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Clint V Franklin
09-14-2007, 01:01 PM
Howdy folks! I'm new around here, so I thought I should stop by and introduce myself. :)

My name is Clint Franklin, although "theraje" is what I usually go by online. I live in the swampy state of Louisiana, and I've been a gear-head pretty much all my life. I got my first experience in programming with a Commodore 64 using BASIC back in '87. I was too young to really do anything fascinating (plus there were no places nearby that sold those nice programming books/magazines) or fully understand it. I dabbled in PCs a lot while growing up (the computers we had were usually kinda iffy, so I did a lot of fixing software problems).

I was reintroduced to programming in 1999 in college, where I picked up some Visual Basic. After that, I've focused primarily on Java, and to this date, C++. I also did some work as a PC technician (although I didn't really get to do anything fun hardware-wise except put machines together from prefab parts).

As you may have picked up on, most of my experience is with software. In other words, I'm kinda clueless about the hardware part. I know how to solder, but that's about it for the moment. :) Like with programming, I saw it as a "dark art" that only people with Ph.D.s understood until I was presented with the proper information. After seeing a DIY MP3 player not much larger than a quarter, and a game console in a breath mint tin, I knew it was something I *had* to get into.

(I know what you must be thinking by now - "ramble much?" Don't worry, I'm getting to the point shortly. :) )

So, I've ordered some books on electrical engineering, and am looking at getting a Propeller Demo Board and the appropriate accessory kit (the one with the keyboard, mouse, and LCD display). Hopefully with this (and a lot of time and effort) I can make something fun. With this method, I believe I could focus on software primarily, while easing myself into the hardware assembly business. So, here's the question...

Is this a good way to get started? I have a tendency to just dive into something that fascinates me, so I thought it might be beneficial to ask the experts (as well as any reasonable facsimiles :) ) here if this is the way to go. It's kind of hard to plunk down $250 or so on something without getting a few opinions, but I'm so excited that I find it hard to resist.

So, let me know what you guys think about it. I'll be sure and let you know how things go once I get started! http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/smilewinkgrin.gif

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They say all great artists are insane. I'm not saying I'm a great artist, but I'm certain I have what it takes.

Fred Hawkins
09-14-2007, 01:42 PM
Best beginner bang for the buck is the Propeller Ed kit.

Step up your browser with at least one folder for links to interesting/useful/educational propeller pages, threads, documents. Consider separate folders for hardware and chip datasheets. The links end up as a nearly painless documentation trail, so you can find something you saw six months ago...

Learn the blue sticky topics at the top of the page. Look for and use Graham Stabler's Interesting Thread List
There's four basic docs, collect them all: the manual, the errata (still needed?), the spec sheet and the propeller guts (first spec write up) Use the pdf search function (binoculars) to get around the manual.
Extension docs: Phil Pilgrim's Tricks and Traps, Oldbitcollector's Cookbook.

Do the Education Kit Labs. This foundation material is the common understanding upon which most here stand; the forum user who doesn't bother is quickly found out.

There are at least three other tutorials, all indexed in the blue stickies: Spin examples, Assembly examples and lately, deSilva's Machine Language series.

I like this set of pdf's for hardware basics: http://www.ibiblio.org/obp/electricCircuits/

potatohead
09-14-2007, 01:50 PM
Yes.

I'm on the same path. Getting better at software and am now starting into the hardware side of things. IMHO, where the two cross is a LOT of fun. I also think it's going to continue to be a growing area of necessary engineering.

Lots of things have scaled up to the point where there is significant overhead to reach ones goal. The prop takes us back to a point well before that happens.

Get the Education Kit. It's gonna be my next purchase, for the same hardware related reasons you just gave.

As a kid, I did lots of hardware related stuff with my old Atari machine. (Including cooking a few I/Os back then! It had 4 game ports, so no biggie right?) I've spent a bunch of time working at the higher software levels and with powerful multi-processors. (SGI) Fun stuff, particularly when you get to scale it. But it's so far removed from the actual working mechanics...

Here's another thing to consider.

