Well, I am all aquiver with excitement, because the folks at Texas Instruments (TI)
have just announced a new low-price, easy-to-use Stellaris LM4F120 LaunchPad
evaluation kit. And just why am I so excited about this? Well, read on…
This amazing kit allows professional engineers, hobbyists, and university students to begin exploring ARM Cortex-M4F microcontrollers and TI’s Stellaris family of microcontrollers for under $5 USD.
The core of the new LaunchPad is a Stellaris LM4F120 MCU with best-in-class low power, integrated analog and floating point performance and lends itself to the highly flexible and modular design environment of the LaunchPad with abundant peripherals for real-time digital signal control.
Actually, as shown in the image below, the Stellaris LaunchPad board features two
LM4F120 MCUs. The one with the "diamond orientation" in the middle of the board is the one that the user programs, while the one with the regular orientation at the top of the board is used to implement the Stellaris In-Circuit Debug Interface (ICDI). Come on… I mean to say… how can they possibly offer a board like this for only $5?
The Stellaris LaunchPad brings consumer electronics, human interface control, health & fitness and many more applications to a wider audience of developers. The kit includes all the hardware and software needed for developers, hobbyists and university students to get started in 10 minutes or less.
And the reason I'm so excited about this? Well, I just received and unpacked my very own board as shown in the photo below. I cannot wait to power this little beauty up and start playing with it (which I shall do as soon as I've posted this column). One of the things I think it would be fun to do is to get this board talking to one of my FPGA boards; for example, my Xilinx/Avnet Spartan-6 LX9 MicroBoard
. Actually, now I come to think about this, my chum Duane Benson -- a microcontroller expert who is currently learning all about FPGAs -- might be interested in one of these Stellaris LaunchPad beauties (see Duane's Discovering FPGAs
The Stellaris LaunchPad is the latest addition to the Texas Instruments LaunchPad ecosystem, an innovative portfolio of low-price evaluation kits and expansion boards that lets engineers experiment and develop with easy-to-use, modular design environments.
Of particular interest is the fact that the Stellaris LaunchPad uses the BoosterPack XL connection standard that consists of two pairs of dual gender 20-pin stackable headers. Those forty easy-to-access pins allow interface with external components (BoosterPacks
) or custom daughter boards. Two sets of 20 pins on the outer rows of the board have similar functions to the primary header pins on existing MSP430 and C2000 LaunchPad kits, allowing developers to add greater functionality and speed design and exploration. Two inner rows offer an additional 20 pins of Stellaris-based expansion signals for BoosterPack development.
If you visit the Stellaris BoosterPack Page
on the TI website, you'll see a whole bunch of these little rascals. Four that certainly caught my eye, as shown in the image below, are the RF BoosterPack (I love controlling things remotely), the BlueTooth BoosterPack (this will allow me to control things using my iPad), the LCD BoosterPack (I LOVE playing with displays), and the Perf Board BoosterPack (for prototyping "stuff").Features of the Stellaris LM4F120 LaunchPad evaluation kit:
- Includes a 32-bit LM4F120H5QR Cortex-M4 MCU with floating point operating up to 80 MHz that provides targeted performance headroom for application differentiation, 64 KB flash with 100,000 write/erase cycles and two 12-bit 1MSPS ADCs and up to 27 timers, some configurable up to 64-bits.
- License- and royalty-free StellarisWare software pre-loaded in ROM to conserve Flash memory; software eases design and allows developers to speed time to market.
- Incorporates USB connectivity and other peripherals including serial ports for UART, I2C, SSI/SPI and CAN controllers so developers can support the communication standard best suited for their application.
- Out-of-the-box RGB LED example application lets developers start experimenting with the Stellaris LaunchPad in minutes.
- Compatible with several existing MSP430 and C2000 MCU BoosterPacks so developers can now quickly and easily evaluate functionality across TI’s broad portfolio of microcontrollers.
- Planned BoosterPacks include capabilities for sensors, wireless connectivity and many more third-party BoosterPacks.
Note especially the license- and royalty-free StellarisWare Software
item in the list above (all programming can be in C/C++ -- even interrupt service routines and startup code). This includes a wealth of code and royalty-free libraries for application support as illustrated in the following image:BoosterPack development
The folks at TI say they are committed to supporting third parties as they develop and promote new BoosterPacks that expand the functionalities of TI’s LaunchPad ecosystem. TI will help selected third parties with BoosterPack design, promotion and sales support throughout the development and marketing process. Third-party BoosterPack developers enjoy various benefits including use of the TI and LaunchPad logos, support from TI for news releases, promotions on TI social media sites and guaranteed placement on the high-traffic BoosterPack web page.
For more information on the third party BoosterPack development, visit www.ti.com/boosterpacks
[I want to get my friends at www.synapse-wireless.com
to create an RF BoosterPack based on their small memory footprint SNAP OS (only ~40KB) that supports full wireless mesh networking and allows you to create your applications in Python and download them into the wireless node(s) "over the air", all of which is really, really cool).Pricing and availability
Developers can immediately purchase the Stellaris EK-LM4F120XL LaunchPad Evaluation Kit
at the promotional price of $4.99 USD. Developers ready to begin expanding the functionality of their Stellaris LaunchPad can purchase numerous BoosterPacks by visiting www.ti.com/stellaris-boosterpacks
If you found this article to be interest, visit Microcontroller / MCU Designline
where – in addition to my Max's Cool Beans
blogs on all sorts of "stuff" – you will find the latest and greatest design, technology, product, and news articles with regard to all aspects of designing and using microcontrollers.
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Last but certainly not least, make sure you check out all of the discussions and other information resources at All Programmable Planet
. For example, in addition to blogs by yours truly, microcontroller expert Duane Benson is learning how to use FPGAs to augment (sometimes replace) the MCUs in his robot (and other) projects.