registers of the PIC, as well.
(This is more of an advanced
topic but having that extra
capability is a very nice feature
when you get into those
FIGURE 5. The Basic Atom IDE.
simulated — so this slows down operation a little. However,
this is priceless for debugging code. Because the commands
are similar between the Basic Stamp, PICAXE, and Basic
Atom, no matter what path you take you end up with a
lot of sample code to choose from — as long as you don't
mind investing a little time modifying it to work for your
I like the fact I can debug the code in the actual chip
rather than a simulation, although they both have their
advantages. The programming is also handled through
the IDE. Similar to the Stamp setup, the Basic Atom has a
one-click compile and program ability. This makes it
great for anybody just getting started. It also saves
money because you don't have to buy a separate
programmer or other special hardware to program and
debug. The Atom debugger lets you look at the internal
Having access to support
is very important, so check
out the user forums to get
answers for your questions. I
also like to have a book or two
for my own reference. The Basic
Atom has several online manuals
available in PDF format. One
book in particular, titled
"Programming the Basic Atom
Microcontroller" by Chuck
Hellebuyck, is written for the
beginner and takes you through
several projects that teach you
easy things like flashing LEDs
and then moves on to harder topics like driving LCD
modules and using interrupts or timers. This book is
available from the SERVO online bookstore at http://
Another book I recommend is Programming the
Microchip PIC with MBASIC by Dick Smith (no relation).
This book is written about the Basic Micro MBASIC compiler
for Microchip PICs, but the Basic Atom software was
developed from this compiler so all the information applies.
Dick has numerous projects and explains them well, though
some go beyond the capabilities of the Basic Atom.
FIGURE 6. The AtomNano
Basic Micro is developing some new boards for the
AtomNano. Figure 6 shows an early picture of one that
supports all three chips. The board has a couple switches,
LEDs, potentiometers, a speaker and a socket for plugging
in a parallel LCD module. The board has two servo
connectors which should make it a great robotics board.
There is a large breadboard area, as well.
The board has the USB programming adapter built in
so all you need to do is supply power and plug the cable in
to program your AtomNano chip. I'll be using a few of
these boards for some projects in future columns.
If you’ve been thinking about getting into robot
programming, the AtomNano is your new low cost path.
It offers all of the higher level commands you need, easily
expressed through a Basic language and supported by a
great development environment. If you can’t wait for my
future columns, visit the Basic Micro website, place an
order and get some code running at home! SV
74 SERVO 02.2009