Let's plug Picaxe on Make Magazine

Right now Make magazine <A href='http://www.makezine.com/' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a> has as the second listing &quot;Pic and electronics development on a shoestring&quot; (Click on Link) Well, I don't think it is possible to get more shoestring than the picaxe, so I've put a post on the link, with additonal links to Rev Ed and Manuka's sites. Tis awaiting moderation right now but hopefully comments will go through. (You need to log into Make to put comments on the Make site, but if you go to the link you can put comments directly on that linked site without needing to log in).

Anyone else who wants to post...

Addit 10 hours later: Make's link keeps moving. The direct link to the website is <A href='http://www.uchobby.com/index.php/2007/08/20/pic-electronic-development-on-a-shoestring/' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a> and I see there is another positive picaxe post.

Edited by - Dr_Acula on 22/08/2007 00:20:27
Replying to my own post here, but anyway, I put in my 0.02c worth to Make and the guys on the link have now asked me to write an article. And guess what they are offering - an Ardunio kit!

Maybe if I write an article their next giveaway might be a picaxe kit?


Senior Member
<i>&quot;And guess what they are offering - an Ardunio kit!&quot; </i>


Reminds me of a late-night talk show from years ago. The guest was a soldier who had saved the government lots of money by suggesting that they eliminate watch pockets in uniform pants.

His gift from that talk show? A pocket watch!

LOL indeed.

Stan - thanks for the posting on the uchobby site. Their idea of an article seems quite simple - a few paragraphs and pictures. Should be fairly easy. I'm also thinking of going to Make magazine as well as they are many times bigger than uchobby. 'Make' like lots of pictures and a few words which is a lot simpler than magazine articles.

To many I think 'embedded controller' means a custom board which is &gt;$50. Particularly in the US, I don't think the idea of the controller being just the chip and a few resistors is widely understood. Picaxe do boards like everyone else so maybe this is part of the reason, but it is actually Manuka's articles in Silicon Chip that really bring home the concept that all you need for picaxe is the chip.

I think there is also this misconception that picaxe is just for education.

So the mission is to boldy go out and spread the gospel of Picaxe!
Building a board took less time than I thought. 1 hour and &lt;$15 <A href='http://www.geocities.com/drvernacula/1_hour_micro.htm' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a> and another couple of hours to put together the description. If anyone spots any speling erors in the website then please let me know. I'll translate this into the format uchobby need in the next day or so, and I might look at reformatting it for Make magazine as well as I think that has quite a wide audience.


Senior Member
Good going Dr_Acu! - I suggest adding the .33uF or more cap to 78L05 _input_ recommended in data sheet as the 9 volt batteries as they drift down toward 5 volts get very high impedance and instability could result - it's notable how many hardware queries on this list have to do with power supply and noise problems...
&quot;...it's notable how many hardware queries on this list have to do with power supply and noise problems... &quot;

I agree and I'm amazed. I don't seem to get any of these problems and a bit of decoupling close to ic power pins and LCD power pins is so easy.
Probably due to those cheapie wall-warts from you-know-where. To them &quot;regulated&quot; means they've fitted a thermal fuse to meet 'regulations'. Judging by recent fires caused by PSUs, maybe &quot;regulated&quot; simply means &quot;had CE sticker put on&quot;.

Seriously though, I think a lot of it has to do with layout. Skimpy wire from battery to motor to PICAXE. Simply asking for trouble with no decoupling in sight either.

Edited by - beaniebots on 23/08/2007 19:47:58


Senior Member
I was interested to note the 78L05 data sheet said to use the .33uF cap on input if regulator is more than 3 inches from the power supply filter... Having done RF design and TTL current pulses etc I'm used to good building practice but I can understand how many newcomers have no idea [and 57 years ago when I built my first ham transmitter it had about a dozen output frequencies from parasitic oscillations, all at once, which my friends all laughed at and a common ground killed...]. This forum is very helpful to bring these matters to the attention of new electronics addicts...
Pre-build changed to built - many thanks for spotting this.

