The BASIC Stamp "Supercomputer"
Download software (22 programs)
Self Adjusting Master Code (New!)
Read the article in Penguin Tech 4
View the Schematic (page 6)
Watch the movie
(demonstration of basic principles to take some characteristics of a supercomputer, in particular the notion of larger multiples of relatively simple processors communicating over a common bus, each doing a portion of a task in parallel)
Penguin Tech Magazine Supercomputer Article
My Supercomputer! I got the idea to make a supercomputer at the hobby level to demonstrate the concept. It beats out the worlds fastest supercomputer in ten categories!
* Field Operable
* Runs on Batteries
* Has the Greatest Number of (I/O)
* Has the greatest Number of Sensors/Variety
* Lowest Power Consumption
* Lowest Unit Cost
* Easiest to Program
It's a simple hobby project using 11 Parallax Basic Stamp microcontrollers (12 by the time you read this). These "computers" are connected together for hardware/software clustered parallel processing. It's a fantastic learning tool and can control 176 peripherals/sensors. One application is for the more rapid development of robotic sensors and software.
Some tips on watching the youtube vid. Select "Watch in high quality." Turn off sound, let the vid load in first by leaving for a break. When you come back, it will be loaded, turn up the sound, and watch it. It will run smoothly.
This is the World's First talking Basic Stamp Hobby Supercomputer!!! (and the World's 1st Supercomputer built from hobby microcontrollers) It communicates by English and Chinese voice (EMIC TTS board), lights (21 LEDs), vision, sound (12 speakers), motion (PIR), ports (176), infrared, Vibra Tab Mass detector, accelerometer, temperature chip, ultrasonics [PING)))], LCD Liquid Crystal Display, and a tiny uOLED color monitor. Attachments include a keyboard, 3D space mouse, and other goodies under development.
Final Rack Wiring Phase and Grounding Field Experiment
There's 22 switches, 11 are toggle and 11 are pushbutton. Fully loaded, it's only a few pounds weight, so it's very portable. The only concern is one wire popping off, as the breadboards, as handy as they are for rapid proto, are less than permanent. I prefer to keep it this way as the entire supercomputer can be disassembled for moving and for international travel.
It uses a one wire interface and has unlimited computer expansion. Additional stamps connect to the interface by routing only P0, Vdd, and Vss. It can be operated on batteries or a power supply. The basic boards only draw 18 to 30ma each. Even with attachments, such as the EMIC text to speech board (peaks at 157ma while talking) and the uOLED color monitor (peaks at 52ma), the current draw of all boards average around 340 ma. Computer 9 starts talking and the hive peaks at 360 ma.
All boards and sensors are shown working, drawing 311 ma at 9-volts DC. Eleven
programs are running in parallel, controlling multiple sensors at the same time.
It runs well on batteries. I have used 11 zinc carbon batteries which cost about 29 cents each. It may be advisable to use alkaline batteries for the uOLED and EMIC as these draw more current. The uOLED can be programmed to consume less current, based on the colors it displays.
Individual Basic Stamps are able to switch on and off, for various special configurations. For example, a quick test of a sensor on one computer is possible just by toggling a switch and running software. Board combinations can also be run, for example, in combining sensors from computers #2, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11.
Software sets up a Master Computer MC that's in charge of the remaining workers. The Master, or Boss, decides how to handle business, when to talk, who should talk, how to talk, and what to talk. In summary, it queries the Workers to gain data and information, which can be computational related or sensor related. With the 11-Stamp configuration, there are 10 worker programs and 1 Master program running in parallel. The hardware parallel computer cluster runs in parallel also. This can achieve some incredible power, especially when considering the availability of 176 ports, many of which can contain sensors and circuits.
Earlier wiring stage, showing use of clips to hold
boards and wiring
The youtube video shows all 11 computers communicating. You will see the Master send out individual "wake-up" calls to the computers it wishes to speak to. For example, to wake up computer 8, it sends out "c8." Computer 8 will respond by saying, "I'm computer eight." It lets the Master know when it has finished data transfer by sending its signature, a c8. All computers can simultaneously perform calculations and take sensor readings, however, they must report their data to the Master one at a time.
A nice feature is the LCD that monitors traffic on the supernet. The LED Traffic Monitor is connected to the supernet without any computer requirement. It runs by itself, although its formatting is best controlled by Stamp PBASIC. It's quite fascinating to sit back and watch these computers talk back and forth to each other.
Supercomputer Self Diagnostics SSD are also built into the software. At startup, the LED array bus bar lights a single LED data light for each of the working computers, and a piezo speaker provides check data from an alternate pin. This routine works well for immediately knowing which computer is available and ready. Troubleshooting, for debugging software purposes, is a gold mine. There's access up to 21 LED data lights, LCD text and numerical output, Piezo sound pin data, and uOLED monitor output for text streaming and numerical data logging output information.
Three bus lines - Data LEDs, Toggle
Switches, and Power Control are made
from clothes hangers machined with a
There are 10 workers and one master. The master handles the parallel network traffic and polls workers for information. I originally planned 10 BS2 computers. Curiosity got the best of me when I wondered if other stamps could easily interface. The answer found was yes, when the 11th computer, a BS2px on a BOE, was connected. Most of the remaining computers are Basic Stamp HomeWork boards. I now have computer number 12, a BS2sx that I'm working with.
Why Build a Supercomputer? Here's some reasons:
• Learning experiences & challenges
• Expanding education & knowledge
• Gaining useful background for career
• Research Benefits
• Extending Basic Stamp power
• Creating new inventions, ideas, applications
• Own your own, prestige
• School project, credit
• Involvement, sense of great accomplishment
• Psychological relaxation, Symbolic Value
• Sharing, making new friends
A lengthy writeup appears, with plans, more photos, schematics, build instructions, and software, in Penguin Tech Magazine, posted here in the Parallax Forum, in the Robotics section, plus in other sources - see links below. Check PT in the Parallax Robotics Forum. (note: please allow some time for me to proofread, and post the information, thanks.)
Check back frequently to this posting as I will update and add information.
Many thanks to the amazing Parallax Company, where you can find Basic Stamp computers, Penguin robots, and parts/sensors, and thanks to all the wonderful friends on the Parallax Forum, many are at guru genius level, all offer guiding help and positive suggestions. To you, I say thanks, just to let you know I could not have done this project without your great and wonderful inspirations and mind melding derivatives.