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When I m developing software, I always nd that I m the happiest (most productive, debug fastest) using an integrated development environment (IDE). This extends to PC programming, where I always liked the original Borland Turbo Pascal and the modern Microsoft Visual Basic and Visual C++ development tools (part of Microsoft s Visual Development Studio integrated development environment). I don t believe that I am alone in feeling this way, and the Microchip PIC microcontroller MPLAB integrated development environment (shown in Fig. 3.9) has done a lot to make the PIC microcontroller popular with people looking for a place to learn about microcontrollers.
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Figure 3.9 The Microchip MPLAB integrated development environment (IDE) is the rst tool you should turn to when learning to create PIC microcontroller applications.
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An integrated development environment integrates all the software development tools I ve described in the previous sections. A microcontroller integrated development environment brings the following tools together:
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The purpose of an integrated development environment is to provide the data in a system that allows it to be shared seamlessly as far as the user is concerned and does not require any special input. When I rst started working with the PIC microcontroller with MS-DOS command-line tools, to change some source code, assemble, and program a part, I had to go through the following steps:
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Invoke a source code editor. Change/enter application code. Save and exit editor. Invoke the assembler. Select the source le. Invoke the programmer. Select the correct con guration bits. Program the PIC microcontroller.
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In MPLAB IDE, the steps for changing source code and programming a part are reduced to:
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Start up MPLAB IDE. Change/enter application code. Click on Project | Build. Click on Enable MPLAB ICD 2. Click on Start.
Not only is this process faster and less prone to errors, problems with the source code can be xed immediately in the editor and the application rebuilt without having to go back to the editor and assembler. MPLAB IDE s projects are used to record the user s preferences for an application, the source code les currently edited, the PIC microcontroller part number along with its execution parameters (such as the clock speed used with it), and the user s preferences in terms of window placement on the MPLAB IDE desktop. In later sections of this book, I will describe the features of MPLAB IDE and how to work with it when developing your own applications. When learning a new programming language or microcontroller, you should only look at devices that have a well supported integrated development environment available. This will make the process of learning the new device easier for you as well as minimize the possible mistakes you will experience transferring data between the editor, assembler, simulator, and programmer. In this book, I will work with MPLAB IDE exclusively because of its ease in integrating the PIC microcontroller application development steps with application code development, simulation, and programming.
High Level Languages
The PIC microcontroller has been around long enough for there to be a number of languages (and versions of each language) to choose from. These languages are surprisingly ef cient I say surprisingly because the low-end and mid-range PIC microcontroller architectures are not well suited for implementing compilers because the limited program stack, the inability to push and pop data, and the limited register space all prevent traditional compiler code designs to be used to create compilers for
them. The code that is generated is usually not as ef cient as that somebody who is very familiar with the processor cores writing assembly language can create; the code can be counted on being at least 25 percent less ef cient in terms of execution speed and memory usage. If this were a PC or workstation processor, I would say that this difference is enough to make the languages unattractive. But for a microcontroller this is a reasonable difference and will allow you to choose the language and compiler that will best meet your requirements. It will also allow you to learn how to work with the PIC microcontroller peripheral hardware without the tedium of learning the internal operation of the PIC MCU processor. There are a few features of language implementation that you should be aware of when choosing a compiler. The rst has to do with memory. Few microcontrollers (and the PIC microcontrollers in particular) are blessed with the essentially unlimited memory available to the personal computer. The language and implementation you use should be very frugal with their use of the memory resources. One of the things I have found in developing PIC microcontroller applications is that a well designed application does not require a lot of memory. Although in several of the applications I present in this book I do use up most of the available resources, in none of them am I totally hamstrung with meeting the application s requirements. In many cases, I am trying to use the PIC microcontroller with the smallest amount of memory required for the application to minimize the total cost. Languages can use a lot of memory, especially if they aren t optimized. Before investing in a compiler, make sure you understand what type of code is produced and the maximum number of lines you can expect to be able to write for your application. Ef ciency is measured in terms of execution speed and program memory requirements for an application a good PIC microcontroller application uses very little memory and can respond faster than is required by the application requirements. The next important aspect of the language is the data types used. Native PIC microcontrollers only run in 8-bit code; you should make sure the compiler you use gives you a variety of data types (16-bit variables at a minimum can be extremely useful). I ve found there are many times when I would like to use more than 8 bits for counters and such. Many of the programs presented here use 16-bit variables, and in the appendices I ve included a number of 16-bit mathematical algorithms for your use when programming assembly language applications. Hardware support and initializations are important aspects to look at when evaluating PIC microcontroller compilers. It s important to know what the compiler s initial code does before starting the application code (that is, does it set certain features, such as timers and I/O ports in speci c states that may cause problems later ). If the compiler uses resources that you will want to use in assembly language (such as the FSR register), you may have to change the resources used by the compiler or use a different approach in your assembly language programming. Applicability across the whole PIC microcontroller line is another consideration when looking at different languages. The language that you choose should produce code for all the devices in the PIC microcontroller lineup. This is a very important concern because you may be putting your application on a PIC16F84 for development and
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