Microcontrollers… Pic vs Arduino vs mbed

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I’ve been indulging my inner-nerd for some time, by playing with Microcontrollers. Why have I taken up such a geeky passtime? Well these things are flipping magic! For a few dollars you can build a little computer that is capable of doing stuff!

If you’re still shaking your head, then maybe this post isn’t for you, but if you have an interest in embedded development and microcontrollers do read on.

For some time now I’ve been doing “silly little projects” using Pic microcontrollers – Burglar alarms, power supplies, a couple of battery chargers (including a solar battery charger), and some radio controlled stuff.

It’s been on-and-off – it rather depends on my workload, but there’s a corner of my office that always has a breadboard with various bits hanging off it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, someone mentioned the Arduino project to me – he’d used an Ardiuno to create an awesome remote controlled BBGun. So I bought an Arduino dev board.

Then I discovered the mbed project – which uses a surprisingly powerful ARM-based processor at the heart of a surprisingly easy to use development board.

Well blow me down… there’s some very clever stuff going on, and I’m planning to get hold of an mbed board in the next couple of weeks and start playing.

My initial reaction is that the Pic microcontrollers still offer the best transition from prototyping into production, but the Arduino and the mbed platforms offer the best entry point to microcontroller development. The fact that the processor used by the mbed board is so awesomely powerful has also got me going more than a little bit.

Over the next few months I’m going to be tinkering with each of these devices, and I’ll keep you all informed.

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