Beginning With the Explorer 16
So I’ve found it very helpful in the past to teach others things that I have quite a lot of experience in as quite often I learn a few things and at the same time observe a different perspective on a problem, which is very important to a job where problem solving is paramount. So here’s my beginners tutorial on programming the 16 bit PIC24F family chip on the Explorer 16 board, which by the way is a pretty awesome board to work with. So I’m just quickly going to show how to light an LED and communicate with the computer via the serial port, these things actually reward the user very quickly with some actual physical output. So here it goes:
First of all I’ll quickly go through the very simple steps to set up your PIC project.
Ok so you’ll need the MPLAB IDE and the MPLAB C Compiler for PIC24F PIC’s from the Microchip Website, the IDE is free and you can you get the lite version of the compiler for free. Start a new project in the IDE by going to project wizard and selecting your chip and your compiler in the options. Also you’ll need to select and add a linker file to your project, it’s located inside the compiler’s folder inside the sub folder support/PIC24F/gld/, you need to select the file with your exact chip number on it.
So now you’re ready to begin actual programming.
The first example I want to show you is the “Hello World” of the microcontroller programming field, the lighting of an LED. Now there are already LED’s on the explorer 16 board so we won’t have to do any soldering or connecting up, we just need to know the way in which it is connected up. Now I implore you to download the data sheet for both the PIC and the explorer 16 board, they are so useful and will tell you exactly what is connected to what and what each register controls. In our case the 8 LED’s are connected to PORTA which is basically a set of digital input/output ports which we can control with the PIC. Now to set the first LED (D3) on we need to configure the PORTA to be an output on the first LED. We do this by setting
TRISA is the register of the PIC that controls whether or not a digital i/o pin is an input (bit has value 1) or an output (bit has value 0). The 0x in front of the FFFE means that it is a hexadecimal number which in binary form is: 1111111111111110, setting the very first pin RA0 to an output. You can also set the bit as an output by using
which is a handy shortcut when you only really need to change 1 bit.
Ok so we have set the pin as an output, now we want to set whether it is actually giving out current, we do this by setting the pin high, if the pin is low then it gives out no current. To do this we set the first bit of the PORTA register to 1 i.e.
As with all c programs we’re going to need to put this in the usual main function so set up your main.c file to look like the following:
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Don’t forget to put the header file for your PIC at the top of the file, just use your exact PIC designator with a .h at the end, the same as your linker file. Just a quick note about the while at the end of the code, we need that there so that the PIC doesn’t complete the program as when it does the LED will turn off, and it will do this so quickly that you will not even see it flash. So now go to project on the top menu and click build all, then select your programmer and program your PIC. The D3 LED should turn on and shows how easy it is to control something physically with some programming and a PIC.
Next I’ll show you a simple way to use your serial port connection to connect to your computer. A few things you’ll need before we get going, first of all serial ports are kind of legacy equipment for computers nowadays so it is very unlikely your pc will have one, however they are very easy connection to use and are still widely accepted in the embedded programming world, so you’ll probably need a usb to serial adapter. Another thing you’ll need is hyper terminal, a really great simple windows program that will do exactly what we need, however on more modern window versions they don’t have it included so you might have to download a copy from the internet. So anyway onto the programming.
First of all you to need to initialise the uart2 module on the board so that you can use it with the serial port with particular connection information. I’m going to put this in a separate function to make it easier in the main program. We’ll make a library file “u2.h” to contain come constants:
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Then we make the “u2.c” file that contains the initialisation function and also the function to send a single ASCII character to the serial port:
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Now this means that the function putU2() has an input of a single character and sends it down the serial port, now what we really want is a function to write an entire string to the serial port. So we are going to reimplement the printf function in the c standard library and use that to send a string to the serial port, its useful since the printf function doesn’t really have a current output to print to when working on the explorer 16 board, so we create one. To do this we create a new file write.c to override the old write function which is used by printf to actually write the data. So the write file should look like this:
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and now in your main function you simply need to initialise the uart2 and then use the printf command to send a string, as follows:
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What you will want to do now is to compile and transfer the program to the board and then connect the Explorer 16 to the serial port on your computer (or usb to serial adapter) and open up hyper terminal. Create a new connection on the COM port of your serial port and set the baud rate to 115200, data bits to 8, parity to none, stop bits to 1 and flow control to hardware. Then you should be able to see your board spitting out the word hello on every iteration of the while loop. Now that you have a connection to your board there are a ton of things you can do, the most useful I’ve encountered are data collection, controlling equipment and debugging. Enjoy!