William Smith

William's Articles

Microcontroller Fundamentals
Column: Beginner Electronics
December 2009
As this is my last column, I wanted to finish with a topic I think needs to be covered. Many of the programming books I’ve read over the years tend to skip over a major concern for the beginner, which is how a microcontroller works and how to interface other electronics to it. This final article will cover the fundamentals of working with a microcontroller. I’ll use on one of my favorites: the Atom Nano.

PICkit 1 Programmer
Column: Beginner Electronics
October 2009
The PICkit 1 is a leaded design so you can see all the components that make up the programmer, so things can easily be fixed if something fails on the board.

Programming Microcontrollers
Column: Beginner Electronics
August 2009
Learning to program microcontrollers is what every electronics beginner needs to put on their to-do list. Unless you’ve been living in a cave without Internet access, you have probably heard of the BASIC Stamp 2.

Build Your Own Atom Nano Board
Column: Beginner Electronics
June 2009
In this month’s article, we’ll use the Atom Nano 28-pin chip and build our own Ultimate OEM Atom Nano development board.

BasicBoard Robotics | April 2008
April 2008
Several years ago, I started a new hobby of programming embedded controllers using a development board known as the BasicBoard. I found it easy to use since you could program it in the Basic language and have all the features you could want already built in like LEDs, switches, speakers, LCDs, and expansion ports to connect servos and sensors. The robot shown here is a simple robot I built around the BasicBoard. Getting started with the BasicBoard is really simple...

BasicBoard Robotics | OEM Module Robotic Platform
June 2008
I’m always looking at robotic bases and there isn’t a better source than SERVO Magazine. I’ve also run across many just by surfing around on the Internet. One of my favorite sites to visit is the Junun.org site developed for the Portland Area Robotics Society. I’ve never gone to any of their competitions or been part of their club, but I still like the parts offered at this site. What caught my eye the first time I went there was the Mark III Chassis Kit. For $10, I got all the metal parts...

Moving From BS1 to PIC
Column: BasicBoard Robotics
August 2008
A high school teacher recently sent me an email asking for advice on the best path to move from the BASIC Stamp 1 (BS1) module to Microchip PICs. He had his students programming the BS1 Project Board (Figure 1) which is a very nice board for the price. He was happy with that board as an entry point, but the next step in the BASIC Stamp world was moving to the BS2 Homework Board, which is a $45 development board. He hoped to keep it below $25. He thought maybe programming a PIC microcontroller...

Hardware Serial Port Adapter
Column: BasicBoard Robotics
October 2008
I’m working on a new robot application for the BasicBoard from Beginner Electronics.com. I chose one of the tractor type bases from budgetrobotics.com as seen in Figure 1. This is a great little base to build a robot from. In the process of doing this, though, I wanted to get the expansion serial port on the BasicBoard working for future add-on sensors and other future ideas. That extra serial port connection ends up pointing to the front of the robot so this could be really handy...

BasicBoard Programming Options
Column: BasicBoard Robotics
December 2008
This column started out building applications around the BasicBoard module sold at http://www.beginnerelectronics.com. I’ve since gotten several emails asking if the BasicBoard was offered in a form that doesn’t use the Basic Atom interpreter chip from Basic Micro. In a word, no. But that doesn’t make it a dead end...

Introducing the AtomNano
Column: Beginner Electronics
February 2009
Many years ago, Basic Micro, Inc. introduced the Basic Atom modules to compete with other popular modules. Basic Micro still offers the Basic Atom modules and the interpreter chips they’re based on. Now, Basic Micro is introducing the AtomNano which is similar to the PICAXE and it has many additional features. I've only seen a beta version of the chips; they are very similar to the Atom interpreter chips but at a much lower cost. Let’s take a look at the new AtomNano.

Basic Atom & Robotics
Column: Beginner Electronics
April 2009
I introduced the new Atom Nano chips from BasicMicro.com in my last column, and now there are more new development tools to help the beginner. There is also a great robotics platform based on the Atom that is a great platform for the beginner so I’ll give it a mention later since it’s built around the 28 pin Atom interpreter chip. Let’s start with the Atom Nano chips...