How Do We Help With This...?

Keith YoungKeith Young Posts: 569
edited 2018-08-31 - 14:43:07 in General Discussion
Dear fellow Prop Heads,

First of all, this guy (Dave) was awesome - great guy. We talked briefly at Maker Faire Detroit. He works in the 3D Printing realm and shouldn't be expected to know the nuances of other niches.

I know this forum is pretty good but really a lot of people get bashed on the internet and I hope it doesn't happen here.

I do events like this, in this case Maker Faire Detroit, and what happened here happens ALL THE TIME. Young and old. New and experienced.

I've met thousands of people. Less than 5 have said "Parallax" or "ActivityBoard" etc. It's so rare I practically jump out of my shoes every time it happens. Hundreds have said "Arduino" and "RaspberryPi" etc. It's happened so much I've stopped getting that sinking feeling in my heart. OK, almost. It still hurts to be honest.

How do we help spread the word? We're facing the whole "Xerox Machine" thing here. Not every microcontroller is an Arduino. Fairly well informed people make this mistake all the time.

Some might be convinced it's literally an Arduino while others let it slip in the world of talking in real time. When I do videos I mess up stupid things all the time as it's like I lose 20 IQ points on camera. It happens. I use the wrong words all the time.

But yeah this is way too wide spread. What do we do? As a business owner I know how important it is that people put the right sequence of letters in to that Google search bar.

Again - please no negativity directed to this guy. I post this as it's the only video I have of it happening. Not to single him out.

4 minute mark

I'm too busy to put some of the other things up today. I run a small education business and the semester begins Tuesday. I run it all including marketing, photography, curriculum, first child due in a month, so please bear with me. Hopefully this can be an ongoing discussion.

This will sound lazy on my part. I found a forum thread that has at least a few good insights and probably several more buried in the pages that I just won't have time to read this week or next.

My current plan - Please let me know your thoughts

I've already got a draft started. I want to write an article that clears up this misconception. Perhaps even make some videos. Granted, I don't even own an Arduino so I might have to get one. I could do two projects in parallel and show how it's done. Or heck I might not have time but I could get students to do it - maybe. They're busy also lol. They're working on new robots like the one Dave is showcasing here.

How do we help clear up this misconception? How do we help these people, Parallax, and ourselves? If a person is looking for a great microcontroller - a way to learn - a foot in the door of the STEM world - a gift for their little genius - and they search Arduino instead of Microcontroller or Parallax Propeller, they miss out, we miss out, and Parallax misses out.


Thank you, and sorry for the long rambly post.

Founder of Kinvert


  • First, it needs to be understood that an abnormally large portion of Arduino users have minimal if any microcontroller knowledge and that goes for many Maker Faire attendees as well. So, you do have to cut some people a little slack when the only thing they hear about is Arduino when they are among similar crowds. I have posted on the forums a few times about projects where the Propeller is a much better solution, but until someone actually makes the project and posts it somewhere, you won't have much luck getting the Propeller farther along than it already is.

    On the flip side (pun intended; FLiP) Blockly is a prime avenue to introduce the Propeller to more users because the "difference" of the chip itself is somewhat masked to the end user (sort of how the Arduino IDE masks the actual chip from the end user). So, they can learn the platform without knowing they are learning something so powerful and different as compared to the Arduino. Afterwards, it is easier for them to grow in to someone that can further utilize the advantages of the Propeller.
  • jmgjmg Posts: 14,122
    edited 2018-08-31 - 22:05:14
    I've met thousands of people. Less than 5 have said "Parallax" or "ActivityBoard" etc. It's so rare I practically jump out of my shoes every time it happens. Hundreds have said "Arduino" and "RaspberryPi" etc. ..

    How do we help spread the word? We're facing the whole "Xerox Machine" thing here. Not every microcontroller is an Arduino. Fairly well informed people make this mistake all the time.
    That just shows the power of branding, over time. ( and one reason a 'P2' name is rather less than ideal .... )

    Rather than fight it, with a 'or' mindset, better too include all that knowledge, with an 'and' mindset.
    ie promote how users can apply a Prop and a raspPi, or a Prop and a Ardunio.

    Next there are 'common ground' areas, and I've seen mention of PlatformIO in AVR forums.
    Trying to get my head around what that does differently, but it looks to have some focus on easy download/upgrade management, and across many cores.
    says "It's built on top of GitHub's Atom "hackable" text editor and Microsoft's Visual Studio Code"

    the Debug side has appeal too..
    then I find this page..
    hmm... that says Debug is a $ub$cription ... :(
    I'm not sure how easy it is to add P2 or even P1 debug to the base open source side ?

    I've also found
    which is open source, and includes Debug-in-IDE, but may be too niche.

    The strong appeal of something like PlatformIO, is to piggy back on a far wider eco system, that allows easy/painless try of Prop designs.

    This claim gets immediate attention
    "PlatformIO currently supports over 500 boards from leading manufacturers, and we are constantly adding new ones."

