For some time I’ve been looking for a microcontroller development board for my projects so I can do the prototyping a lot easier. The first such system I met is arduino (an open source development board based on Atmel mircocontrollers), I started to search for something like it, but using PIC microcontrollers instead. In the current trend, serial ports are becoming obsolete from newer computers and almost none on laptops, therefore I looked for a USB based solution. Finally, an open source system so messing up with it is some fun!
After some googling, I found out about Pinguino which is based on 28 pin pic18F2550 and bigger version of it, pic18F4550 (40 pin) microcontrollers. Depending on the requirements, the user have choice for either for 2550 or 4550 and both are USB supported in hardware (not bit banging). Just as I had some 18F2550 with me, i made the “traditional 2550” version.
That’s the basic description! The board communicate with the computer as a HID (the microcontroller must be flashed with the firmware in pinguino site to make it the pinguino!) and the IDE given is a python based software which can communicate with the microcontroller. The language used in the IDE is SDCC that can be learnt pretty quickely after following the tutorial.
Overall I like the whole system as it’s very fast in communication (40 seconds in serial vs 2 seconds via pinguino) as well as it’s very responsive. Even though a boot loader usually affect a microcontroller’s performance, this didn’t do as I assumed.