Using Half-Byte Embedded Tiny Basic to Teach

HBPortableLabIt is 2017 and we have a slew of low cost or free tools available that teach anyone how to program a computer.  Just for Windows, we have something called Small Basic, from Microsoft. It is free and has a bunch of material you can use to teach anyone, especially children, how to code. There is also Python, Minecraft and a host of other, modern tools.

So, why use something as crude as Tiny Basic? One that requires a terminal? Well, there are a few reasons you may want to do this.

Cost, for one. 

It is free. It runs on Arduino and Arduino clones.  You can use it to also teach basic electronics.

And, that is what I am doing…using it to teach not only programming, but also how computers work.  It is really more for the latter as Small Basic cannot manipulate sensors and other hardware like Tiny Basic can.  Since Tiny Basic includes instructions for reading temperature sensors and a real time clock, it is perfect for teaching things like turning on something on if the temperature gets above a given number or it if is 5 o’clock, turn off something.

I recently started doing this with my step son.  We used Embedded Tiny Basic on my ‘portable’ lab, which contains an Arduino UNO clone, a 2 x 16 LCD, breadboard and voltmeter.  We first made one green LED blink, then added a second, red LED blink.  I used Tiny Basic to explain how to talk to the LED’s and used the DELAY instruction to make the LED’s blink at a constant interval.  I also took the opportunity to teach him binary.  We had discussed it previously, but I don’t think he really got it. Until now.  Using the DWRITE statement, which takes two parameters…pin number and a zero for off or 1 for on.  Having him use that code got him to understand the concept.  Small steps.

His mind is wandering now…’I can build a robot…a game…something to tell me when Xander is coming down the hall…’ Xander is his four year old brother. 

There are those of you out there who are thinking that this is a terrible idea, using Tiny Basic, that is.  Well, no, not really.  He is getting real instruction with a more object oriented and modern language while using Tiny Basic to learn the nitty gritty of the hardware.  You do not need a modern, object oriented language to blink an LED. 

I will post future updates on our progress as well as sample code.  Below is the code we used to blink the LED’s.

100 PRINT “INTERVAL”;: INPUT I
110 FOR X=1 TO 50
120 DWRITE 3, 1
130 DELAY I
140 DWRITE 3,0
150 DELAY I
160 NEXT X

(For single LED-it was on digital pin 3)

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Assembling the NKC 65k Color LCD Shield

Assembling the NKC 65k Color LCD Shield

The NKC 65k Color LCD Shield isn’t difficult to assemble, it is, however a bit time consuming.  The most difficult part of the assembly is soldering the connector board to the LCD itself. You must carefully line it up on both the LCD AND the shield board itself.  More on that in a moment.

To begin, first make sure you have all of the parts. Compare the packing list with what you have. Once you are sure you have every thing, you need to start with the LCD.  Take the very small connector board and, carefully, solder one of the strips to the LCD. You will know where, it’s kind of obvious, but, in case you can’t, on the shield board, look for the outline

lcdconnectorboard.jpg

LCD Connector Board

of the LCD.  On the component side, you will see several solid tracks that appear to go nowhere. This is what you will have to line up.  Once you place the LCD on the Shield board and line them up…the LCD has a tit that goes through the board on one side, line it up using that. Once satisfied, remove the LCD and continue to solder the connector board to the LCD. When you are done, place the LCD back on the shield, make sure the board lines up and then solder it to the shield board.  Congratulations, this was the toughest part of the assembly.

 

The official instrucWP_20170201_21_48_05_Pro.jpgtions say to solder the header now.  I would advise to wait. The problem is that the resistors are difficult to solder if you insert and solder the headers first. So, I would solder those outer resistors next.  Those are the 1K and 10K resistors. While you are at it, solder all of the small, .1uf capacitors (the little bright blue capacitors) into place. A few of these are also next to the headers and in difficult spots if the headers go first.

Solder the remaining resistors into place.  The board is clearly marked, so it should be very easy to figure out where to solder them.

