Let me be the first to say, I’ve been spoiled when it comes to working with microcontrollers. While I’ve been writing some pretty nifty code recently, it’s been very much “high level” stuff, code that builds a lot on pre-existing libraries for the Arduino platform. While I’ve still yet to pull the cardinal sin of a GOTO, I’m sure the Arduino way of doing things has surely taught me a few bad practices, even if I’m not aware of them yet!

So in an attempt to redeem myself, and to teach myself quite a lot about the actual hardware I’m spending so much time working with at work, I’ve made my first attempt to get up and running with a Texas Instruments MSP-430 series uC, and a “proper” Integrated Development Environment (IDE), IAR’s Embedded Workbench.

Enter the Launchpad…


About last year, maybe a bit before then, Texas Instruments launched a series of boards called the Launchpad series. These little boards are intended to get people to play about with the MSP hardware. The cheapest of these retails for approximately $4.30 (Aha!), and includes not only a breakout for one of several “value” line MSP microcontrollers, but an on-board programming and debugging tool and a few push-buttons. The board shown above is  a slightly more expensive Launchpad, that features one of TI’s ferromagnetic RAM MSP devices, a 3 axis accelerometer, thermistor, 8 LED’s, and generally a whole load more I/O (due to the pin count of the device).

Now compare what you’re being offered here to the Arduino platform. Yes, you don’t get the massively simplified community of support and pre-written libraries, but that’s kind of why I’m entering into this adventure. I want to learn what’s involved with the nitty-gritty of programming a microcontroller, not blindly use someone elses code (although that is indeed handy at times…) with no question as to why it does what it does. Not to mention, the concept of hardware debugging with breakpoints is appealing. Once you’ve writtin a good number of “DEBUG.print” statements, you get a bit tired of doing so. And you can’t ignore the price difference either!

Associated Reading:

I’m going to spend the next post exploring how to get my version of “Hello World” (A blinking LED) running on these devices.