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ARM-based MCU runs fast BASIC

Posted: 13 Jul 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Coridium? ARMexpress? microcontroller? MCU? XX?

Putting lots of performance in a small pluggable 15.24mm DIP package, the $69 ARMexpress DIP24 microcontroller is available from Coridium Corp.

The low-cost product is intended to help you rapidly create one-of-a-kind and/or small-volume applications, ranging from time-to-market prototypes to production and factory-floor systems. I'm sure it would also be useful in the lab, and most certainly for engineering educational or hobby applications, too.

As the name implies, ARMexpress brings the power of an ARM processor to your PC, leveraging USB connectivity. You interact with the controller through a simple software communication package, and the USB interface accepts direct commands. Or, you can create a program file using any text editor such as Notepad.

Back to BASIC
Some things change and some things remain the same, and some things are just plain innovative. Marrying a 60MHz ARM7 processor with an ARM BASIC compiler, the ARMexpress DIP24 module retains the ease of BASIC programmingbut does it at speed. It can execute a whopping 10 million lines of BASIC code while handling one million I/O operations per sec. You can use up to 16 TTL-compatible I/O pins.

In use, the system's on-board BASIC compiler generates code that runs up to 30 times faster than interpreted BASIC. In fact, that's on a par with compiled languages such as C. On-board memory stores approximately 3,000 lines of code and 10,000 variables. The ARMexpress DIP24 includes 128Kbytes of flash (40Kbytes available for user code) and 64Kbytes of SRAM for the user variables. You also get 4Kbytes of space in flash that's writeable.

The module also includes built-in support for I2C, SPI, ASYNC, PWM and 1-Wire communication schemes and protocols. ARMexpress also features digital I/Os that can be controlled individually, or as a group using INS and OUTS BASIC instructions.

The device is also pin-compatible with other of Coridium's DIP24 modules. The company's premiere product is its BASIC-8 industrial controller. It offers eight digital I/Os, eight high-current outputs, and a Web interface.

In the ARMexpress and BASIC-8, any BASIC variable that's declared WEB is visible on a Values page. It can therefore be read or modified using your browser. This is useful for parameters that you want to be able to change remotely. Moreover, variables declared as WEB READONLY can only be read, but not written to, through your browser. That's useful for data you want to monitor remotely but don't want a user to be able to modify.

Coridium supports its wares with an additional tool called BASICnode. It's a project board that includes a prototyping area that lets you configure circuitry for motors, relays, sensors, switches and LEDs. The package includes a power supply, a cross-over Ethernet cable, and a CD with manual and a BASIC tutorial.

Finally, the ARMexpress includes its own regulated power supply, so the plug-in can run from 7-12Vdc sources. It has on-board 3.3V and 1.8V regulators.

- Alex Mendelsohn

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