Monday, September 27, 2010

The EmbeddedFun Sensor Platform Is Born

Baby Steps

Ok, I'm purposefully taking baby steps on this project for a couple of reasons. First, I don't want to assume to much about what people may know so I'm trying to cover the basics. The second reason is because I've learned, from experience, that when you try to hack something together too fast by just reproducing other people's schematics or dropping in their code that you quickly loose the ability to navigate your own code and schematic because you don't really understand it. So, in keeping with that philosophy, we're going to start our platform in it's most basic form and build from there.

Hardware Hello World

So the hardware-world equivalent of “Hello-World” is the blinking LED. Get your microcontroller to flash an LED when powered on. There are some important differences though. In the software world this normally just takes a few lines of code. Build it and see it on the screen. Not very difficult or exciting and it doesn't prove a whole lot. In the hardware world the blinking LED program depends on several things; proper powering of the board, proper connection of the microcontroller and any necessary supporting circuitry, proper transfer of the hex file to the microcontroller, etc. One thing you have to get used to when working with hardware is that there is no Intellisense or compiler errors to help you hook up wires correctly. The blinking LED helps us verify several things are working properly before we write too much code.

First Hardware Specs

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm intentionally not defining a long list of requirements for the project. We're just going to wing it as we go and develop the spec as needed. Our first spec is going to be that the platform have an LED that can be used for providing visual status indicators to the user. We'll implement the basic blinking LED program using that LED to confirm that our initial setup works properly. It sounds simple and boring and, granted, it is a little, but it will help us accomplish several things:
  • That we are able to program the platform with a hex file
  • That our microcontroller is connected properly and running our code
  • Gives us a very basic platform to build on. The sky's the limit from here

This is what I'll be covering in Episode 2 of the series.

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