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Getting Started with PIC Microcontrollers


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Title: Getting Started with PIC Microcontrollers

Getting Started with PIC Microcontrollers
  • Kelly Flowers NN8E
  • April 18th, 2011

My Background
  • Licensed in 1979
  • Education BSEE 1981
  • Licensed Professional Engineer (Ohio)
  • Former NOARS member (80s and 90s)
  • Worked for Allen-Bradley/Rockwell for 25yrs
  • Worked with computers and microprocessors since
  • Began working with PICs in late 90s

What am I going to cover tonight?
  • PIC background, purpose, value proposition
  • PIC architecture (whats it look like inside one)
  • How can you use one?
  • PIC system overview(dev s/w, programmer, target
    or protoboard)
  • Programming language choices(Assy, Basic, C)
  • Simple examples / hands on
  • Recommended resources

Just want to whet your appetite tonight!
The 411 on PICs
  • Peripheral Interface Controllers came along in
    the 90s from Microchip
  • Small pin count microcontrollers intended to be
    smart and fast I/O front ends for more
    traditional microprocessors
  • Not intended to have big number-crunching ability
  • Hundreds of PICs and dsPICs

Why are they so popular?
  • Cost!
  • Per piece cost is low, typically under 5
  • Software development environment needed to
    program the devices is FREE (MPLAB IDE)
  • Programmers are low cost
  • Learning curve is fast(low of instructions)
  • Proliferation of hardware, software, books
  • Backward compatibility
  • Higher level language compilers(Basic, C)
  • Canned serial comms (RS232, SPI, I2C)
  • Flash memory based, quickly re-programmable
  • Minimal support parts needed

The simplest of PICs
This even has analog input capability!!!
(No Transcript)
General PIC project overview
INPUTS Digital Analog
SERIAL DEVICES (displays, EEPROM, RTC, smart
What do you need to get started?
  • PC to load development software(MPLAB) on to
  • Programmer which connects between PC and your PIC
  • Target or protoboard or your actual project board
    to test your program!

The simplest of PIC projects
Even the 12F675 supports ICSP!
What is MPLAB IDE?
  • This is the program you download to your PC to
    get started with writing your first program
  • Integrated Development Environment
  • Free integrated software tool set for developing
    and troubleshooting programs for embedded
    applications using PICs
  • Easily integrates with 3rd party software such as
    high level language compilers
  • Really high quality, professional grade software
  • The bad news is Microchip upgrades it a lot and
    every few generations changes the look and feel!

Programming Language Choices
  • Assembly language is the lowest level
  • No extra cost to use
  • Fastest
  • Manipulating things at the bit level
  • Not easy to do higher level tasks like serial
    comm and math

35 Assembly instructions (mid-range)
Two Higher Level Choices
  • Micro Engineering Labs
  • C
  • Multiple vendors (I use CCS)
  • Free light versions
  • Popular with scientists and engineers
  • High level languages are used to simplify more
    complicated tasks like math and serial
  • Microchip made using these with MPLAB a breeze!
  • Typically execute more slowly than Assembly
    programs doing the same thing, but this is not
    usually a problem
  • The full versions cost 100 to 300

Youre gonna need a Programmer
Putting it all together
  • Picture your final project(I like to do the
    hardware design first)
  • Download MPLAB or install it off supplied disc
  • Connect programmer with blank PIC installed
  • Launch MPLAB and set up for proper PIC and the
    type of programmer you are using
  • Write your program(or use an example) and build
    till you have no errors! (the hard part)
  • Try it out! Do this as many times as needed
    since you can keep erasing and reprogramming in

I recommend the PICkit 2 ARRL Book
Project Thoughts.
  • Keyer
  • Test equipment
  • Freq counter
  • Signal gen (DC to Daylight with DDS board!!!)
  • SWR / power meter
  • Repeater control
  • Automatic control of anything!
  • Hobby servo control
  • Any timing and/or counting applications
  • Holiday lights
  • Home automation

  • Microchip website
  • MPLAB, PICkit 23, ICD 23, datasheets, app notes
  • ARRL PIC Programming for Beginners
  • Hellebuyck Beginners Guide to Embedded C
  • Square 1 website(
  • Wilmshurst Designing Embedded Systems with PIC
  • Nuts and Volts magazine
  • Programmers, proto boards, parts
  • Tutorials, projects
  • Excellent cheap proto boards(available at
  • PIC-EL II proto board, docs
  •,,, PICs and parts
  • GOOGLE!!! EBAY!!!