The two large 10uf capacitors are polarized, meaning they must be soldered in a specific way. Notice they both have a gray arrow on them, that is the negative side and must be soldered in with the arrow pointing to the negative sign or round hole on the board.C1 would have the gray arrow facing the LCD and C7 has it facing the Max232 Integrated Circuit.

For the large LM317, place in the three holes, flat side facing toward the Max232.  Solder the center pin.  Carefully, bend the LM317 backward so it is as flush to the board as you can get and solder the remaining pins.

If you have a 16 pin, through hole IC socket (one does not come with the kit) I would suggest you use it in the assembly. It is ok if you do not, it makes it easier if, for some reason, you should ever have to swap the chip out.  If you have the socket, go ahead and solder it to the board, paying attention to pin one.  If you do not have the socket, insert the chip with pin one facing the edge of the board. Pin one is where the ‘u’ shape is on the outline of the chip on the board. Once you are satisfied that you have pin one in the proper place, solder the chip to the board.

The only things left should be the headers. An easy way to solder them in is to place them in your Arduino UNO and then carefully place the board over them, making sure the pins penetrate the board. Solder them.

WP_20170201_22_30_35_Pro.jpg

The Completed Board

 

 

Wow, you’ve assembled your board.  Now you need to test it.  There is a demo sketch (two of them) on the NKC Electronics web site.  Download them and then up load to your Arduino. If all went well, you see a short demo on the screen.

This is a busy but useful board and a ‘fun’ project. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to assemble and test.  There are better panels out there, but this kit is currently $4.95 and could be useful in a monitoring project, a game or for an at a glance status for one of your project.

Have fun!

Official assembly guideWP_20170201_22_36_47_Pro.jpg

Demo 1 - direct I/O

Demo 2 - using digital read/write

Demo 1 is much faster and is what I would use 
for things that need speed.

Embedded Tiny Basic: build apps for your projects

Embedded Tiny Basic: build apps for your projects

I, recently, embarked on building a useful if not glitzy digital clock. My first idea involved something retro: using four, seven segment, LED’s to look like something from the late 1970’s.  At the same time, I was also playing around with 8×8 LED Arrays, using the MAX7219 chip.  While playing with that, I connected one of my 1307 RTC’s to the array and loaded up a sketch to show the date and time on the arrays.  Then, it hit me…this is a much cooler clock and I can do more with it.

So, I built a prototype using one of my Half-Byte Console boards, minus the video, audio and Nunchucky connector.  Hardware wise, it was really simple…connect the arrays to pins 10, 11 and 12, the RTC to A4 and A5 and, for extra coolness, a BMP180 temp and humidity sensor to the sca and scl on the RTC.  Viola! modify the code to handle the BMP180 and Presto! A cool clock.

wp_20170121_01_55_22_pro

Prototype clock for developing Embedded Tiny Basic

I decided to build a second one to take to work.  I thought it might be useful to be able to throw up a custom message to scroll for when, say, I was in a meeting. The more I thought, the more I was convinced this thing needed some kind of control program that would be easily modified from, say, a smartphone and Bluetooth.

Well, I already had the genesis of that control program: Half Byte Tiny Basic.

So, I looked at the source and made a copy.  I then went in and removed stuff I would not need, like all of the graphics statements and functions. I removed the TVOut library, and  all of the video handling code. And TONE.  I miss TONE.

I did not need the Nunchuck code, so it was gone as well.  What was left was a nice, small shell of my control program.  I added the libraries for the 8×8 LED Array (MAXMATRIX) and added statements to manipulate the arrays: SCROLL to display text, SET to turn on or off individual LEDs, and DIRECTION to tell the arrays  which way to scroll the text.  I already had code to handle the DHT-11 temperature sensor, so I left that in (and decided to use it instead of the BMP180) and added T

wp_20170122_21_13_11_pro

Random dots on the clock

EMP and HUMID to scroll those values across the arrays, and added code for the RTC.I was going to add a mechanism that would interrupt the running program if a signal from the serial device was detected, but, there was already one there…the IN(0) function. So I left it. I now had a decent little programming language for the clock.  With HB Tiny Basic’s ability to autorun whatever is in the EEPROM, if it lost power, th

wp_20170119_15_23_11_pro

Clock, in action

e clock would just start running on its own. Sweet!

