembler/other languages. Great for the advanced user who has programmed in C before

5. XMOS - not a cheap on to start off in, though you might be able to get a dev kit from them if you have a project that they like. C/C++/XC. Similar to the pic/avr with the slightly more advanced multi core proc. Also lacks a built in uart and adc but can easily add this funcitonality with some other hardware.

5.5 Launchpad - not much is known at the moment.

6. Prop - OOP multi core proc. When you want to take a step in the multi core direction this is the way to go...possible jump from Arduino instead of goign the avr/pic route.

7 ARM/Cortex/other - advanced and not useful unless you have some previous proc expirience....

Great summary, voodoobot. I would say regarding point 5 (TI LaunchPad) that this is definitely not for a beginner. The development environment is confusing (at least to me), and TI is only just starting to build a community following, so help will be limited.

I do agree with most of your points but I disagree with the conclusion in point 7
7 ARM/Cortex/other - advanced and not useful unless you have some previous proc experience....”

Having some experience with FEZ Domino and .NET micro framework I feel that writing code in C# is just as easy as writing it in C++. If we compare Visual Studio to Arduino IDE, Visual Studio wins by a mile with its built in intellisense which gives you all available methods and properties. At best the Arduino IDE gives you a highlighted keyword.
But what sets the .NET systems apart from all the rest is the onchip debugger where you can step through code and examine values, -on Arduino you have to rely on the serial.print(); to do some sort of debugging.

But, back to the subject.
If you are just starting up, I would go for the PICAXE and start there. When you grow out of it I would go for a .NET based solution.

Good point Geir. What I was considering was more of the feature set that these procs have. With someone new into processors, having 100 dio /10 uarts/ spi/i2c/ 80 interupts, CANbus,USB interface and such, I would imagine that could be a bit overwhelming to consider using when getting into the hobby.  I used visual studio and totally agree that when you compare the arduino ide vs the VS ide, it's miles apart...but thats also the part that makes the Arduino simpler to get into.

Other things I considered was also the support though didn't mention it in the post. The arduino has quite a bit of forums that you can run to for help and it being a popular chip, you will have a larger userbase to query.

Going further on this, it might be a good idea to set up a post that goes through the +/- aspect of each  processor/dev environment. I think we have had several people that have done something like this but no full post.

Just one comment on the .NET support compared to the massive Arduino community.
I agree on the hardware and low level interfaces are currently much better documented in the Arduino community. That said, most of the C++ code can be ported to .NET and work there as long as it’s rebuilt to managed code (no pointers or memory manipulation).

When it comes to support on the C# language the support is massive and you can find lots of information on the web that applies to .NET micro framework as well.

For the rest, I totally agree with you.

I'm glad you're here to give the great input on this subject.... :)

Thank you :-)

But do we really need to let the stupid monkey coders at MS into the Micro world?

Case and point the office 12 Interop, dont know if any of you have had the missfortune of needing to use this thing. But a blind cat could have done a better job then MS did. :)


Just my 2 cents