[time-nuts] Good (cheap) PIC chip choice for project?

Dan Kemppainen dan at irtelemetrics.com
Tue May 28 09:16:48 EDT 2013

I can recommend the Pic24/dspic33 series chips. I spent a bunch of time
looking at different options, and ended up with the pic family. There
are a lot of really nice micros out there now. Not like years ago.

The Pic's aren't the fastest chips out there, they aren't the newest
chips out there, they aren't the best chips out there. What they are is
a great compromise, with lots of options available. The learning curve
is  a bit steep, but documentation is there on their site. (It will take
a while to navigate that alone). They also have lots of examples.

The reason I ended up with the PIC, was the probability of long term
support. They still sell pics that are decades old. In 10 years, there
will still probably be pics available, or at least an upgrade path
option that isn't terribly painful. Since I don't do a lot of micro
based projects, this was important to me. I didn't want a canned "PC on
a board" type thing, as some of my projects go into small productions
scales and the cost would be prohibitive.

After I started to play with them, I started to really like the
hardware. I ended up going with C, although I would have initially
preferred ASM. (C in these is still bloated and much slower than ASM, if
you look at some of the ASM listings from C you will really begin to
wonder...) The interrupt controller is very powerful, which is nice. The
hardware peripherals are nice, but they are usually spread around the
chip, which can be a pain. I really really like the high speed PWM,
1.04nS resolution is nice for digital power!!!

The thing I hate about them, is the port/pin mapping. They never seem to
map a whole 8 or 16 bit port out to pins that is easy to get to. There
always seems to be a missing pin here or there, which is really
annoying! If you want to do anything on a word or byte wide bus, it will
be a pain.

The new X-IDE with an ICD-3 is a nice way to go, albeit a bit expensive.
A good starting point is "Programming 16-Bit Microcontrollers in C,
Learning to fly the Pic 24)" second edition by Di Jasio). It'll get you
on your feet quick.

Hope this helps. Feel free to contact me for more info.


On 5/25/2013 12:00 PM, time-nuts-request at febo.com wrote:
> I've decided I finally want to tackle learning how to use a PIC chip for some smaller projects. Can someone recommend me a good (and
> cheap) PIC, and possible some literature (be it a book or website)? I have a fairly recent willem eprom programmer that I'm hoping I
> can use.
> I don't know what all the features PICs have, but for my first project I would like to have it connected to a serial port on one of
> my Soekris' where it can grab info (i.e. the current time, or NTP/GPS info) and output that on a little LED display.

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