Microprocessors are so cheap these days. If only there were a way to program them up just as cheaply...
*wavy dream-sequence lines*
In this instructable, find out how to build up a complete AVR microprocessor toolchain: compiler, programmer software, programmer hardware, and some simple demos to get your feet wet.
From there, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to world domination.
The endpoint is not quite as swanky as Atmel's suite, but it's gonna run you about $150 less and take only a little more work to get it set up.
This instructable is based on the Atmel ATtiny 2313 chip, mostly because it's one of the smaller chips (in size) while still being beefy enough to do most anything. And at $3 a pop (non-bulk), they don't break the bank.
That said, most of the steps are applicable across the AVR family, so you'll be able to re-use most everything when your programming needs outgrow the ATtiny and you reach for the $8-$12 ATmegas.
Update Aug 24, 2007: I've gone USB! It's neither ghetto nor particularly deluxe, but a nice middle ground. If you've got a computer without a parallel port, check this http://www.instructibles.com/id/EDRQZ56F5LD8KDX/ out.
If you've got a parallel port, or are just feeling cheap, read on!
Step 1: Go Order Parts!
Atmel ATtiny2313 chip: $2.50 - $3Socket for chip: $1Parallel port connector (DB25): $3 at Radio Shack or $0.95 at SparkfunHeader Pins: $1-$2 (at least one strip each male & female, maybe 2 female)Some LEDs and resistors: $1
= Around $10, even if you go deluxe. Half that if you can find an old parallel port cable.
A pushbutton switch or two: $1.
A piezo speaker: $1-$5
Light sensitive photocells: $2-$6
Breadboard for making complex circuits: $8-$10(?)
Other Stuff You Oughta Have
Computer: The older the better because it needs a parallel port.
Hookup wire, solder, soldering iron
Source of ~5v DC: Batteries will work, and old computer power supplies are perfect.
I get a lot of stuff from Sparkfun because they're
fast, reliable, and fairly priced. They carry AVR chips (but seem to be out
of ATtiny13's at the moment). They've got everything on the "Necessary"
list in one place, nice website.
If you're gonna be ordering a lot of chips, you can get a deal from Digi-key or similar. For instance: ATtiny 2313 for $2.36 each. They've only got 27,853 more in stock, so order quick. (Make sure you get the DIP form-factor.)
Go order stuff now, and we can set up the software side while you wait.
The waiting is the hardest part.