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Microcontrollers brought about a new leap ahead - you do not need to worry any more about the circuitry between the microprocessor and the memory, as everything is encapsulated in an integrated circuit, the microcontroller (a.k.a. µC, MPU). Microchip manufactures the PIC line, and though you can always program them manually, it is much better and faster to use an IDE such as mikroBasic.
MikroElektronika develops very good IDEs. They produce environments for 8051 microcontrollers from Intel, for AVRs from Atmel, and PICs from Microchip. These have two different types of IDEs available, one for dsPICs30/dsPICs33/PICs24 and another one for PICs12/PICs16/PICs18. You can find IDEs for every brand in three programming languages - C, Basic, and Pascal. They are all very similar, the only difference being the language you use to perform the necessary changes.
This IDE is one of the best available. It is the most comprehensive IDE you can find, and right from the beginning you will notice that it has everything you may need. Its well-organized interface puts all the main tools within easy reach. On the top of the screen you will find the main menu, and the tool bar buttons under it, as usual. On the left, the Project Settings window allows you to modify the target device and the frequency, while the Code Explorer will give you quick access to functions and variables. On the right hand side you have the Library Manager, for variables, the Routine List, and the Project Manager. At the bottom, the Output Messages tool and the Quick Converter will help you find out equivalents between Decimal, Hexadecimal, and Binary values. This is the default layout, but opening the View menu you will have access to more windows, such as the Bookmarks, and the Macro Editor. Most windows and panels are dockable, so that you can personalize the IDE as you please.
A nice feature is the wide variety of built-in libraries that the program offers you to help you in your projects. For example, there are libraries for LCD, Graphics LCD, buttons, keypad, PWM, SPI, I2C, Manchester, One Wire, and more. For most of them some specialized hardware - either internal or external – is required, but in some cases you can emulate various interfaces, such as Software I2C, Software SPI, and Software UART, in case your PIC does not have the internal hardware needed.
Developers used to program microprocessors manually at first. Later, they used an assembler. But these techniques require time and can be difficult - just imagine a neural network developed in assembler. It is possible, but developing in a high level language like Basic is easier and faster. If you like the Basic syntax and want to develop for PICs, this IDE is for you.
- Several built-in libraries
- Embedded simulator, programmer, and debugger
- Well designed IDE
- Programmer and debugger only works with MikroElektronika's PICFlash device