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

Chris Albertson albertson.chris at gmail.com
Sun May 26 13:19:02 EDT 2013

A fan controller (8-pin DIP package) is simple enough to build on perf
board.  But mostly I agree that it is best to buy these on PCBs.  You can
use them right out of the box.   I do have an Arduino and it's advantage is
that you can build very fast.   I had a device that measured the resistance
across a pot and displayed the value on a 2x16 LCD working about 40 minutes
after I got the Arduino un-boxed.  It is easy and fast.   But they cost a
few $$

A cheaper alternative I think I like is TI's "launchpads"  They come on
little credit card sized PCBs and the concept of very much the same as
Arduino.  TI sells several.  One is a $13 ARM Cortex M4.  It is a complete
development system.  The other is a MSP430 version for $10.  But with the
MSP versionyou can remove the uP after it is programmer if you like, or
leave it on the board.   These prices include shipping.  $13 is good pice
for an ARM on a breakout board.

They also sell an assortment of  "booster boards" that plug in and provide
all kinds of interfaces, pretty much the same concept as Arduino "shields"

More info here:

On Sun, May 26, 2013 at 9:18 AM, Jim Lux <jimlux at earthlink.net> wrote:
> On 5/26/13 9:00 AM, Chris Albertson wrote:
>>> But for many applications, the inevitable overhead
>>> (power, heat, external components, OS, etc) simply
>>> eliminates the gain of having a better/faster CPU.
>>> Sometimes I end up using a 6 or 8 pin PIC with only
>>> a few lines of code to to solve complex problems where
>>> a (F)PGA/CPLD design would be a lot of work and a
>>> 16/32bit microcontroller simply overkill.
>> As it turns out there are a LOT more simple jobs than there are
>> complex jobs.  This is why they make and sel a lot motr 8-t
>> controllers than they sell 32-bit controllers.
>> For example I want to control the cooling fan for a rubidium
>> oscillator's heat sink.   I only need three pins, 1) the temperature
>> sensor, 2) Fan tachometer pulse, fan voltage.  A $1 "tiny AVR" 8-pin
>> chip can handle this just fine and we are talking about 20 lines of
>> code maybe after the pins are set up.  Using an ARM and running an OS
>> would be silly overkill.
> The other thing is packaging and peripherals..not to mention development
> time.  It might be more "cost effective" (where cost is some complex
> conglomeration of your time and money) to always use the same part, even
> overkill.
> Some people are happy to layout a new PCB, get it fabbed (or make it
> themselves) or deadbug it.  Others might want a board with terminal
> Or you might want something that you have a box for or maybe you like
> mounting it inside.
> I think everyone has their favorites, and most folks tend to have
> few candidates at any given time (it's difficult to switch among various
> processors on a day to day basis).  Right now, I tend to use Matlab on PCs
> for big things, with some python.  For smaller needs, I've been using lots
> of Arduino Uno R3s and Teensy3s, because of the packaging.  Both using the
> Arduino semi-C tool chain and also the non-arduino compilers.  (having a
> boot loader, etc, does make life easier).
> I've used PICs and Rabbits in the not too recent past, but the Rabbits
> have as nice a development environment, and there's no equivalent of the
> Arduino, nor the plethora of cheap interfaces to things like relays and
> not.
> I haven't looked much at whether a low cost PIC on a board with
> is available. They've always been a "build a circuit" either with
> deadbug, or small PCB, and that makes it take a few more hours or days.
> For the "I want to finish the project this weekend starting Saturday
> afternoon", the whole arduino world is pretty convenient, at least as far
> getting the hardware put together and a first load of software running.
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Chris Albertson
Redondo Beach, California

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