[linux-elitists] Introducing Myself

Brian Danger Hicks hick0142@umn.edu
Sun Jan 11 13:17:46 PST 2004

On Wed, Jan 07, 2004 at 11:05:08AM -0800, Ben Woodard wrote:
> You know there are a lot of hobbyists out there who still use BASIC.
> I've been running into this a lot recently as I dig into robotics. One
> of the popular approaches to getting started with robots is to use
> these
> BASIC stamp processors which you program in BASIC. e.g.
> http://www.parallax.com/html_pages/products/kits/starter_kits.asp
> One of the selling features that these companies tend to proclaim is
> "that you don't have to be a programmer" to use one of these things
> because you BASIC is so simple. Of course, being a professional
> programmer already, "having to learn to program" is not a hurdle to me
> and so when I see that something is controlled with a BASIC stamp. I
> tend to turn off. The problem is that so much of the hobby robotics
> world is controlled by these BASIC stamp processors, I feel left out.

The BASIC stamp and various clones are definately some of the most
popular hobbiest microcontrollers, but I agree with your sentiments.
Not only are they BASIC, but there doesn't seem to be any Linux software
to program the things.  There are several alternatives, though.

If you want to go simpler, which you probably don't, you can get
yourself a LEGO Mindstorms kit.  I haven't kept up to date with them,
but last I checked there were several linux projects to support them
with C and Forth variants.

But, I assume you'd rather go the other direction and get a more
powerful microcontroller.  Probably your best bet is to get microchip's
PIC (http://www.microchip.com).  They have a wide variety of models,
which unfortunately is more of a detriment since the support, even with
microchip's own hardware and software tools, varies wildly.  All PICs
are programmable with at least some form of assembly programming, and
many have C cross-compilers.  If you get the right PIC, it's not only
much cheaper than a BASIC stamp, but there's also Linux support for
programming, you might even be able to make your own programmer out of
RadioShack parts and save a bundle.

Brian Hicks               <mailto:hick0142@tc.umn.edu>
   <http://eight.dhs.org> <ham:KC0OIH> <PGP:0xADDD1F16>
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