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Ambitious LED Christmas Tree Project

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Longhair:
I put together a LED Christmas tree and right after I finished it, I thought about improving it.

The first thing that came to mind was Red/Green LEDs instead of only Red - which is currently on there. Of course there should be a non-flashing Yellow one on the very top to represent the star/angel/etc... After a while I thought that it should have more lights placed in a spiral to give it the realism of how a real tree is normally decorated. That would involve having to move the resistors, capacitors, transistors to the back of the tree and the only way to do that is SMD for everything... Instead of an ON/OFF switch, how about a low profile button on the back? Since there is a button, I could have it pressed to cycle through different lighting arrangements. That would require a chip that needs to be programmed to do what I would like it to do... Finally, since this would be a gift to family and friends, I want to keep the power simple - 9v battery that would double as a stand.

Now comes the hard part - where do I begin in learning how to do all of this?

I know I have a lot more to learn with just the basics since I do not fully understand how all the parts work together from the LED Christmas tree - posted above - as in how they knew which parts to use and what values and the formulas to find those values. Once I get that down, the next logical step would be programming - even programming at the same time while learning the basics wouldn't be a bad idea because that would give me a break from one another (alternate days or something like that). But what programming should I learn? The only thing that I know is that I should be able to be able to program and have things running on the computer before applying those things to electronics to keep from getting discouraged and giving it all up. Designing circuit boards is also something that I will need to learn. What software would have an easy learning curve and be affordable to someone running Windows?

Any advice would be helpful. Thanks in advance  :)

FreeThinker:
Google!
Look for multivibrator, free running oscillator or try here http://www.hobbyprojects.com/multivibrators.html. hope it helps  ;D

FreeThinker:
For your second part of the question probably the cheapest and easiest option wound be to get a pic 2 dev kit for microchip.This will allow you to flash an LED on board and allow you to develop your software.Then just program your chip and build your board.You have plenty of time til next Christmas

Longhair:
I refer to google pretty much every time that I need to have a question answered if I cannot find the answer using my own resources (books, bookmarks, etc.). The biggest problem I have when it comes to using google is finding using the correct terminology - something that I am still lacking. With so much information out there and no real formal training, it is hard to know if I am on the right track or not.

I googled "pic 2 dev kit for microchip" and the PICDEM Lab Development Kit seems to be the most complete package ideal for my needs.

Thank you for both the link to HobbyProjects.com and what I should be looking for in a PICkit2.

Psi:
individualy addressable RGB leds

only way to go

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