Join us on Wednesday, August 28th at noon Pacific for the Parallax Update Hack Chat with Chip and Ken Gracey!
For a lot of us, our first exposure to the world of microcontrollers was through the offerings of Parallax, Inc. Perhaps you were interested in doing something small and light, and hoping to leverage your programming skills from an IBM-PC or an Apple ][, you chanced upon the magic of the BASIC Stamp. Or maybe you had a teacher who built a robotics class around a Boe-Bot, or you joined a FIRST Robotics team that used some Parallax sensors.
Whatever your relationship with Parallax products is, there’s no doubting that they were at the forefront of the hobbyist microcontroller revolution. Nor can you doubt that Parallax is about a lot more than BASIC Stamps these days. Its popular multicore Propeller chip has been gaining a passionate following since its 2006 introduction and has found its way into tons of projects, many of which we’ve featured on Hackaday. And now, its long-awaited successor, the Propeller 2, is almost ready to hit the market.
The Gracey brothers have been the men behind Parallax from the beginning, with Chip designing all the products and Ken running the business. They’ll be joining us on the Hack Chat to catch us up on everything new at Parallax, and to give us the lowdown on the P2. Be sure to stop be with your Parallax questions, or just to say hi.
Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, August 28 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.
Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
Back in the Before Times, when microcontroller development required ultraviolet light, building anything was a pain. You probably had to burn a ROM onto a chip with a parallel programmer, there was no in-circuit programming, and who knows what would happen if you needed a serial port.
This changed in the early 90s with the introduction of the BASIC Stamp from Parallax. This was a simple microcontroller development board using Microchip PIC. With a little bit of clever firmware developed by Parallax, you could write code in BASIC, upload your code over a serial or parallel port (which every computer had), and blink a LED with just a few lines of code. All microcontroller development boards — including the Arduino — owe a debt to the BASIC Stamp. It is the grandfather to the Arduino, and it is very, very old.
Microchip didn’t update the BASIC Stamp, but that doesn’t mean someone else can’t handle that. [Bruce Eisenhard] is crowdfunding an improved, updated version of the famous 24-pin BASIC Stamp. It’s got modern parts, runs seven hundred times faster than the original, and is still chock full of BASIC interpretation.
This upgraded Stamp is built around NXP’s LPC11U3 micrcontroller, an ARM Cortex-M0 part with about a hundred times more Flash than the chip in the original Stamp. Programming is done through modern IDEs, and yes, there’s a USB port. This project is pin-compatible with the original BASIC Stamp, so if your microcontroller project from twenty years ago is dying, this is the replacement for you.
The BASIC Stamp was an awesome device for its time, even though it cost more than two hundred dollars in today’s money. [Bruce]’s campaign is offering one of these for $25, which is pretty reasonable for what it is.
Microcontrollers existed before the Arduino, and a device that anyone could program and blink an LED existed before the first Maker Faire. This might come as a surprise to some, but for others PICs and 68HC11s will remain as the first popular microcontrollers, found in everything from toys to microwave ovens.
Arduino can’t even claim its prominence as the first user-friendly microcontroller development board. This title goes to the humble Basic Stamp, a four-component board that was introduced in the early 1990s. I recently managed to get my hands on an original Basic Stamp kit. This is the teardown and introduction to the first user friendly microcontroller development boards. Consider it a walk down memory lane, showing us how far the hobbyist electronics market has come in the past twenty year, and also an insight in how far we have left to go.
Continue reading “Before Arduino There Was Basic Stamp: A Classic Teardown”
This hack makes your Keurig experience fully automatic. For those that aren’t familiar with the hardware: this type of coffee maker includes a water reservoir. Coffee is brewed One cup at a time by drawing from that water, quickly heating it, then forcing it through disposable pods containing coffee grounds and a filter. This takes the user-friendly design one step further by automatically keeping the water full.
This goes beyond the last water reservoir hack we saw. That one routed a water line to the machine, but included a manually operated valve. [Eod_punk] added a solenoid valve and level sensor in this project. The level sensor is submerged in the tank and is monitored by a Basic Stamp microcontroller. When the level is low the BS1 drives the solenoid via a transistor, letting the water flow. This is all shown in the video below.
Continue reading “Keurig Hack Now Automatically Fills The Water Reservoir”
[Navic] added a slew of abilities to his RFID reader. It’s now a full-featured RFID reader and smart card writer with extras. When we looked at it last time the unit was just an RFID and smart card reader in a project enclosure. You could see the RFID code of a tag displayed on the LCD screen, but there wasn’t a lot more to it than that.
The upgrade uses the same project enclosure but he’s added four buttons below the display. These allow him to access the different features that he’s implemented. The first one, which is shown in the video after the break, allows him to store up to six tags in the EEPROM of the Basic Stamp which drives the unit. He can dump these tag codes to a smart card (pictured above), but also has the option of interfacing with a PC to read from and write to that card.
We don’t think you can directly write RFID tags with the device, but we could be wrong.
Continue reading “RFID Reader Gets User Inputs And Smart Card Write Capability”