 

The HC-06 Bluetooth module works very nicely. It connects to the serial pins and communicates as if the device were connected directly to the controlling device-a PC or smartphone.  Everything fits nicely into these cheap pencil boxes I picked up from Wal-Mart for a buck each. They are just big enough for the HB Console board and are wide enough for the LED Arrays.  They don’t look all that impressive, until you power up the clock…the bright LED’s shine through the translucent plastic nicely.

Embedded Tiny Basic is useful for giving some level of intelligence to other wise dumb devices.  While you only have about 1K of RAM to use for Embedded Tiny Basic, I think that will be adequate for most things.  There is, currently, no motor control, but it could be quickly and easily added.  The functionality that is there is probably going to be good for quite a few projects.  If not, it can be modified quickly.  I am already seeing where it can be modified, even for just this particular project.  I have a few others in mind, so stayed tuned for those.

In the mean time, below is a list of the additions and a release date for the language is forthcoming.  I need to clean up the code-a bunch-before releasing it and, as well, making sure I have all you will need in order to compile and use Embedded Tiny Basic.

 New statements and function:
  • SETTIME hours,minutes,seconds,day,month,year
    • sets the time and date for the RTC
  • SET col,row,on or off
    • Turn on or off the LED at column, row
  • X=HOUR(0)
    • Get the current hour
  • X=MINUTE(0)
    • Get the current minute
  • X=MONTH(0)
    • Get the current month
  • X=DAY(0)
    • Get the current day
  • SCROLL var or “text”
    • Scrolls whatever is in the quotes
    • If there are no quoted strings, a variable value or number is displayed
  • DIRECTION 1-4 (1 is left, 2 is right, 3 is up and 4 is down)
    • Specifies the direction of the scrolling text, 1 is the default.
  • TIME (sends the date and time to the LED array)
    • Scrolls the current date and time
  • HUMID (sends humidity to LED array)
    • Scrolls the current humidity
  • Temp (sends the temp to LED array)
    • Scrolls the current temperature
  • X=TEMP(0 or 1)
    • Get the current temperature and put it in variable 'x'
    • A zero means use Celsius, a one means Farenheit
  • X=HUMID(0)
    • Returns the humidity to the variable 'x'

Below is the listing for the current “HELLO” app:

100 PRINT “Welcome to Half-Byte LED Programmable Clock”
110 SCROLL ” HALF-”
111 SCROLL “BYTE Clock…..”
112 IF HOUR(0)<12 SCROLL ” Good Morning! ”
114 IF HOUR(0)>11 IF HOUR(0)<18 SCROLL ” Good Afternoon! ”
116 IF HOUR(0)>17 IF HOUR(0)<=23 SCROLL ”  Good Evening!  ”
120 TIME
125 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
130 SCROLL “.   Temp is ”
140 TEMP
145 SCROLL “F  ”
150 SCROLL “Humidity is ”
155 SCROLL “%”
160 HUMID
170 SCROLL ”  Hello!  ”
180 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
190 IF RND(99)>50 GOTO 110
200 SCROLL ”       ”
205 O=MINUTE(0)
210 W=15
220 H=7
230 X=RND(W)
240 Y=RND(H)
250 P=RND(W)
260 Q=RND(H)
265 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
300 SET 16+(X),Y,1
310 SET 16+(X),H-Y,1
320 SET 16+(W-X),Y,1
330 SET 16+(W-X),H-Y,1
340 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
350 SET 16+(P),Q,0
360 SET 16+(P),H-Q,0
370 SET 16+(W-P),Q,0
380 SET 16+(W-P),H-Q,0
390 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
400 K=MINUTE(0)
410 IF K-O>1 GOTO 110
590 GOTO 230
600 SCROLL “DONE  “

A note about how the arrays are referenced, using SET.  Embedded Tiny Basic is setup to handle up to four arrays. My clock only uses two, but Basic does not know this, so individual LED addressing has to be offset by 16.  Normally, with four arrays, the upper left LED would be 0,0. In my clock, it would be 16,0 since I am only using the RIGHT MOST TWO arrays, each are 8 across and 8 down.

