[time-nuts] I want a good micro-controller

wje wje at quackers.net
Sat Aug 16 08:36:05 EDT 2008

As the one who made the first comment about not liking the PIC, I'll 
give you my reasons. Yes, they are philosophical, even religious. I'm 
also distinguishing between microprocessors (this discussion) and other 
variants, such as DSPs, FPLDs, etc.

First, I've used a very large number of different micros over the years 
for both 'real' work and my own purposes, starting with the Intel 8008 
before it was commercially released. I've used Intel, TI, Motorola, 
Zilog, MOS Tech processors of multiple families, and yes, even PICs, all 
with wildly varying architectures. These days, given modern development 
tools, the architecture of a general-purpose micro really isn't 
particularly relevant. It's functionality and support tools that are 

Without a doubt, PIC made it possible for many hobbyists to put together 
nice projects that they would not necessarily have been able to do 
otherwise. My deep-seated revulsion comes from one source, and it's not 
the architecture, the company, or the capabilities of the chips. It's 
Basic, the language. Until relatively recently, PIC and Basic were 
almost synonymous, at least for the masses.

I have both EE and CS degrees, and I work in both worlds. In my humble 
(but completely accurate and stable) opinion, Basic is not a programming 
language. It's a tool of Satan designed to convince people that they are 
programmers when they really should stick to their janitorial duties. 
This is a subset of the general problem that everyone thinks they are 
programmers, and usually think their code is perfect. But, that's a rant 
for a different audience.

So, for me, given that there are some very good C development tools for 
mainstream processors, and frequently they are free, I just don't use 
PICs. As I mentioned earlier, I currently like the Motorola (I mean, 
Freescale; these silly name changes are yet another rant) MC68HCxx line; 
there's a wide choice of features and they can be flashed easily without 
a complicated programmer. The 8-pin xx908QT4 is a buck and does a fine 
job for many purposes, and most importantly, you can get a nice C 
development environment for the line, which was originally from 
CodeWarrior, for free. It also supports the entire line, from 8-bit to 
32-bit, and with builtin support for all of the various on-chip 

Even now, I don't think Microchip provides a compiler that supports the 
low-end chips, but I haven't checked lately.

But, when you get right down to it, you really need to pick the proper 
solution for your problem. If there was something the PICs provided that 
I couldn't get elsewhere, I'd use them. Religion is fine, but getting 
the job done is more important.

BTW, for those that think you can't do anything with an 8-pin 8-bit 
micro, I did one design that supports an LCD, a rotary encoder, a 
Hall-effect sensor, and a button. At home, I use the same chip in every 
light switch in my house to implement a self-tuning capacitance sense 
switch. I even use a couple for a more time-nuts related tasks. One 
provides loop control for my GPS/Rb/Quartz standard, and one is used as 
a 555 timer replacement in my SmartClock->PC interface. (Ok, I was in a 
hurry, needed a pulse stretcher, and I didn't have any 555's lying around)

Bill Ezell
They said 'Windows or better'
so I used Linux.

GandalfG8 at aol.com wrote:
> In a message dated 16/08/2008 01:11:09 GMT Daylight Time,  
> rvassar at rob-vassar.com writes:
> The  PIC... I have no nice words for the PIC.  It's a CPU architecture   
> kept alive by Donald Rumsfeld himself (He was the CEO of G.I. back  in  
> the '70's), and surely he must have made a deal with the Devil  to  
> make it as successful as it is.  How's that for a  religious  
> argument? :-)
> -------------
> Keeping it secular, what's with the PIC bashing?
> Surely it's a case of horses for courses, and there's been enough  successful 
> commercial, as well as hobby, products based on PICs to suggest you  might be 
> just a wee bit out of touch with some parts of the real world:-)
> regards
> Nigel
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