Re the caps, probably none of them are needed for the demo but I always put them in anyway.

27 mins definitely breaks my time record. Picaxe wins again! Am awaiting a reply on publication at uchobby and I'm going to try for Make and Instructables as well.
That Picaxe how-to is a great intoduction for beginners. Unfortunately I've had no time to contribute to the forum lately, but I am doing my share with a Picaxe entry on Makezine at <A href='http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2007/08/artsy_picaxe_digital_cloc.html' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a>.

Can anyone suggest how to make a &quot;steampunk&quot; case for the clock? Packaging these projects always seems to be the hardest part...
By the way, the DIY community has an understandable (and clearly desireable, IMHO) preference toward open source software and hardware, and this probably limits their use of Picaxe.

I wouldn't expect Rev-Ed to open their source code and don't think they're registered as a non-profit. But I think their educational mission places them in a very different category then typical &quot;for-profit&quot; vendors. With their incredibly modest surcharges over a blank PIC, I try to see them as a hardware/firmware supplier, not much different than Microchip. No-one (including the Arduino's Atmel) has truly open source hardware since everything becomes proprietary at the level of the silicon.

Highlighting Rev-Ed's mission and contrast to Parallax's handling of the basic stamp might help adoption.


Technical Support
Staff member
Without any offence to Rev-Ed, it's difficult to claim altruistic intent when there's a commercial venture at hand, and Rev-Ed are not alone in being able to play that card.

I'm not sure what &quot;contrast&quot; you see with Parallax Inc, but they have as much claim towards altruism and support for the education sector as Rev-Ed does. Each in its own way of course, but I think that trying to promote Rev-Ed as in some way better than any other is a dangerous path to tread, and one which can easily back-fire.

By all means highlight what the PICAXE offers which may be better than others, but 'sell it' on its merits.
<b>... it's difficult to claim altruistic intent when there's a commercial venture at hand, and Rev-Ed are not alone in being able to play that card. ... By all means highlight what the PICAXE offers which may be better than others, but 'sell it' on its merits. </b>

I completely agree with your sentiments, Hippy. FOSS and open-hardware are clearly different and empower the end-user in a way which &quot;IP-locked&quot; designs can't. Commercial ventures have a bottom-line to feed... period.

And perhaps I should not have used Parallax, since they also are &quot;hacker&quot; friendly and help educate the community. The difference in margins between BS1 and Picaxe products, however, indicates very different approaches to selling a product.



Senior Member
Dr_Acula, your article does a great job of presenting the simplicity of a minimalist Picaxe design. However, your demo routine can be implemented with a one transistor circuit. It sort of lacks the &quot;knock your socks off&quot; factor.

If you haven't submitted your article yet, you might consider spiffing up your app using the same hardware. Maybe show off the chip's PWM capabilities by setting the LED's brightness proportional to the amount of light detected by the photocell, or have the LED slowly fade in and out when it's turned out.

In any case, nice work!



Senior Member
Dr-A: I've only just checked your LDR circuit. Bravo, but maybe better to show a normal D-9 rather than ancient D-25?

I'd (predictably) go for AA cells as well, as 9V batteries are poor value (&amp; need the 7805). With small breadboards being just ~US$3 here in NZ suggest we rustle up a &quot;Make&quot; around these instead. It seesm these guys prefer breadboards anyway, &amp; of course circuit costs will be lower,layout more versatile &amp; assembly even faster!

Yikes. I should keep my big mouth closed as I'm talking myself into a version. See the likes of =&gt; <A href='http://www.picaxe.orcon.net.nz/bboview.jpg' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a>
Dr Ac, I've drawn up simple a Vreo Board version which uses the stereo socket.
If you want it, it's a 26kb JPEG 720x261.
I never got a chance to change the circuit as the article already is up on uchobby <A href='http://www.uchobby.com/' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a>. PWM needed the schematic changed as PWM only comes out of pin 2 and I'd used pin 2 as an input. But I am going to redo the circuit for Make and for Instructables (these have wider readership anyway).

And anyone else is welcome have a go as well - I haven't got a patent on this idea or anything!

