The cheapest, best microcontroller for hobbyists

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Have you ever wanted to do a cool microcontroller project, but found yourself confused as to which controller to get, which programmer to get, or what software to get? Maybe you wanted to do a microcontroller, but found out that it’s simply too expensive. Well, today you’re in luck, because I’m going to review the perfect microcontroller for nearly all hobby projects.

When I first started looking for a suitable microcontroller for my project, I ran across Radioshack’s BASIC stamp microcontroller. The things were awfully small, had very few GPIO pins, had very little compute capability, and were extremely expensive. Overall, I would not recommend BASIC stamps to anyone unless you have a serious desire to avoid learning assembly language. For me, learning is half the fun!


So what is the absolute cheapest, overall best microcontroller starter kit? The answer is Microchip’s new 32 bit pit starter kit! Microchip’s PIC series of microcontrollers have been extremely popular for over a decade, but never have I seen a cheaper starter kit available.

First things first, this is pretty cheap and can save you a lot of money and frustration. It comes with the microcontroller, programmer, debugger, and software. Best of all, the kit only costs fifty dollars, which is extremely cheap for starter kits. One of the best things about this kit is that it connects to your computer via USB. Most kits connect to your computer with serial and printer port connections. Unfortunately, most modern computers built today do not have either of these interfaces because they are extremely outdated. When I started programming with microcontrollers, I used a PIC16F84, and I build an El Cheapo programmer myself. I managed to get a project and programmer built for fewer than 20 dollars. Unfortunately, my new computer does not have a printer port, so I can not use the El Cheapo PIC programmer anymore. Instead, the best is to buy a new kit which is USB capable.

The actual microcontroller itself has a wide variety of features and interfaces which can suite virtually any project. Whether you need GPIO, SPI, I2C, UART or RTCC, the PIC32 has them all. It runs at 80 Megahertz which is fast enough for virtually any hobby projects as well. I highly recommend this kit to anyone who wants to build a hobby project with a microcontroller.

Stumble it!

Posted under Saving Money, Shopping

This post was written by admin on September 12, 2008

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1 Comment so far

  1. MGA September 15, 2008 10:04 am

    Thank you so much for the information. My curiosity, what is the support on these programmers. I mean what is range of micro controllers that it can support/program?


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