Some other things to note from the listing above…the line IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600 that is sprinkled through out the program will poll the serial port to see if there is a key press. If there is a keypress, we want to stop execution and goto line 600.  In this case, it just says ‘Done’ and stops. Lines 205, 400 and 410 make up a timer. Lines 200 through 590 just displays a random dot pattern, as a distraction.  We don’t want this all day, so we only let it run for about a minute.  Line 205 records the minute it started and line 400 gets the minute after each pattern is displayed.  Line 410 evaluates the elapsed time by subtracting the start time from the end time. If the result is greater than a one, it goes back to the clock routine.  Otherwise, it displays a new pattern. Lines 112 through 116 determines if it is morning, afternoon or evening.

The Scroll statement is lacking and somewhat buggy. I am working on fixing it, and adding more functionality to it, to make it more versatile, like PRINT currently is. I also want to add a mechanism to the language to allow it to receive messages, via Bluetooth, from, say, a smartphone.  Limited gameplay may also show up in a future release.

Embedded Tiny Basic will be released soon.

Build your own ATtiny85 programmer using an UNO

attiny85programmerAs part of my ATTiny 85 learning adventure, I had to create some way to actually load code on to the 85 itself. My first go ’round was a breadboard monster. The thing I hate about bread boarding are the bloody wires.  What a mess. Once I got my game working, I set out for a better way to program the chip.  I could have bought one, but what’s the fun in that? As it turns out, it is simple to build, provided you have an Arduino UNO handy.

I decided to make a shield for the UNO. I wasn’t concerned with passing through all of the pins, so only the ones I needed are exposed.  This is something I won’t do often, so I made no attempt to pretty it up either.  The whole thing consists of an 8 pin socket, one six pin header and one ten pin header and a 10 uf capacitor. Oh, a small perf board to mount it all.

Wiring is tedious and made the same mistake as I did with the game (see my last post) as I got the four pins (5 to 8) reversed. I know, I know.

Mistake aside, it took about a half hour for me to wire it up.

One thing that was a bit problematic for me, as I have a vision impairment, was getting the pins lined up to the proper UNO pins for the headers.  That took a few tries, but I got it.

The connections are below for using an UNO:

UNO Pins

ATTiny 85 Pins (actual pin)

+5v Vcc (8)
Gnd Gnd (4)
Pin 13 pb2 (7)
Pin 12 pb1 (6)
Pin 11 pb0 (5)
Pin 10 reset pb5 (1)

In the table above, the left is the Uno, the right is the ATTiny 85 socket. You need a 10uf cap between the Uno gnd and reset.

Before you can do anything with the Arduino IDE and the 85, you must first install the support…

By default Arduino IDE doesn’t support ATtiny85 so we should add ATtiny boards to Arduino IDE. Open File -> Preferences and in the Additional Boards Manager URLs give this url Arduino IDE Attiny support. Then, open Tools -> Board -> Board Manager, scroll down the list where it says “attiny by Davis A. Mellis”. Click toinstall it. Once installed, you can select ATtiny as the board type. You will also have to select chip type (45,85,etc.) Along with the processor, you will also need to specify the speed.  1 Mhz is the default, I used 8 Mhz for the code I downloaded for the game. Adjust to suit your needs.

You also need to upload the ‘ArduinoISP’ sketch to the UNO before programming the ATTiny 85. Once you upload this sketch, the UNO will pass along to the 85 what ever you send.

For my little handheld, I had to burn the bootloader first, then upload the game sketch. Don’t forget to  set the Arduino IDE to ‘Programmer ‘Arduino as ISP’. Once the bootloader is burned to ATtiny, you are ready to upload your code.

You should be good to go.  Here is a site (from Arduino) that goes into far greater detail.