Re the 25 pin plug - I manage 15 computers for my home and work and they get recycled down the food chain and the one at the bottom of the chain is the 300Mhz one that programs picaxes, and that happened to have a 25 pin plug. Newer PCs would be 9pin and even newer ones would be USB only with a USB to serial device. The bench computer lives with its case off and I use its 5V and 12V power supply for my breadboards (with L and C filtering plus lightbulb 'fuses'). I'd never be game to hack into the power supply of a brand new computer!

Re the 9V vs 3x1.5V, I simply wanted a stable 5V reference for the LDR. Any picaxe sensing analog voltages is going to need a stable power supply, and I seem to use picaxes for more analog sensing than digital sensing, so I have kind of got into the habit of using 78L05s on picaxes.

Re Michael - that is most helpful and perhaps I'll go for the rev-ed solution and maybe show how to make a D25 to stereo as well as a D9 to stereo. I reckon it would still come in under $15 even with both of these cables included.

Re Manuka, of course I did use a protoboard to test this, but my protoboards are 25 years old and a bit yellow and not very photogenic, so I scratched those photos!

Edited by - Dr_Acula on 28/08/2007 00:36:33


Senior Member
Here are my efforts the light saber was quite popular.

<A href='http://www.instructables.com/id/E5T8SENAFMEP286RG7/' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a>
<A href='http://www.instructables.com/id/EVQQZKQF2FRV674/' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a>


Senior Member
<b>dr-acula </b> : Gasp-25 years! Many of mine are only a mere 15 yo. &amp; hence teenagers by comparison. I'm tempted hence to shoot you a new protoboard forthwith,especially since entry level ones <A href='http://www.brightsparks.org.nz/MentorFTP//PICAXE-08/www_help/Files%5C203-0315_IMG.JPG ' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a>are now very cheap (~US$3)here in NZ,&amp; are a progressive pedagogue's preferred Picaxe prototyping platform <A href='http://www.picaxe.orcon.net.nz/teachnz.jpg ' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a>. Yah - note alliteration - 2nd coffee!

<b>Jmumby </b> : Just love your phrase- &quot;These little beastys let the mad scientist out of everyone&quot;. OK if I use it (perhaps in in modified form &amp; context) ? Stan

Edited by - manuka on 28/08/2007 22:50:35
Stan, I had to retire a couple of circa 1984 breadboards due to reliability problems. I suspect that the constant use in the 1980s wore away the plating on the connecters. I got married and had to pack things away in a box while I changed nappies/diapers for a few years.

When I tried to use the old breadboards years later, they were quite frustrating. I assumed it was due to tarnishing of the copper or brass contacts.


Senior Member
I've had a couple of old DVMs with nixie tubes and lots of gold plated brass contacts - one of the units had to have hundreds of contacts cleaned every year to work... the other went a bit longer - I think it's mainly due to thin gold plate as I live in a pretty dry climate... anyhow when things get squirrely get rid of the squirrels... I've seen almost invisible metal whiskers grow on boards shorting them too - mechanical cleaning discourages that for a while.
Thanks for the heads up. There must be an auto link between Uchobby and Make because I never sent anything to Make. In fact, I was kind of waiting to collect all the really good forum suggestions together and build another project for Make.

Anyway, I have an ulterior motive. Arduino is programmed in C and I hate C...

Picaxe is still way cheaper. <A href='http://todbot.com/blog/2006/09/25/arduino-the-basic-stamp-killer/' Target=_Blank>External Web Link</a> compares a basic stamp board at $119 to an Arduino at $32. And that is for the flashing led application. Picaxe can get well under $15 for the flashing led!


Technical Support
Staff member
Price comparisons can always be difficult, because it's not easy to compare like with like. Some manufacturers may seem to have a disproportionate mark-up on development kit compared to those who are happy to dive in at the chip and bread-board level, and I would certainly put Parallax Inc in that bracket.