I find it very interesting the skill set I learned as a kid, still largely applies to the Prop! The same kinds of approaches are all valid, with a bunch of cool new ones made possible on the Propeller today. (damn cool)

This suggests to me, the level of focus Parallax is working at, is right in the sweet spot, where empowerment is concerned. Not only can one get stuff done, but it can be done in just about any way that makes best sense, and on the cheap most of the time as software plays a big role in the project as a whole. So, the more one thinks about it, the more possible things become.

Contrast that with spending dollars for dedicated bits and pieces.

When markets shifted a while back, I saw a whole bunch of systems skills get devalued and many repurposed. This really sucks @$#%*&$@%!!!

I've had to shift a lot of that and professionally, it's all good.

However, on a personal level, that does not sit well. So, now it's open tech and more hardware understanding. Those skills are never going to get devalued IMHO.

I see people building very cool projects with older and simpler hardware. I see other people building stuff here in the same fashion. The core understanding is the same, as are the results; namely, something they want to happen on their terms.

A good friend of mine, seeing my struggle with changing markets and skill issues sent me here on a lark. I plunked down the dollars for a demo board and am having a great time! My only regret is not having more time to learn on it. There are a lot of things I want to do.

If you've got stuff you want to do, or find the journey fun, you've made an excellent choice. Hope it's a good ride.

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Propeller Wiki: Share the coolness! (http://propeller.wikispaces.com/)

Skogsgurra
09-14-2007, 01:57 PM
I do not think that your background is very important. I have the opposite background, gone from discrete logic (yes, before IC:s were available, we built gates from resistors, diodes and transistors) via TTL/CMOS and the intel 4004 to where we are today.

Never in my whole career in electronics have I felt the same that I feel with the Propeller. I have been excited over the first TTL, it made new designs possible and the low power consumption of CMOS. I was also excited when I did my first project with the 4004 (a four-bitter with three different supply voltages and 256 bytes memory chips, the 1702A). And I was absolutely hilarious when I learned about FORTH.

But I have never before·felt the complete satisfaction that the Propeller gives. Not only is it a very powerful and versatile chip with astonishing speed at a very low power consumption. It is also such a clean and uncluttered design. That, combined with Spin, which appeals to me and an Assembler that is easy to master and quite efficient plus the great community you got in these fora are the reasons why I can answer your question with a Yes! Go for it! It is the best you can do if you want to be creative with microcontrollers!

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Harley
09-14-2007, 10:51 PM
From another 'old 'toot'', like Skogsgurra, from era of gates and flip-flops built from resistors, diodes, transistors.....and those slow to program 1702 EPROMS (that, if your system used a dozen or so, took part of a day to erase prior to reprogramming!! I agree totally with his feelings.

The Propeller is a fantastic chipl So powerful and with many objects ready to run. Just add the code to tie the objects together and make what one needs.

Just check out the various kits, boards, available from Parallax to begin one's adventure. So many ways to begin with. Ask all the questions to get a grasp of which way to go, if the 'route' isn't clear for those just starting out; most of us here will help you. For much less than $100 you can have powerful hardware base to begin learning Propeller-eze.

Just echoing Skogsgurra's, and others, comments in the way I see it. Go for it

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Harley Shanko

Migs
09-14-2007, 11:04 PM
Hello Friends:

I'm in a similar boat. I would like to learn to use the Propeller. I have experience with the BS2, "What is a Micro controller", The Boe Bot, and the SumoBots. What is the recommended next step? The Propeller Starter Kit or the Hydra kit? The Hydra kit comes with the keyboard and such but no breadboard area and vice versa. I don't particularly care to develop games (Hydra) Can someone please comment on what I should do and what accessories I should also get?

Thanks in advance,

Migs

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"Sometimes we forget that the world itself is paradise." Douglas Coupland, 'Microserfs'
"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite" - William Blake
"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." Carlos Castaneda
"One single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer. " G. E. Lessing
“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Men often mistake notoriety for fame, and would rather be remembered for their vices and follies than not be noticed at all.” Harry Truman
My website: www.intoku.net my e-mail:mreznicek@pretensa.com me:Miguel Reznicek

Fred Hawkins
09-14-2007, 11:36 PM
Migs, check out the Propeller Education Kit Labs which has a Boe Bot using an Ed Kit for brains.