An ATTiny85 based handheld game

WP_20161228_21_29_19_Pro (2)Yes, I love gaming.  And there is nothing more satisfying, to me, than building, sometimes coding and playing something I made.  Now, I don’t always WRITE the code, after all, time is a premium these days, but I don’t mind taking something someone else did and making it work with what I built.  For this project, I was very lazy: the design is also someone else’s.  I really wanted to do something with the ATTiny85, but have not really done anything outside of playing with the Adafruit Trinket or Digispark.

So, for this little project, I wanted to also use one of my cool little ssd1306 OLED screens.  While perusing the net, I came across Webboggles.com.  Here, they are selling a nifty little kit called the ATTiny Arcade Keychain. It looks to be of high quality and the author (Ilya Titov) goes through much detail in the design and build.  There are several posts about it and the games.  The game code and schematic have been made readily available. The first of the games was breakout and that is where I started. 

To build the little game, you will need the following:

  • Attiny85 + dip8 socket
  • SSD1306 OLED screen
  • 3x push buttons
  • 2x resistors (10kOhm optimal)
  • Piezo speaker
  • 3V 2032 coin cell battery
  • perf or vero board
  • I used a little speaker out of a toy cell phone instead of the piezo. I would also recommend socketing the screen instead of soldering it directly, you don’t have to, but I wish I had now.attiny85game_schem

    One other thing to keep in mind, you will need a way to program the ATtiny 85 chip, which I will describe in a follow up post. I actually built two programmers: one on breadboard and a quasi shield for the UNO.  I like that better.

    As you can see from the schematic, it is really simple. Even so, I made a few mistakes at first.  Not paying attention to the chip pinout, I got the pins reversed from pin 8 to pin 5. I, for whatever the reason, assumed the actual pin 8 was pin 5, instead of going from pin 4 to pin 5 at the bottom of the chip. Once I figured that out (I had yet to apply power) the rest was easy. I also got SCL and SDA backward (hey, I’m old).  Once I got my mistakes corrected, I was amazed that this simple circuit was now a little game machine.  Now, you aren’t going to play Call of Duty or even Doom, but you can play many classics on the devices.  I am going to build one or two more as this was a blast. I would also encourage ordering a kit from Webboggles as well.

    My next post will discuss creating an Attiny 85 programmer for the UNO.

    WP_20161231_15_20_15_Pro (2)

    A Programming Language for a Portable Development System

    Prototyping with Arduino and compatibles is fairly easy, especially when it comes to the hardware.  A breadboard simplifies things quite a bit.  A few months ago, I realized that I did not have any, so I purchased one, in a kit, on Amazon from a company called Elagoo. The kit, for about sixteen dollars (US) contained a lot of parts and the breadboard. Well, the board is fairly small, so I decided to create a portable workspace and mount the breadboard, an Arduino UNO R3 clone, a 2 x 16 LCD and some cord organizers.  It works great, and I can take my project around. Nice.  Problem, though, is that I still need to be tethered to the computer in order to write code.

    WP_20161001_18_38_08_Pro_LI (2)This got me thinking…could I come up with a small but easy to use interface language that could be coded with nothing more than a 12 key keypad?

    The answer is yes.  So, I have come up with an initial set of opcodes for programming with nothing more than what is on my workspace. 

    This language would more resemble CHIP-8 than, say, the Arduino language.  Commands, statements and functions all use a single byte but can have one or more subsequent values for parameters.

    The tables below outline the main features. The keypad I am using (because it was less than a buck) does not have enough keys for full hexadecimal, so I had to improvise. Still working on a scheme to allow alphanumeric entry without connecting a full ASCII keyboard.  For now, the language will be limited to reading sensors, accepting decimal (though integer only) numbers. No video, serial out to the 2×16 LCD or a Bluetooth module.

    For the tables, the first column is the opcode, second is what the opcode does, third is any parameter( s ) necessary and the last is a description.

