[time-nuts] Follow-up question re: microcontroller families

Charles P. Steinmetz charles_steinmetz at lavabit.com
Sat May 25 16:09:11 EDT 2013

On another thread, Bob wrote:

>If the objective is to complete a very simple, low powered project 
>and be done with it, go with the Arduino. If the objective is to 
>learn an empire, be very careful about which empire you pick. The 
>ARM boys are quickly gobbling up a lot of territory that once was 
>populated by a number of competing CPU's. Learning this stuff, and 
>getting good at it is a significant investment of time.

I'm starting a new thread because I don't want to hijack the first 
one, which I'm hoping will continue to provide useful information 
about the broad continuum of available devices, from the "easy enough 
for a child to assemble and program" to the "need to learn machine language."

My question here is more pointed: If one is going to learn a new 
system today for timing and other measurement/control projects, which 
"empire" is likely the best one to choose?

Of course, much depends on "what do you want to do with it?"  So, 
perhaps, the ultimate answer will be several families, each for a 
class of applications.  But on the other hand, some families may have 
a range of models that fulfill a wide range of applications.  Also, 
my personal approach does not require squeezing each project into the 
most minimal hardware possible -- as long as the added expense isn't 
huge, I'm fine with using more resources than necessary for smaller 
tasks if it means my investment in learning the system (and in 
programming tools) is leveraged more broadly.  Also, my personal 
needs generally do not run to battery or other low-power systems, so 
low power drain is not of great importance to me.

Some of the more systemic (less application-oriented) factors would 
be, which system is more versatile?  Which has the most useful PC 
cards (or development kits) available that do not require the user to 
start with a bare chip?  Which is likely to be around and supported 
longer?  Which is easier to program?  For which is one likely to find 
more programs to study and pirate, more libraries, etc.?  Which is 
easier to outfit with removable memory (USB drives, memory cards, 
etc.)?  Which has better and faster ADCs and DACs?  I'm sure there 
are lots of other factors worth considering, as well.

There may be good resources already available that address these 
issues.  If so, pointers would be appreciated.

Any books people recommend to get a feel for applying and programming 
these devices?

Much appreciated,


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