    Not much mention of PlatformIO on here, but I can fine only this

    I find even 8051 is added, which looks a good example of how PlatformIO pivots on Download and Compiler tools, to update them ?
    It's simpler to follow, than the 24+ pages of AVR listings ;)
  • The first embedded system I ever heard of was the Basic Stamp. I'd like to know how Arduino came to dominate the market.
    I built my first project with a BS2. I built a second version of that project with a Propeller and saved a couple hundred dollars.
    I would probably start a blog for one of my projects but I have to find something that grabs interest.

    If the grass is greener on the other's time to water your lawn.
  • I actually liked the concept of using the atom editor, but the learning curve to write a grammar for syntax highlight alone seemed to me fairly steep. Not sure how the other goodies could be added such as highlight of errors and warnings and all the rest in BST or Proptool. But these types of tools are what make or break a product at least in my opinion.

    That being said, if anyones(s) did make the attempt to create something on top of atom, I would volunteer to test drive such a thing. That would be within my interest and allowable spare time.
    Ordnung ist das halbe Leben
    I gave up on that half long ago.........
  • lardom,
    I'd like to know how Arduino came to dominate the market.
    As far as I understand the Arduino history they were wanting to create a university course about using micro-controllers for non-engineering students. They had used the BASIC STAMP before and it was on the shortlist but they created the Arduino because it was much cheaper for the students.

    My feeling is that the Open Source nature of the Arduino, both hardware and software, helped greatly to capture mind share. The idea of Free and Open Source software was rising rapidly and that attracted a lot of people, especially in education.

    Certainly at the time I would have passed over the STAMP as it required Windows to use it. Not to mention that BASIC would have put me off. Same again later for the Propeller and Spin. Fortunately Open Source and cross platform tools for the Propeller came in time. Starting, I believe with Cliff Biffle's propasm.
  • Derp. Probably you guys figured this out but I forgot to mention it. The robots my students made are frankenstein ActivityBots. Most are the old AB but some are the WX.

    So one of the big issues is that an ActivityBoard is $50 ish while a duino clone is like $14? And most people don't care because they're blinking LEDs so Arduino suits their needs?

    Plus many projects online to see with duino, say an order of magnitude more projects online than with the Prop?

    At this point, to most laymen, Arduino is becoming a catchphrase for all 3" PCBs that aren't green with a raspberry symbol on them?

    Other major contributing factors I'm missing here?
    Founder of Kinvert
  • Heater.Heater. Posts: 21,213
    edited 2018-09-01 - 18:59:26
    So one of the big issues is that an ActivityBoard is $50 ish while a duino clone is like $14?
    I'm not sure what you are getting at with that question. That difference in cost is huge. Besides the Activity board is $79 and Arduino boards can be had for less than $14.

    Anyway, I'm not sure its a proper comparison. They are rather different products. And my mention of the relative cost of a BASIC STAMP vs Arduino above was about the situation in 2003 or so.

    My take on it is that there are millions of things about software and hardware interfacing that that teachers can teach or hobbyists can do with a cheap Arduino, so they do. A lot more than just blinking LEDs.
    Other major contributing factors I'm missing here?
    I suspect the whole Propeller/Spin vs Arduino/C++ is a lot to do with it. I have not checked out the C/C++ and IDE situation for the Propeller for a while but I suspect it is still more hassle than getting the Arduino IDE up and running.

    I don't know, I have never used an Arduino.

  • I'm having one of those "multi-platform" moments with an Arduino and a Propeller along with C++, Spin, and Tachyon Forth. SparkFun has what they call their QWIIC system, a chained 3.3V I2C bus with a variety of devices available. I'm using a combo BME280/CCS811 environmental sensor and a microOLED panel. There are drivers and sample code available for the Arduino in C++ of course. I've been able to get the Arduino sample code for the env. sensor to run, but not the OLED. When I hand translate the drivers to Spin, the OLED works fine with several different boards, but the env. sensor code gives incorrect results. When I use the SimpleIDE to compile the slightly modified drivers (mostly substituting Propeller I2C functions for the Arduino ones), the OLED I/O doesn't work. I'm sure there's an "ah ha" moment waiting for me as I carefully go through all the code together, but this is way too much work. I'm really a neophyte when it comes to Tachyon, but I may start getting something to work there.

    There's a lot of hardware out there for hobbyists and students and most of it comes with sample code and drivers for the Arduino platform. There's a variety of microcontrollers that the Arduino IDE will generate code for. The Propeller is not one of them. There was a partial Arduino run-time done for experimental purposes, but I don't know if anything further has been done with it. Arduino boards are cheap and readily available, so it's easy to see why manufacturers support it. That's a big hurdle for Parallax to climb. SimpleIDE is pretty good, but I think there needs to be direct support of the Arduino IDE or to have an official compatibility library that's checked using SimpleIDE against source level demo and driver code from sources like SparkFun and Adafruit.
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