BasicBoard Programming Options
by William Smith
This column started out building applications around the BasicBoard module sold
at 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.
The BasicBoard module (Figure 1) is built around the 40
pin Atom interpreter chip, which really is just a Microchip
PIC16F877A microcontroller with a custom bootloader
pre-installed. Therefore, the BasicBoard will accept any 40
pin PIC chip. You just have to program it off the board and
then plug the programmed part into the BasicBoard.
The advantage to the Basic Atom chip is the Atom’s Basic
compiler can be downloaded for free. Basic Micro makes their
money on selling the interpreter or bootloader chip. This got
me thinking about what other free compiler options someone
could use to program a 40 pin PIC microcontroller. There
are several different versions of the 40 pin PICs and they all
share the same pinout. This presents several options to use
the BasicBoard with. It turns out the 40 pin PIC package
(shown in Figure 2) is a popular choice with many free
compilers. Let me cover some of the ones I found.
Figure 1. BasicBoard module.
58 SERVO 12.2008
Figure 2. 40 pin PIC
Labs was the first
compiler I thought of
since I’ve covered their
sample version in a
The sample version
supports the 40 pin
and F877(A) parts. The Figure 3. EZPIC programmer.
compiler limits you to
31 commands so the F871 with only 2K bytes of program
memory is the cheapest of the three, and 2K is far more
memory than 31 commands will use up anyway. You simply
download the sample version from http://melabs.com/
pbpdemo.htm and then get to work writing your first
program. You can Flash the finished program into the
F871 using just about any PIC programmer. The
BeginnerElectronics.com EZPIC programmer shown in
Figure 3 is a low cost option.
You can get free samples of the F871 from sample.micro
chip.com or buy a few from Digi-Key or Mouser. The
command structure of PICBASIC PRO is similar to Atom
Basic so the sample programs that come with the
BasicBoard can be easily converted.
The PICBASIC PRO compiler (Figure 4) comes with its
own IDE for developing the program. You can add a
programmer to the automated setup, but that will take a
little reading. If you just load the .hex file it produces
into the programming software that comes with your PIC
programmer or the WINPIC software we recommend you