Thursday, February 03, 2005
a non-frontier, non-python post

back to some roots

I've been having an urge to do more programming to the bare metal. I think it was brought on by returning to my C roots with the Frontier kernel programming stuff.

But I want to go even lower than C (which makes me chuckle, I used to think that C was pretty high level). In fact, I was thinking I wanted to do some programming at the machine code level.

Being that I was into electronics when I was younger (built a few heathkits, some Radio Shack hobby stuff, that sort of thing), I thought it might be fun to combine the two, so I started thinking about microcontrollers. The PIC family of microcontrollers, to be specific.

As I was looking around at what was available for doing PIC programming, I happened upon PicForth. PicForth is a variant of the Forth programming language that cross compiles into PIC code.

Forth is one of those languages that I've been fascinated with for some time, and I've made some attempts to learn it, but never really got all the way there. So the idea of having an excuse to learn Forth, and to program microcontrollers with it is something I find exciting.

Here's the problem. PicForth targets the PIC 16F87x and 16F88 family of chips. The only PIC hardware programmer (the bit that actually loads the chip with the program) that I know to work with the Macintosh under OSX is the "PICKit 1" programmer, but it won't program the particular chips that PicForth targets. At least as far as I can tell -- I'd love to be proved wrong.

a plea for help

Can anyone help me put together a PIC programming system, with my Powerbook, that will allow me to program PIC microcontrollers using the PicForth cross compilation system? Later I may attempt hacking things so that I can use other chips, but for right now I just want to get the basic system working.

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