    Assignment:

    01

    Let

    Var (00-0F)

    Value (00-FF)

    Conditionals:

    02

    IF

    Var (00-0F)

    01 is equal, 02 is <, 03 is >, 04 is <>

    03

    Jump if true

    Addr (00-FF)

     

    Program Flow:

    04

    Goto

    Addr (00-FF)

    Transfer control to address

    05

    Call

    Addr (00-FF)

    Call a subroutine

    06

    Return

       

    07

    End

     

    Ends program

    Input/Output

    10

    Inkey

    Var (00-0F)

    Gets input from the keyboard

    11

    Out

    Var (00-0F)

    Outputs a value

    12

    Temp

    Var (00-0F)

    Gets a reading from the temperature sensor

    13

    Pinset

    00-FF

    Send a value to pin

    14

    Pinread

    00-FF

    Get a value from pin

    15

    Xfer Pin

    Var (00-0F)

    Transfers value from read pin to variable

    I would envision the interpreter being fairly small, so it may be possible to integrate several libraries for the more popular sensors, like DHT-11 temp sensor and others.

    So, what do you think?  Is this something of interest? Please post your thoughts in the comments below.

    Type in Game: PONG! (or, something close)

    WP_20160911_21_48_56_Pro (3)Today’s type in game for HB Tiny Basic is a PONG! variant.  I cannot take full credit for this one, I found the original on a Japanese educational site devoted to teaching microcontroller programming, using Half-Byte’s Tiny Basic(!) (a variation of it, anyway) and for basic electronics.  The original was written in a variant of HB Tiny Basic and also used a 10k potentiometer for the controller.  I fixed a couple of bugs, got it to work with Nunchuk AND squeezed into a somewhat smaller memory footprint.

    The game has a little bit of intelligence, it does a decent job of trying to guess where the ball will go, but, it is not perfect and it is possible to win the game.  There are some nice uses of the language, such as trying to include something like an OR statement when figuring out where the ball is going and takes advantage of an undocumented ‘feature’ of LINE: if you specify ‘2’ as the ‘color’ parameter, it simply inverses the pixels in the line.  This eliminates the need for multiple statements to draw and erase the paddles.  Quite clever.

    Gameplay is super simple: the computer ALWAYS serves, the score goes to nine and stops. You are always on the right. You use the thumb stick up and down to control your paddle.

    Weird things are likely to happen, it is not perfect and there’s no more room for improvement (challenge?)

    Anyway, have fun!

    10 CLS:A=0:B=0:W=48:H=32
    30 BOX 0,0,W,H,1
    40 U=H/2-3:V=U
    50 LINE W-5,U,W-5,U+5,2:LINE 4,V,4,V+5,2
    60 CURSOR 8,1:? A:IF A=9 STOP
    70 CURSOR 3,1:? B:IF B=9 STOP
    80 D=1:E=1:IF (U+V)&1 E=-1
    90 X=5:Y=V+3:SET X,Y
    100 C=50
    110 IF C>0 C=C-1:GOTO 240
    120 RESET X,Y
    130 X=X+D
    140 IF X=0 A=A+1:GOTO 60
    150 IF X=W B=B+1:GOTO 60
    160 IF X=W-6 IF Y>=U IF Y<=U+6 D=-D:TONE 440,100
    170 IF X=5 IF Y>=V IF Y<=V+6 D=-D:TONE 440,100
    180 Y=Y+E
    190 IF Y=1 E=-E
    200 IF Y=H-1 E=-E
    210 IF X=W-6 IF Y=U IF E=1 E=-1
    220 IF X=W-6 IF Y=U+5 IF E=-1 E=1
    230 SET X,Y
    240 LINE W-5,U,W-5,U+5,2
    250 U=H-2-PAD(1)/8
    260 IF U<0 U=0
    270 IF U>H-6 U=H-6
    280 LINE W-5,U,W-5,U+5,2:LINE 4,V,4,V+5,2
    300 IF D=1 GOTO 370
    310 IF X>=28 GOTO 370
    320 IF X=27 IF A<=B GOTO 370
    330 IF E=1 Q=Y+X-4:IF Q>=H Q=32-H
    340 IF E=0 Q=Y-X+4:IF Q<0 Q=-Q
    350 IF Q<V+3 IF V>1 V=V-1
    360 IF Q>V+3 IF V<25 V=V+1
    370 LINE 4,V,4,V+5,2
    380 RESET X,Y
    400 DELAY 20:GOTO 110