Next Practice Round: MicroPython on ESP8266

I’ve been running through “Hello World” level microcontroller projects, using my little Harbor Freight solar array as a target subject. I just finished a trial run of programming an ESP32 using ESP-IDF platform and while analog input and power-saving deep sleep worked as expected, GPIO output pins did not. I thought I would use an external peripheral to get around the problem but, if I’m doing that, I might as well fall back to the cheaper ESP8266 used in a batch of Wemos D1 Mini clone(*) I had bought.

An earlier experiment with ESP8266 used the Arduino development platform. This time around, I’m trying MicroPython for the following reasons:

  1. With MicroPython I could modify my code without reflashing the entire ESP8266 as I had to do with Arduino.
  2. My Arduino sketch was a fairly short piece of code, but MicroPython promises to get going with even less code.
  3. Last time I looked at MicroPython I rejected it because it didn’t support a hardware peripheral I wanted to use. (MCPWM of ESP32.) This time I’m using just the ADC, which is supported.

I actually wanted to try CircuitPython, Adafruit’s derivative of MicroPython with changes focused on making things even easier for beginners to play with and something I first encountered on their HalloWing product. However, a part of CircuitPython is exposing the microcontroller as a USB mass storage device and letting us drag-and-drop Python source files onto the board for instant execution. This requires native USB support on the microcontroller, which is present on newer ESP32 variations but not the one I have. There used to be an ESP8266 version without the drag-and-drop but Adafruit stopped supporting that configuration some time ago.

Putting CircuitPython back on the “look at later” list, I changed focus to MicroPython. I brought up documentation for putting MicroPython on an ESP8266. In 15 minutes I had an interactive Python command line over serial port, though there were a few speed bumps.

(*) Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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