What is PICAXE?
PICAXE is a use of Microchip PIC microcontrollers that exploits the power of modern PICs. Rather than requiring specialist chip programmers, EEPROM programmers and erasers and skills with program development using assembler and C or C++, the PICAXE system is based around chips preloaded with firmware that allows development to use a simple three-wire serial interface and a BASIC programming language. The development environment – editing, debugging and downloading programs from a PC running Windows or Linux or a Mac, is provided free of charge by Revolution Education.
PICAXE was developed in the nineties for educational use but has since become a staple for hobbyists, engineers and industry. The PICAXE chips themselves are supported by a wide range of kits, project boards, modules and individual components available from Tech Supplies, the sales arm of RevEd, and other distributors in the UK and elsewhere.
Most of my projects are ham radio based. Many have been inspired by the need to make simple, repetitive tasks more transparent – automate them, that is! Microcontrollers and smart sub-systems also allow existing commercial equipment to become more accessible in many ways.
I also find great satisfaction in garden automation. That may be down to my desire to serve the environment or, perhaps, simply a way to avoid any physical effort in the garden. Either way, the residential garden offers a wide range of opportunities to the systems developer!
The solderless breadboard – as shown here, to the left – can be indispensable when using expensive or complex parts and sub-systems, especially for the first time. Here a super-regenerative 433MHz receiver module is being trialled with a PICAXE 28X1 microcontroller.
Often, using a ZIF socket – a zero insertion force IC socket – can allow components with many legs to be easily and quickly put into a circuit.
Here are some projects and an account of the PDARS Getting Started with Microcontrollers events