Migs
09-15-2007, 04:17 AM
Exactly the route Fred! -Thanks

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"Sometimes we forget that the world itself is paradise." Douglas Coupland, 'Microserfs'
"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite" - William Blake
"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." Carlos Castaneda
"One single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer. " G. E. Lessing
“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Men often mistake notoriety for fame, and would rather be remembered for their vices and follies than not be noticed at all.” Harry Truman
My website: www.intoku.net my e-mail:mreznicek@pretensa.com me:Miguel Reznicek

D Faust
09-15-2007, 05:05 AM
This might help you decide which board or kit to go for: http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php?p=674163

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LOOKDOWN ThisThread, [Your_?, My_?, Cool_Thing], looknum
LOOKUP looknum, [1, 2, 3], subnum
ON subnum GOTO Hope_this_helps, Thanks!, WOW!!
END

deSilva
09-15-2007, 05:05 AM
Just my opinion given many times now... I like my Hydra but on the other hand the package is terribly overprized. I bought it three months ago because of André's book which is very recommendable for the anvanced beginner.

How to begin is not a matter of a "board" but a matter of information.
When you want somthing to solder on, the Proto Board has the best prize/value ratio (whichbecomes more relative with the Accessory Kit), the hydra on the other side has already a lot of plugs on it..

Using just a (solderless) breadboard has many advantages.
Their shortcommings will be addresed by Franz Achatz shortly http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/smile.gif Stay tuned!

Post Edited (deSilva) : 9/14/2007 9:46:52 PM GMT

Clint V Franklin
09-15-2007, 08:31 AM
Hey guys, thanks for all your input! http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/smile.gif

I'm still deliberating on exactly what to get (I'm looking at the BASIC Stamp stuff too), since there's simply so much awesome-looking stuff. I'm wondering if I should go ahead and start with the BASIC Stamp Discovery Kit, since the Prop Manual suggests that as a starting point for those who have no electronics background. The Propeller Ed Kit labs don't have things like wiring diagrams and such (except for the basic setup lab), so I'm thinking that the Stamp Discovery kit might be more suitable. Once I've completed all the experiments and feel more confident with my circuit-building abilities, it will of course be time to graduate to the Propeller. http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/smile.gif

Thanks again everyone! As I said before, I'll be sure and let you know how it all goes! http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/smilewinkgrin.gif

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They say all great artists are insane. I'm not saying I'm a great artist, but I'm certain I have what it takes.

D Faust
09-15-2007, 08:46 AM
You might want to look at the basic stamp activity kit instead. It is quite a bit cheaper. The difference seems to be that in the Disc. Kit you get a boe, and in the activity kit you get a Homeworkboard. The Disc. Kit also includes the stamp manual. Personally, i learned with the boe-bot kit, and used the online version of the stamp manual for comand reference. Hope this helps

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LOOKDOWN ThisThread, [Your_?, My_?, Cool_Thing], looknum
LOOKUP looknum, [1, 2, 3], subnum
ON subnum GOTO Hope_this_helps, Thanks!, WOW!!
END

OzStamp
09-15-2007, 09:06 AM
Hi Clint.

Getting started with the Propeller Protoboard + accessory kit is cheap
and lets you explore all the "Punch" in the awesome propeller

Since you've dabbled in VB your familiar with PUB· PRI· objects etc etc.
SO expand on that..

Learn Spin and I keep telling people learn the ASSEMBLY lingo as well.

Get some of those objects written in ASSEMBLY and pull them apart
disect them to the point that you understand what goes on.

Post some of those NEWBIE or DUMB questions like we all do and your up
and running.

Your in good hands here.. there are some very cool and smart people here...

The biggest most important thing with anything like this sort of stuff is that
you really want to attack this yourself as well.. instead of just relying on people to hack your
code totally .. so as said before .. explore the manuals .. explore the thousands lines of sample code
here and get going with simple flashing ... shifting leds on and off.
Some text to a monitor .. these simple exercises are the starting blocks to stuff
that is used in the real world...

And being impatient is OKAY .. LIFE IS TOO SHORT..

Cheers

Ronald Nollet·· OZ