|Introducing the Microchip PIC|
Many people would like to get started with microcontrollers, but don't know how to begin. That's what this page is all about -- how to get started. With a microcontroller you can do things that would be difficult to do with discrete logic. Besides its power, you can easily "change your mind" with a microcontroller -- something you can't do with discrete logic.
The PIC isn't for every project. It won't replace a PC, or even a larger processor. But for many jobs it is just the right size, inexpensive, and doesn't require much in the way of support hardware.
What are some things people have done with a PIC?
There are several steps you need to take to get started:
1) Select a PIC
2) Assemble the tools you need
3) Learn to program
In truth, if you just want a learning experience, you can download a free simulation environment from Microchip and practice programming without spending any money or buying any chips at all. Of course, its just a simulation, so your pretend program won't do anything, but you can still learn the basic concepts.
Since this was written, two things have changed. First, Microchip's MPLAB has several new versions. The 5.70 version, which is still available on Microchip's Web site is the version used for this tutorial. Many people still use it because it supports several popular development tools that the newer version (version 6.0 and above) doesn't support. On the other hand, if you get the newest version, they are fairly similar and you'll probably have no trouble figuring out the differences. The PIC18F tutorial, by the way, shows you how to use the latest version, so you might want to browse through it even if you don't want to learn that part in particular.
The other big difference is that the PIC16F84 is pretty much obsolete now. The PIC16F628, for example, is much more powerful and less expensive. And it is almost completely compatible with the older chips. So if you are starting out, forget the 16F84. Sometime in 2004 I will try to update this tutorial with the newer software (or perhaps do a separate tutorial based on this one).