STM8S-Discovery: Microcontrollers reach a new low

A complete microcontroller development kit for little more than the cost of a bare chip? That’s what STMicroelectronics is promising with their STM8S-Discoveryseven dollars gets you not only a board-mounted 8-bit microcontroller with an decent range of GPIO pins and functions, but the USB programmer/debugger as well.

The STM8S microcontroller is in a similar class as the ATmega328 chip on latest-generation Arduinos: an 8-bit 16 MHz core, 32K flash and 2K RAM, UART, SPI, I2C, 10-bit analog-to-digital inputs, timers and interrupts and all the usual goodness. The Discovery board features a small prototyping area and throws in a touch-sense button for fun as well. The ST-LINK USB programmer/debugger comes attached, but it’s easy to crack one off and use this for future STMicro-compatible projects; clearly a plan of giving away the razor and selling the blades.

The development tools are for Windows only, and novice programmers won’t get the same touchy-feely community of support that surrounds Arduino. But for cost-conscious hackers and for educators needing to equip a whole classroom (or if you’re just looking for a stocking stuffer for your geeky nephew), it’s hard to argue with seven bucks for a full plug-and-play setup.

[thanks Billy]

220 thoughts on “STM8S-Discovery: Microcontrollers reach a new low

  1. Yeah but that won’t take long to change when there are determined *nix lovers getting all huffy because of that very statement.

    The cost alone makes it tempting to buy one just to keep in my spare parts box for a rainy day.

  2. anyone think this would be the perfect starter project. I’ve been looking for a cheap way to jump in for years.

    I figure I’ll VM some Windows and be all set.

  3. @Tof:

    Unless you have some previous knowledge of microprocessors/microcontrollers, it might be a little intimidating. But in any case, what have you got to lose? It’s only $7. Give it a try.

  4. @Hackineer

    Yeah I figured with the $7 tag that I’ve got pretty much no reason not to try.

    I’ve got no knowledge, no idea where to start and only a basic knowledge of programing, but my friend has been pushing my to do an arduino. project with him, so I’ll start here and move up later on.

  5. “The development tools are for Windows only”

    Seriously? What is this 1999? Even for $7 I wouldn’t bother, I don’t have a Windows machine and I’m not going to setup a VM when there are other platforms that work natively on my OS.

    Even the web-only development evironment from the mbed that was covered a few days back is better than this.

  6. Holy cow, best marketing decision ever on the part of ST?

    Hopefully this uC is a decent architecture–this is so darn cheap that it’s basically become a new candidate for working on any of the projects currently on my list.

  7. WOW, WAY COOL

    I just went through the datasheets for this guy–reasonably low power consumption (but not that great compared to the really low power uCs these days), and more of a thing is this is a darn 8-bit CISC (!!!) processor. This is actually a REALLY, REALLY powerful 8-bit processor–there’s a bunch of things I’d expect to see in a 16-bit or 32-bit uP in the architecture. The memory is effectively shared program and ram memory, but internally it’s a harvard architecture with separate program and memory buses.

    pretty interesting guy, and given the price tag, I’m definitely picking up a couple of these =)

  8. heck, now that I think about it, this uC looks a lot like a VERY heavily modified, 8-bit x86 processor. there’s quite a number of similarities, but also quite a number of very major changes in the architecture.

  9. This sounds so great–until you learn the free compiler is crippled to only use half the available programming space, and it doesn’t even run on a real operating system. I was ready to buy it until I saw this.

    I’m going to send them an email right now to complain. Maybe if enough people do so, they’ll fix things.

  10. Welcome to the EE world–I don’t know a single company that actually offers free unlimited C compilers unless they’re more or less just vanilla gcc offerings. And the last time I worked with gcc and ARM, the debug support was terrible–I shaved days (or weeks) off my project when I decided to switch to a commercial solution. I don’t know if it’s because there’s an influx of CS kids wanting to play around with EE or something (no problem with that), but the fact is that so many of the electronics dev tools (arduino or whatever junk most people use, though popular in the hobbyist community, isn’t exactly a good representation of the industry) have drivers written for Windows and were designed on Windows.

