View Full Version : Book explaining Spin Commands for Newbies

05-31-2010, 01:53 AM
At the Ottowa Ill. confab, every newbie that I talked to wanted the Spin commands explained in a simpler format
with examples they could really understand (meaning - commented in great detail).

Is there a need for such a text? I am trying the gauge the level on interest.
Is some one already working on this, if so I will not.
Does Parallax have an input on this. ie Their position on this.

Comments please. Ideas please.

(Besides I need something to keep me out of the bars.)


Mike Green
05-31-2010, 02:48 AM
Have you looked at the existing introductory texts? I'm talking about the stuff in the "sticky threads" at the top of the thread list for the Propeller Forum. There's the Propeller Education Kit labs and all the "Getting Started" stuff linked from there. There are Webinars as well. The Hydra Manual is a good introduction to Spin and to video generation for those that are interested. The Nuts and Volts Columns on the Propeller also have quite a bit of introductory information.

Is there a need for such a text?

Maybe. Whether people would be willing to pay for it is another matter. The existing introductory texts are actually very adequate, but they're not written to teach programming to absolute beginners who know little or nothing about programming or about microcontrollers. "What's a Microcontroller?" is one example of a beginner's tutorial for the BASIC Stamp.

Is someone already working on this?

Yes. The existing tutorials for the Propeller Education Kit are a beginning. Parallax has limited resources for doing this sort of thing, so you're seeing pieces being developed as stand-alone modules. Eventually you'll see something like "What's a Microcontroller?" for the Propeller. There are other authors who have been working on introductory texts. I don't know where those projects are at, but eventually we'll probably see several introductory texts.

Does Parallax have an input on this?

Probably. They don't talk about this sort of thing before they have something. They have a history of both doing texts themselves and farming them out for others to do. If they do "out-source", it would have to be to someone with considerable professional experience in this area.

If you want to work on an introductory text and post it on the forum, I'm sure there will be people who will read it and appreciate it. You will also get editorial advice as you go along. Remember that different people have different learning styles and you have to account for that. You might also read all the existing information and make notes on what appeals to you and what doesn't. If you want to make something for sale, that's a whole different matter. The "bar" goes way up when you expect people to pay for something.

05-31-2010, 03:53 AM
How could the manual be any more simple? It explains the commands quite well. What I think many newcomers are looking for are more examples that are spelled out, line-by-line -- hand-holding if you will; that's quite a different kettle of fish.

I am actually working on a project for Parallax that helps PBASIC programmers make the transition to Spin; that's the goal, anyway.

Jon McPhalen
Hollywood, CA

05-31-2010, 01:38 PM

I have personally found Andy Lindsay's Propeller Fundamentals book concise and very easy to follow through with.

TonyF (spinvent.co.uk)
05-31-2010, 03:09 PM
I think a 'SPIN programming for absolute beginners' type book would be a nice addition. This could complement the Prop manual and Labs. Nice to include detailed explanation of some objects and how to use them.

05-31-2010, 03:39 PM
There is always a need for elementary type, introductory texts in any
technical subject.

It should not be a treasure hunt to get a solid grounding in any subject.

The trouble seems to be that experts hate writing elementary texts and
also they are seldom any good at it...always assuming the beginner knows
too much.

A PASM 101 type book is sorely needed for instance. The same for Spin.
I'm hoping that someone will create a good thorough introductory pdf for the super
nice PropBasic. Such a guide would create many new propeller addicts http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/smile.gif

I keep toying with the idea of writing a simple, comprehensive intro pdf for
PASM.... but I think Parallax is finally going to do one so that lets me off
the hook. Not that I am in any way a great writer. I was thinking of working
from the notebook I created while I was first learning PASM. I also still have
the similar notebook I made when learning PIC asm... it was my first uController
asm and it well documents the struggles of someone hopelessly lost http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/smile.gif

05-31-2010, 10:15 PM
At Ottowa I BEGGED Ken for a set of books similar to what Parallax did with the Basic Stamp.· I understand that this takes time and resources, but I found the BOE bot, Smart Sensors and Applications, IR Remote, and Process Control books to be invaluable.· Call it hand holding or whatever you like, it gets people like me (non CE, EE types) comfortable with the concepts and applications.
The Fundamentals book takes the reader deep (deeper than I could sometimes·follow) into CTRA and PHSA etc. details.· I'm confident that the Fundamentals·book only scratches the surface and could go MUCH deeper.· All this is good stuff to know, and·essential for writing a useful driver object, but for a user like me, I want to know how to get a compass heading, get an IR remote value,·monitor a ping sensor, and make a pair of servos move.· I'm sure these concepts were conceptually reviewed in the well-written Fundamentals book but it has yet to sink into my brain.·
Hanno's 12 blocks is very interesting and BST holds a lot of promise.· But why do these exist?· It seems to me that these are "bridge" tools to using the Propeller chip.· They both bridge from what you already know·or is more intuitive to SPIN or in the case of BST to PASM.· The key to all this in my very humble opinion is documentation and more step-by-step examples allowing a novice user to get right into SPIN.·
Bottom line:· I'd be among the first in line to buy a set of books teaching SPIN along the lines of what Parallax did with the Stamps in Class series.


