Technology is now omnipresent, since microprocessors are found in PDAs, phones, toys, greeting cards, etc. Almost all of them have a microprocessor encapsulated within, together with RAM, ROM, and input/output ports, all in one single silicon chip known as a “microcontroller”. In some cases, these may well be PIC microcontrollers from Microchip Inc., and as with any CPU, we need tools to make them work - let us see what this one is capable of.
mikroC PRO for PIC is a complete IDE for coding, simulating, programming, and debugging your PICs. Writing your code in C brings advantages over writing it in assembler - for example, you do not have to switch between register banks. But the most important advantage is that C is easier to use, maintain, understand, and share.
You can always write and simulate your code with the IDE, but for programming and debugging the PIC you need one thing – Mikro Elekronika’s PICFlash. If you want to use a different one, you just need to assemble one on your own, or use one of the many already available on the Internet. Unfortunately, PICFlash interface is not open, so most of the time programming and debugging will be unavailable.
Usually, when programming a tool that requires some port interface (SPI, UART, USB, etc.), testing becomes crucial. This IDE offers you a series of interface windows for that purpose. For instance, if your prototype includes a UART interface, you can use the “UART Terminal” to configure the number of bits, the parity, the baud rate, and anything else you may need to verify how well your idea works. This helps a lot in finding common problems beforehand.
It is also very helpful to have access to a number of built-in libraries. These fall into three categories: Standard ANSI C, Hardware PIC-specific, and Miscellaneous. Most of the time, hardware libraries require specific hardware parts to be available inside the PIC, but in some cases it is possible to emulate its functions, like we have seen with UART. Their hardware counterparts will work better, but if the PIC does not have the necessary hardware components, all we can do is emulate them. Some libraries will not need any special PIC model (they can work with any of them), but they require some external hardware bits - for example, with the Music library you can play your songs in MIDI only if a buzzer (or other hardware component) is installed.
This IDE is only for 8-bit PICs, but you can see it as your first step to learn PIC programming, which might later help you to move up into 16-bit and 32-bit, and even dsPICs. Imagine everything you can do, from a simple blinking LED to a robot that can beat you playing chess. mikroC can certainly help you with the entire process of developing - think about the unlimited possibilities, only you set the limit.
- Several built-in libraries
- Embedded simulator, programmer and debugger
- Well designed IDE
- Programmer and debugger work only with Mikro Elektronica's PICFlash device
- Only for 8-bit PICs