Get Started with 8-Bit PIC® MCUs

Introduction

There are three main pieces you will need to get started. Software, Hardware and Documentation. We'll cover each of these in detail here. If you are unfamiliar with the 8-Bit PIC® MCU, then you might consider also reviewing the training course Getting Started With The PIC16F1xxx MCU which gives you a detailed understanding of the 8-Bit Architecture.

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Software

The software breaks down into two parts, the software for creating the application code and the software to convert that application code into the 1's and 0's the PIC MCU needs to run the application.

MPLAB® X IDE

The MPLAB® X Integrated Design Environment (IDE) is a free to download application that includes:

  • Full Featured Editor
  • Direct Control of the Compiler
  • Direct Control of the Programming Tools
  • Debug Capability with Breakpoint, Single Step Control and Data display
  • Total Project Organization through a simple folder system

This is just a brief summary of what this IDE is capable of. It will become the main software interface you will use to develop your Microchip 8-Bit PIC MCU applications. For more detail on all the features of this software tool there is separate training available: Get Started with MPLAB X IDE and Microchip Tools.

This tutorial just gets right to the basic features you need to get your first project running on MPLAB X IDE.

XC8 Compiler

The MPLAB® XC8 Compiler is a C language compiler that converts your C code application into the 1's and 0's the PIC MCU needs to run. The compiler is a separate software application from MPLAB X IDE but is easily integrated into the IDE's control and operation. Through MPLAB X icons your application can be automatically compiled through the XC8 compiler and sent to the hardware programmer.

if you are not familiar with the C language, there is a separate training available for that as well: Fundamentals of the C Programming Language. This class doesn't focus on the XC8 compiler specifically, but the C language is covered so you can understand how to write your own C language code.

This tutorial provides the basic C structure for the projects and the MCC will handle all the behind the scenes C code you need to get an application running.

MPLAB® Code Configurator

The MPLAB Code Configurator (MCC) is a free plug-in to MPLAB X that creates a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for developing PIC MCU application code. The MCC allows you to make selections through a GUI interface and then, with a single click of the "generate code" button, XC8 code will be produced for all the setup and driver utilities needed to make the application run on a PIC MCU device. The only section left for you to create is the custom main.c file application code that uses the various library of functions produced by the MCC along with the custom code you will create.

This tutorial focuses on using the MCC to produce many different projects to help you get started producing your own PIC MCU based applications.

Hardware

Sending the binary 1's and 0's file (also known as a .hex file) to the PIC MCU device is handled by a hardware programmer. The PIC MCU can be placed in a breadboard for development, but to make development easier, there are many different development boards available to handle the interface to the PIC MCU. We will use a few here and more may be added in the future.

PICDEM™ Lab II Development Board.

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The PICDEM Lab II Development Board is a development and teaching platform for use with 8-bit PIC® microcontrollers (MCUs). At its center, a large prototyping breadboard enables users to easily experiment with different values and configurations of analog components for system optimization. Several external connectors allow for user-customizable expansion, while our library of labs and application notes enrich the development experience. The PICDEM Lab II Development Board is also fully compatible with our latest software development environment.

 
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Hardware Programmer

There are several different types of programmer/debugger tools offered by Microchip including:

Any of these can be used but all the projects found here will use the low cost PICkit™ 3 In-Circuit Debugger.

All our debuggers and emulators have their driver software installed with MPLAB X so there is nothing to install to use these tools, just a USB connection on your computer where the MPLAB X is installed.

Documentation

The documentation for this training is this series of online training pages that step you through the sample projects. Any additional documentation is called on the respective project page. Data sheet and schematics are linked into the detail for each project and any specific information is presented graphically.

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