Picture of Ghetto Development Environment
A while back, I posted up a quick and dirty "el cheapo" method of getting started programming the Atmel AVR series chips: Ghetto Programmer (version 1.0)

Since then, I've vamped, re-vamped, and otherwise improved my setup. Thought it'd be nice to document it.

The goal was to get a flexible, compact, portable, use-anywhere, AVR-based microcontroller prototyping environment. On the cheap(ish).

So without further ado, here's the Ghetto Development Environment (GDE) (version 1.2).

Step 1: The Kit

Picture of The Kit
The basic kit contains the following stuffs:

USB programmer. Because you want to be able to program microcontrollers from your laptop anywhere. And because USB is a very handy source of +5v.

Programming cradles. One for each kind of chip you're playing with. For me, that means one with 8 pins (ATtiny13, 15), one with 20 pins (ATtiny 2313), and one with 28 pins (ATmega8).

Blinkenlights. When something's wrong with your code, nothing clears it up like sticking lights in to diagnose. Plus, the LED blinker program is the "Hello World" of microcontrollers.

Breadboard. It's a development kit, after all.
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mandiom4 years ago
Excellent idea for beginners!! Very handy, congrats!
gruffy4 years ago
I did it! i finally set up an environment based on your own setup (using adafruit's programmer). I just want to thank you for putting together these instructables since they helped me finally get into the world of microcontrollers. I ran my first hello world last weekend and am going to try to tackle learning to program next. Thanks again Elliot.
So, I just tried this with the PDF. I'm using Ubuntu 10.10 with evince as my PDF reader. I just finished drilling the board, and was about to fit the IC socket, when I realized the template printed about 0.5mm too small. I should have checked on paper before I toner transferred.

I should have better instructions soon on how to print this in Linux. Good -able though!
OK - if you're using evince, make sure to go to "Page Handling" in the print dialog and change "Page Scaling" to "None". That fixed it. What a silly default setting!
gruffy4 years ago
i would like to know how you pulled off breadboarding on an airplane
josheeg7 years ago
The winavr make file creator or gui is kinda nice it would be a great thing to have a tut on useing the USBtiny and boarduino because then it would be open source hardware with open source retargetable software creation.
The Real Elliot (author)  josheeg7 years ago
Yeah. I don't really get the appeal of the Arduino stuff. Besides a nice hardware package (especially Boarduino), it's mostly a higher-level programming language than C. For microcontroller stuff, I find that C is already overkill, and I often wish I knew assembler better. The arduino "language" only works with a particular hardware platform, while learning to program up AVRs in a lower-level language lets you use any of the chips, wired up any way you want. Another part of the appeal of microcontrollers for me is that they're so cheap that you can use as many as you want throughout your project. The arduino (at $10-30) forces you into a centralized-processor mentality. The Tiny AVRs are cheap enough that I often use them in place of dedicated ICs, like a 555 timer circuit with the equivalent of the blinkenlights code here. But then you realize it's more powerful -- that you've got a digitally-controlled, accurate 555 circuit. Arduino is probably a good way to get started, though. Just don't be afraid to look behind the curtain at what its "language" is doing for you.
You can program in C within the arduino IDE.
I have used assembly but in the open source world it is easier to communicate your objective in c and comments than asm and comments. At least I would think so when your project does a bit. I like the boarduno because I will use the eagle cad files to make it much more soon. In steps first I will add opto couplers and dc to dc converter this will seperate the boardunos power supply and the people safer boarduno circuitry. The design is based off of the modualar eeg you can find it by searching under open eeg. I do not want to re-invent the wheel so I use open circuit designs.
The Real Elliot (author)  josheeg7 years ago
Yah, totally. I absolutely agree about C being more fun to read/write than assembly. I may have come off too harsh on the Arduino stuff. Basically my point is that I like tailoring the circuit designs for my applications, rather than having a pre-built for every occasion. If you need a pre-built, the Arduino seems a good one, and the availability of standard schematics and the corresponding software is a powerful combo.
Would you like to look at the open eeg design and assist with a improved version of the modular eeg? My open source project is at pceeg.sourceforge.net and open circuits but the website needs updating.
Does the programmer work with winavr?
codongolev5 years ago
I would really like to start out using microcontrollers. I've done other things with simple circuits (resistors, leds, transistors, etc.) and this seemed like the next logical step. problem is, I can't really find any good resources for starting out (everything starts to seem like an endless loop of "you must know A to know B, you must know B to know C, and you must know C to know A."). if anybody could help me out, I'd really appreciate it.
By now, I imagine that you have found a way to begin programming microcontrollers (mcu's). If you have not, there are a few ways to get started. One way is to find a supplier (there are many on the web) that sells a beginner's kit and go from there.