Recent Project Videos:


Cool Cars:

06-01-2010, 12:53 AM

I had initially thought that the Fundamentals book was too short, as it didn't have any labs for video, and other cool functionality of the prop. What I didn't realize at that point in time was that I had become sufficiently versed in Spin, and that I was at least able to understand and follow along with well written code. What wasn't immediately obvious was the need for assembly knowledge, as that's the only way to utilize some of the prop's more exotic features. If you have read the fundamentals book, then ask yourself if you actually understand Spin. If so, then the book did it's job. It's thinking like a programmer that's the hard part, and a different matter all together.

06-01-2010, 07:03 AM
I have to admit that deep down I don't REALLY understand SPIN, but I'm trying hard to correct that. Certainly I understand SPIN at a certain level how to dira, outa, passing parameters to a method in another object, etc. and I can read it better than I can write it. I'm certainly no code whiz but I feel I have a certain grasp of the fundamentals. All of my SPIN knowledge comes from what I've read and learned in the Fundamentals book. What I find most frustrating right now is understanding how to integrate multiple existing OBEX objects into one complete program.

For example the BOE Bot Stamp books teach the student (me) how to control a servo, then how to detect and IR sensor, a compass sensor, communicate with an LCD and so on. Once I understood how to integrate those components on the STAMP I was able to figure out a routine (see video link in signature). Granted, my little project is not Nobel prize winning rocket science, but I was able to apply the integration techniques taught in the STAMP manuals to make the device do what I had envisioned.

I suspect other newbies like me feel the same way, hence the growing popularity of BST and 12 Blocks. The more I discuss this the more determined I am to learn SPIN!

It may also be a matter of teaching / learning techniques. I like good practical hard-core examples for the novice level user.
The Fundamentals book tells me all I need to know (more than this gear head can comprehend!) about PWM with NCO modes and really smart guys like you all can probably make the jump from there to making a servo run at a certain speed for a given duration. I can't. The more practical route for a guy like me is to learn how to use and integrate existing objects. The Official Guide starts the integration process, but more could be done. The point where I'm momentarily stuck at is how to create a Main object that gets and sends data to and from other objects that are monitoring and controlling other devices like ping sensors, IR receivers, servos, etc. Maybe by next week I'll have the break through moment and all will become clear!

Best Regards ALWAYS

Recent Project Videos:


Cool Cars:

06-01-2010, 07:57 AM
So far I found the comments very interesting with Holly's the best with "it should not be a treasure hunt"
And Mike Green as always to the point and worth reading no matter what he comments on

But that aside, pray let me tell what I had in mind...

For each instruction provide the following:
What is the purpose of the instruction
How can it be, and is, used in SPIN
Code examples with full documentation and comments
What group on instructions this instruction fits in, related commands etc
Where to find it in the official manual and maybe elsewhere
Example in equivalent PSEUDO CODE
Example in equivalent Dartmouth BASIC code
General commentary on the code word itself
And so on...

Would something like this be useful for newcomer to the game?

There is nothing really new in the universe. As adequately stated by others,
its all there for you to explore, find and use. Still a book is a book and there
are eager beginners that need to be shown the gentler way...

Is easy when you know how!


06-01-2010, 10:47 PM
I am really awful when it comes to Spin - I believe Jon Williams once said: "If you can control an LED blinking, you can just about control anything else" (or something like that). There is some truth to this.

The published documents from Parallax are good: Propeller Spin Code examples are helpful - the new "green book" is good - the "Propeller Manual" is good however, none of these seem to truly be for the level of "the beginner who knows nothing"

I'm hoping the documentation that comes w/the Scribbler 2 will provide "true green horns" a fresh, new "bare bones basics" introduction to Spin.

I'm not trying to be critical, these are just my honest opinions based on coming to the Propeller with "zero" knowledge of Spin. I know you can't please all the people all the time. And please understand, I'm not dissatisfied - just a bit frustrated that I'm not "getting it" quicker like most folks seem to be doing.

Hey, I still find this journey much more fun and challenging than frustrating, so, I guess I'm doing ok (ha).

06-01-2010, 11:27 PM
Harprit has brought up a good point.
Although this is my first post on this forum, I am far from a 'newbie', almost sixty years as an amateur radio op, a couple degrees in EE/CE and·one of the first users of Parallax's stamps.
Working in various R&D labs I spent a lot of time re-writing other engineer's instruction sets into "Plain Language", seems most slept through language fundamentals classes or were too impatient to get on with something new. A few scraps of info in the margins of a lab notebook do not a manual make. Some of the more junior EEs couldn't understand why tech writers, customer reps and patent attorneys were getting paid to annoy them and getting paid well. Any product without good, plain explanations of purpose and operations will not reach full acceptance in its target market. A product with the same operating characteristics and more complete instructions will soon force yours into extinction.
I enjoy a good 'treasure hunt” but I expect to find ,at least, an acorn at the end. The OBEX and PropTool Library are full of interesting probably well functioning snippets and program, but the instructions remind me of the scraps of paper and marginal notes of the my EE lackeys in my dark mis-spent past.
Well, back into the trenches. If I can't get Spin to work there's always my box full of pics and NE555s.

Geezer Power!!