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Hardware Hacking Portables Toys Hardware

Homebrew Microcontroller Laptop, Made of Wood 159

Posted by timothy
from the logically-if-she's-made-of-wood dept.
Brietech writes "This is a homebrew laptop project based on a Picaxe microcontroller. It has 16kb of RAM, 256kb of storage, sound and a self-hosted development environment! It has a simple CLI, file-system, 'EMAXE' text editor and a programming language called 'Chris#.' Oh, and yes, it runs Linaxe."
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Homebrew Microcontroller Laptop, Made of Wood

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  • Re:Already down. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Emb3rz (1210286) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @12:52PM (#27227315) Homepage
    http://www.google.com/search?q=site:chrisfenton.com+laptop [google.com]

    Click the 'cached' link on the first result

  • Re:Pretty fast! (Score:5, Informative)

    by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @12:58PM (#27227441)

    Actually, it probably isn't. It's probably not even close. The site is slashdotted badly, but I'm guessing this is an 8-bit CPU. Most microcontrollers of this sort take several clocks per instruction. And the instruction set is probably more limited in capability than x86.

    Also, I have to wonder why use an obscure part rather than the Atmel chips that are wildly popular with open source enthusiasts, or even the Microchip PICs (not quite as popular as the Atmels, but still has a strong hobbyist following). Having a development community and existing software base is useful.

  • by vu2lid (126111) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:02PM (#27227523) Homepage

    Probably because PICAXE Microcontrollers can be programmed in a simple subset of BASIC.

    It is very easy to write code, program and debug (they don't require a special programming interface). They are **really simple** to use, very powerful and versatile.

  • Re:yeah whatever!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by cnlohfin3109 (758597) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:07PM (#27227607) Homepage
    Good for adults, who build it. I don't think you get the idea behind doing most projects like this. It isn't to have some amazingly practical tool or to make money but to learn, explore, and prove you can do it yourself. This is the same type of comments people posted when the article about the non-von1 was on here. Give credit to the DIYers for doing these amazing things themselves with limited budgets.
  • Re:Pretty fast! (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:13PM (#27227713)

    If you check out the Coral Cached version of the site [nyud.net], you can see that the guy is not after something with an existing development community or software base. He's written his own everything, and seems to have a sense of humor about it. He even implemented Pong, and says that he someday hopes to achieve parity with an early 80s computer :)

  • Re:Pretty fast! (Score:4, Informative)

    by frieko (855745) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:14PM (#27227731)
    Agreed, you can get a 16 bit, 40 MIPS PIC [microchip.com] in a through hole package.
  • by Panaflex (13191) <convivialdingo&yahoo,com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:22PM (#27227873)

    if you were in the woods with nothing but a hatchet, how long before you could send an email?

    Even if you knew everything - it would literally take decades to do it "right." It took the entire human race with practically unlimited resources about 132 years once we had the most basic understanding of electronics (telephone). Even knowing every concept doesn't put you ahead by much without an existing manufacturing base.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:32PM (#27228149) Journal

    I just found out that, as the name clearly suggests, it's a preprogrammed PIC microcontroller.

    See for yourself at http://www.rev-ed.co.uk/picaxe/ [rev-ed.co.uk] in the Technical Frequently Asked Questions PDF file:

    What is a PICAXE microcontroller?

    A PICAXE microcontroller is a Microchip PIC microcontroller that has been pre-
    programmed with the PICAXE bootstrap code. The bootstrap code enables the
    microcontroller to be reprogrammed without the need for an (expensive)
    conventional programmer, making the whole download system a very low-cost
    simple serial cable!
    The bootstrap code also contains common routines (such as how to generate a
    pause delay or a sound output), so that each download does not have to waste time
    downloading this commonly required data. This makes the download time much
    quicker.

    I'm sure this "laptop" would have been much faster if based around an AVR. But that would have required more work.

  • Re:Pretty fast! (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:41PM (#27228355)

    Again, read the link:

    Well, after a far-too-long hiatus, I'm back with a new Picaxe-based laptop! This project was born of a desire to see how far I can push the lowly Picaxe microcontroller. A friend of mine likened it to "spending over a year to reinvent the square wheel."

    He's doing it as a hobby, and he's not pretending that it is useful. He compares it to a "square wheel"!

  • Re:Second the Atmel (Score:3, Informative)

    by atrus (73476) <atrusNO@SPAMatrustrivalie.org> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:45PM (#27230923) Homepage
    Second the msp430 suggestion. Well worth looking into for micropower embedded applications. The GCC port (based on 3.2.3) isn't all that great, but it does do the job.
  • by Mr Z (6791) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:12PM (#27231441) Homepage Journal
    Hmmm... Maybe tweak this? [openpandora.org]
  • by Simonetta (207550) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:48PM (#27232237)

    Atmel is SO much better than any PIC. Atmel AVR microcontrollers are individually cheaper. They run at least four times faster for the same clock speed (one instruction per clock cycle instead of one instruction per four clocks for the PIC). They have a vastly more versatile and flexible instruction set. The AVRs are designed to be used with high level languages like Open Source GCC, not kluged BASIC for high school kids that the PICs use in their absurdly overpriced 'training' packages. Most AVRs now have the same boot-loader capacities that this PICAXE package is offering.

        I use AVRs for sound programmer/editors based on hardware MIDI synthesizers like the Yamaha TX81Z. It's nearly impossible to do any MIDI work in Windows. The MIDI APIs in Windows are difficult, incomprehensible, and nearly undocumented. It's a real mess and will never get any better. The hell with it. I do all my MIDI development now for $3 AVR processors and $5 graphic and character LCD screens. Developing for the AVR is like being back the 1980s writing assembler for the Commodore 64 and Turbo C for DOS. But everything is 1/10th to 1/100th of the cost that it was then. And there are no !@#$%^& ultra-violet EPROM erasers needed. Check out my open source hardware synth editors on the Yahoo! Yamaha DX group(s).

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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