These kits often include the mcu, a programming cable, a breadboard, some jumper wires, components, and a book. If you are looking for an instructable that will get you started, it is a little harder. To get started, I would get a starter kit. You can build your own when you get more comfortable with mcu's.

I am currently searching for an instructional site that will show me how to build an mcu from scratch. These sites often recommend you purchase a programmer and go from there. I have yet to read through this whole instructable and hope it provides the knowledge I need.

A combination of both the least expensive and the kit is to look at a kit, buy the components in bulk (useful in the long term but often actually more expensive at the beginning), buy the mcu, and look for the book at your local library or your univeristy or community college library. If your library does not have the book, request it.

One more suggestion, if you want to go absolutely on the cheap and would risk getting sidetracked by a parallel project (computer generated art), start with Processing (at http://processing.org) and work your way into Arduino. Why? Processing and Arduino are very closely related. The language for Processing is very similar to Arduino and the programming environment is also very similar. You can learn Processing very extensively from the website and there are a number of books about it.

Good luck.
I actually am right now taking a digital electronics class. I'm doing pretty well (finished my first on-my-own AOI logic circuit from a word problem today, actually) and I'm hoping to learn some programming there.
Rendydevara5 years ago
i want to make usbtinyisp  v1.0
how to program the firmware ?
Ebay5 years ago
Hello, I have followed this instructable exactly except when I try to hook up a keypad matrix it does not seem to work. I am using CodeVisionAVR and have tried many different combinations to make this work. Could this be the cradle or ISP programmer, my code, or wiring? I seem to have made everything correct except it doesnt work correctly.

hmms6 years ago
Granzeier hmms5 years ago
I tried that Extreme Electronics - be aware that they are located in India and charge a huge amount for shipping! They use DHL and the shipping for the programmer was over 500% of the cost of the programmer to ship to the USA. And they quoted a very reasonable shipping price and took my PayPal payment with no difficulty. AFTER all that they stopped my order and added the shipping charge. To be fair, they did refund my PayPal amount, but I thought that taking my money first was pretty bad. Just be aware, that if you are not in India, you need to get the shipping price quoted separately from your purchase. I will be ordering from Lady Ada soon.
jztechguy6 years ago
It looks like SparkFun.com carries the 20 pin wire wrap sockets that you were having difficulty finding.
oskay7 years ago
You really should give me credit if you're going to use my drawing....
Rportal oskay6 years ago
you do have credit. it says thanks to wendel oskay atop of the drawing
The Real Elliot (author)  Rportal6 years ago
I changed that after he mentioned it. It was an oversight. I've been using his drawing of the pinouts for a while now, and totally forgot where I cribbed them from.
Its Windell. I think
oskay Rportal6 years ago
And who is that?
1337sh33p oskay6 years ago
you mean "build-essential" not "build-essentials"
The Real Elliot (author)  1337sh33p6 years ago
Yikes. Thanks.
I have seen these on ebay for like 7.50 pre-made.. might be worth a shot buying.
ReCreate6 years ago
Wow,instructibles.com redirects you to instructables.com
wow, look at that batman!
I Think you Made a mistake at commenting
no mistake
why did you reply to me then?
because i felt like it.
You mean you posted random spam?
no, it was purposefull.
mnew2me6 years ago
I just Love instructables! (_)

1 Q about the 27pF capacitors, I just couldn't find it in my local stores.
Can I replace them with .1uF, 1nF or 100pF?

Thanx for your help...........
Ok so i'm wanting to try out my first microcontroller. I know about electronic just not this stuff. Do you recoment going with this or Arduino. What are the pros and cons of them both. I'm not worried about putting the kit together. I'm just worried about programming, cost and help if needed.
The Real Elliot (author)  dociledragons6 years ago
Good question on the pros and cons! Pros for the Arduino include: It's very easy to learn on, and it's got a USB programmer built in. Arduino abstracts away some of the tricky programming concepts, so it's easier to get something simple up and running quickly. Cons include: The Arduino is much more expensive per device, and it's less flexible and powerful than coding for the raw chip (but not by all that much).
ReCreate6 years ago
an ibm thinkpad,nice
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