Electronics > Microcontrollers

A first microcontroller, and an introduction!

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Hi everyone,

My name's Sparky, and I'd like to say hi to everyone with my first post.


I've just turned 17, and have been busy with electronics for about three years now. It has become a real passion of mine, and I enjoy learning about as much of it as I can. So far, I've read through The Art of Electronics as well as several other books on electricity and magnetism and it's been great fun.

I believe I'm at the stage where I'm quite good with discrete analogue electronics, but I'm intrigued by microcontrollers and computers.

I've already spent quite a bit on several dev boards from Velleman, Freescale, etc, but none of them have worked (wrong OS, broken board, etc) and being fairly young, I'm gutted that I've wasted so much money. :(

So, could you guys help me out and suggest a dev board which will work with a windows 7, 64 bit computer?

I'm really interested in assembly, and I know that there are folks who don't like it, but I'm interested at how these ICs work at a fundamental level, so I'd much prefer assembly over C, or higher level languages. I appreciate there'll be a steep learning curve, but I'm okay with that - so long as the silly board will work with my computer! :)

Many thanks guys - as for cost, I'm not too bothered. I just don't want to waste any more money. :(

Thanks again,


Hi Sparky,

As you've already spent a fair bit of money, maybe you should try to get one of the boards you already have working. If you post on here the problems you are getting, someone might be able to help out - and it won't cost you anything!

Failing that, there are several evaluation boards you can get for around the $10 mark so you don't have to spend a fortune.

Which country do you live in? That can make a difference in how easy it is to get cheap boards.

Thanks for the reply deephaven!

Well, I've spent some time trying to find out what was wrong with my Velleman board, but I can't find anything on the correct board - other than the power LED doesn't light. I've scratched through the solder mask in places to test the copper around the power supply, but I can't find any problems!

Velleman themselves have been useless, and so I don't really want anything more to do with them at the moment.

The next board I'm using is a Freescale DEMO9S08QG8, but the correct version of codewarrior (6.3) doesn't work on 64 bit operating systems. When I tried using it on my older laptop, it wouldn't connect properly - it turns out it doesn't have any port drivers, which is really strange. I've tried installing some, but nothing works. It doesn't work with USB either.

I'm in the UK, if that helps. More specifically in Cambridgeshire.

I've been more impressed by Freescale's support, so I would still be open to suggestions.

Many thanks,


Hi, if you would like some really cheap and high performance boards you can pick one from ST (USD)
STM32F0DISCOVERY  - ( Cortex M0 ) 7.99 Cheapest of them all, comes with a "proto board"
STM32VLDISCOVERY - STM32F100 ( Cortex M3 ) 9.90
STM32L-DISCOVERY with LCD and a Capacitive sensor - STM32L100 ( Low power Cortex M3 ) 10.5
STM32F4DISCOVERY -  ( Cortex M4 )  14.99 < This one is the best of all boards, 210DMIPS 168MHz with a DSP built in (1MB Flash and 196KB RAM)

Dave beat me to it, I was going to suggest those myself! They really represent very good value for money. Farnell.com has them in stock, just got to their website and do a search on any of Dave's suggestions.

There is a choice of software that you can use to program them. I've only tried the Atollic, but it works well and is free. You do need to find you way around the IDE to make all the demo programs compile. Also they do tend to be C centric more than assembler.

If you wanted to start with something less powerful and work with assembler, then maybe a PIC16 or PIC18 might be better for you.


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