    As a EE wanting to make cool things, I honestly believe that making cool things has priority (a LOT of priority) over stupid ideological arguments about why one operating system is better than the other. I just want to make something cool, okay? I’m not going to bother using linux if that means I’m going to have to bitch all the time about software and drivers not working, and exclude myself from using a chip just because I want open source software or something. In my personal experience, anyway, I’ve had more problems with linux (tried ubuntu, some other distro I can’t remember anymore), enough to delete the partition entirely for more disk space. I don’t run a very standard setup and need to use a fair amount of obscure hardware for some of my day-to-day EE work, and from my experience a lot of these open source, unsupported software suites don’t go through the same amount of rigorous testing on all different scenarios that commercial software usually gets (partly probably just because they don’t have the money or time to do so). It’s always nice to have a free, open source solution available on hand, but I’ve found that it’s usually a pretty bad idea to rely on unsupported software (sorry, community forums on gcc don’t constitute “support”). I’ve run into a lot of weird bugs because of this, and I really don’t have the time to find a linux geek to fix these things or to wait for some random guy on the internet to write new drivers or something.

    So the question is, are you going to put your practically irrelevant ideology first or awesome first? My answer has always been awesome first, and I don’t understand why other mainly electronics hobbyists would think otherwise.

    *end rant*

    ST is already generous enough to basically give out these dev boards for free, and I don’t think they’re going to see an incentive to putting out linux tools. It costs a lot of developers with that sort of experience to get that done, and I doubt ST even has a linux dev team available to make a linux version of the software. I don’t think having a linux version is actually going to improve their image to anyone relevant to the following for their processor, anyway.

  11. excellent response, threepointone. i feel very much the same way.

    regardless, there already is a box over at Digikey with my name on it.

  12. This is perfect for me.
    I’ve got a Linux pc around, but I live in Windows.
    Don’t have any experience with arduinos, but think they sound neat.
    $7 is a great price, and the built in programming board gets past the issue of building/buying a programmer.
    I’ve got two on order.

  13. threepointone, that’s all fine and dandy when you have fancy things like money, or employees to buy you quality hardware and software. As a student (soon to be EE), 99% of my hardware was scavenged from dead electronics, and all of my software is free.

  14. Anyone see why this is so inexpensive? It seems a bit suspicious as normally you’d lose alot of money producing these and then selling them for so little…

  15. Someone above confirmed this runs on Wine (and likely DarWine for Mac), so what’s all the whining about operating systems about? Who here doesn’t have a Windows OS AND can’t figure out how to use Wine? If you’re a snob about Linux then you should be capable of running Wine. If you don’t want to do that then go use some other platform (like the Arduino – *gasp*).

    @Bob
    I checked Mouser and they have them, I’m sure many other suppliers like DigiKey have them as well. I thought about ordering a couple but I’m fine with my AVRs for now.

  16. @Bob

    Assuming you’re lazy and don’t want to click the two clicks it took me to get from this article to a list of suppliers, here’s the link:

    http://www.st.com/stonline/stappl/bol/app?page=bol&pn=STM8S-DISCOVERY

    Now that’s not a direct link to a shopping cart checkout of the product, so I do hope you can guide yourself the rest of the way. If you get lost, start at that page again and work your way through. The internet will get easier the harder you try! ;-)

  17. Uh… I appreciate all the folks posting links to the Digi-Key or Mouser or whoever site, but when I said that I wished they packaged it on a DIP, I meant that I would’ve liked to see the STM8S-Discovery board on a dual-inline-package, instead of on the board it’s on.

    You know, so you could plug it into a breadboard or build your own PCB around it?

  18. I imagine the idea here is that people try out their platform, like it, and buy more products from them. Same reason AOL gave out millions of free CDs. Lose money in the short term, but hopefully make up for it in the long run.

  19. @MS3FGX Well happy birthday to me then :) And You’re more than likely right they’re just starting out and trying to make a name for themselves…

  20. For $7 you are a fool if you can’t see that this is an amazing deal . Saying you will not get it because it isn’t for linux is foolish or you have just have too much money.

  21. DIP as a format is disappearing. Everything is surface mount now. But don’t let that scare you, this board makes it easy to connect to a breadboard.

  22. My two should be here tomorrow. mouser is great order by 8pm cst gets here next day, woot for living 4 hours from Dallas. ill post something on my site about them tomorrow.

  23. Has anyone else noticed that either of the free compilers require registration? One of them even has an “I don’t want to receive offers”-esque checkbox.

    Maybe they’re subsidizing the costs a bit with address harvesting for marketers? Don’t get me wrong as I’ve ordered mine, but it seems kind of interesting that all of the “free” compilers require requesting a “free” unlock key.

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