There was a giveaway at the Hackaday LA August meetup and I came home with a little box labelled “Microchip MPLAB Xpress PIC16F18345 Evaluation Board“. (Retail value: $12) While I had some vague ideas about PIC chips, I’ve never had the chance to sit down and play with one. Thanks to Hackaday LA, I now have my chance.
In my exploration of hardware projects, there have been occasional times when I thought: “Hmm, I wonder if this is the kind of problem I could solve with a PIC.” Now that I have one to learn with, I hope to reach a point where I can definitively recognize problems that I can (or can’t) solve with a PIC.
The first thing to figure out is what I actually have in my possession. The long name was more than a little intimidating but a little research parsed the name into the following components:
- Microchip in this context is not the generic meaning but the proper name of the company Microchip Technology.
- MPLAB is a product line of software tools they produce. Offered to engineers for developing products around their hardware such as the PIC chips.
- MPLAB Xpress is a specific product in this line. It is a cloud-based variant of the full MPLAB software suite, scaled down to lower the barrier of entry into the world of PIC programming.
- PIC16F18345 is a cryptic alphanumeric string but that also makes it the least ambiguous one to understand. It designates a specific chip from the extensive PIC product line.
- Evaluation means this is for prototyping and not for companies to put into large volume products. I won’t understand why until later.
- Board means all of the above are mounted on a single circuit board.
After decoding the individual words, my question was “Why is the name of their MPLAB Xpress software on this hardware device?”
The short answer: this evaluation board’s on-board programmer has been tailored to support MPLAB Xpress’ cloud-based microcontroller development model.
The longer answer is coming up as tomorrow’s post.