PICAXE is definitely one of the cheapest controllers and very easy to get up and running. That said, Parallax have struck back with the Propeller Chip which on technical specification puts the PICAXE, Arduino and Basic Stamp to shame, the bare chip and necessary support components is not an awful lot more than the price of a PICAXE.

The bottom line though, is it's not just technical spec nor price which defines the best controller.
Don't forget &quot;comfort zone&quot;.
My main use for PICAXE is the ability to QUICKLY knock something up that I KNOW will work.
Even if a new product has better spec and costs less, I would not have the time to go through the &quot;getting started&quot; process and finding out all its little quirks and work-arounds. I would suspect that a similar case would be true in the educational environment where it is expected for the teacher to KNOW what is wrong with Johny's circuit rather than have to research from scratch each time.


Senior Member
I guess this equates to enthusiastic<b> confidence boosting! </b>

Aside from boring old cost issues,there's often agonising &amp; inefficient time traditionally devoted to just getting beginners circuits (&quot;555&quot; style)to flash LEDs/make sounds/respond to over temperatures etc. &quot;Sir- I now need a 100nF capacitor &amp; a 1 Meg Ohm resistor &amp; someones pinched them all&quot;. I recall back in the '80s having tertiary students spend ~20 hours trying to tame &amp; enhance 555 circuits, &amp; even in the late '90s noting many experience the agony of defeat with rats nest hard wired logic. All up this may be enough to drive both youngsters &amp; teachers away from electronics as being &quot;too hard &amp; fiddly&quot; &amp; needing too many Mickey Mouse resources. Let's not forget the hassles of even READING many component codes may daunt those with feeble macro vision.

In contrast of course PICAXE's &quot;just work&quot; &amp; inspire youngsters to push the learning further. For those who've just come in (&amp; not heard me recount this before),I offer a hobbyists ~2003 email that said <i>&quot; I've done more in half an hour with a Picaxe than I'd managed in half a year with a raw PIC&quot;. </i>

I now routinely see Picaxe driven applications (such as Morse ID beacons) that would have been previously near impossible for learners to contemplate the design of otherwise. Stan

UPDATE: Yikes-the old ways are still with us! Almost as I finished entering this, a student (not one of mine!) asked for help with their LDR,555 &amp; op-amp based &quot;Fridge Door Alarm&quot; project. <i>&quot;I've been working on this for a month &amp; am getting nowhere&quot; </i> . No guesses about my advice of course- scrap &amp; go Picaxe.

Edited by - manuka on 30/08/2007 04:26:14
I couldn't agree more manuka.
I can remember (not all that long ago) spending several days getting a circuit to produce a reliable programmable 8-bit PWM signal. With PICAXE it's just one line.

For students that would be the difference between the project being to produce the PWM signal, boring <img src="sad.gif" width=15 height=15 align=middle> and getting something controlled by a PWM signal, interesting<img src="wink.gif" width=15 height=15 align=middle>
Goodness me, Manuka, LDR fridge alarm project in a month! That is practically the same demo I did in an hour with a picaxe. I'm glad you advised to ditch the 555. I'm not even sure how I would do it with a 555. Mind you, I have just finished soldering up a picaxe router board which interfaces the PC, a number of busses and the radio links, and I needed a simple way of rebooting everything every 5 mins or so. The good old 555 came to the rescue - and I note on the (recycled) chip that it was made in 1974!

This Make article seems to have been syndicated all over the place - a quick search on my name and the word MCU comes up now with over a page of Google hits. And I still can't get my homesite indexed by Google after 3 months of regularly submitting it!

So, I conclude that Make might be a great way of getting the picaxe message out there. I think the router project might be the next one to publish as it gets the PC controlling the real world in a simple and easily expandable way.
Tell Google that you have just recently updated your entire website and their cached
pages may now only show up as errors <img src="wink.gif" width=15 height=15 align=middle>
Dr_Acula, thats seems a preet good mag. I enjoyed the site. Will be off there agin shortly for ideas to try push my limited knowlege., of all things DIY :)

I just got my EEPROM 32k and am about to try connecting to the new 18X. (they told me it would connect to the 14M, wrong.)