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Robotics – The PICAXE X2 Series

by on Aug.19, 2011, under Electronics, Microcontrollers, Picaxe

The PICAXE X2 Family of Microcontrollers

The PICAXE X2 Family

The PICAXE ‘X2’ series of microcontrollers, by Revolution Education Ltd., are Rev.Ed.’s advanced series of microcontrollers. The ‘X2’ series of microcontrollers are feature rich, and much much more powerful than Revolution Education Ltd.‘s previous microcontrollers. The ‘X2’ series consists of the 20X2, 28X2, 28X2 lv*, 40X2, and the 40X2 lv*.

The PICAXE ‘X2’ series of microcontrollers have many great new features. Features like almost every pin being configurable as an input or an output. Also the new PICAXE ‘X2’ series of microcontrollers have up to 3 pins that can be individually configured as hardware interrupt pins. The PICAXE ‘X2’ series of microprocessors have many more ADC channels available, support for touch sensing, and they also have an addition of two internal comparators that constantly compare two analogue values.

The PICAXE ‘X2’ series have much higher clock rates than before. Their default frequency is now 8 MHz as opposed to 4 MHz previously. This increase in frequency has greatly improving the processing speed of the PICAXE chips. The frequency also can be as high as 64 MHz!! The PICAXE ‘X2”s also have a much larger RAM, and up to 4 programming slots available on chip. In addition to the four internal programming slots, up to 4 other slots can be used by connecting an external i2c EEPROM chip – per i2c EEPROM connected! Since up to 8 different I2C chips could be used on the same I2C bus, we have a ‘theoretical’ 32 additional program slots available!

The new PICAXE ‘X2’ microcontrollers also have many more great features such as the ability to communicate with Microchip UNI/O EEPROM memory chips, the servo command now operates at 8 or 32 MHz, there is a new new doze low-power command, internal pull-ups, and many more great features. You can download the PICAXE ‘X2’ product briefing as a PDF from the link below.

(*lv = Low Voltage, 1.8v-3v Version)

Feature PICAXE Command 20X2 28X2 28X2 5v 28X2 3v 40X2 40X2 5v 40X2 3v
PIC18F series 14k22 25k22 2520 25k20 45k22 4520 45k20
(V) Range 1.8-5.5 2.1-5.5 4.5-5.5 1.8-3.6 2.1-5.5 4.5-5.5 1.8-3.6
Firmware Version C.0+ B.3+ B.0-B.2 B.A-B.C B.3+ B.0-B.2 B.A-B.C
Max In/Ex Freq(MHz) setfreq 64/na 16/64 8/40* 16/64 16/64 8/40* 16/64
Variables RAM peek, poke @bptr 128 256 256 256 256 256 256
Scratchpad RAM put, get @ptr 128 1024 1024 1024 1024 1024 1024

(* 32MHz [8MHz resonator with x4 PLL] is recommended for programs using serial commands as 40MHz is not an even multiple of 8 and so does not produce valid serial baud rates.)

See these other articles in the ‘Robotics:’ series…

Please leave your comments and sugestions for future articles in the series below. Thank you. :)

Just ‘a buck’ 😉
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Robotics – PICAXE M2/X1 Parts

by on Aug.15, 2011, under Electronics, Microcontrollers, Picaxe

Review article: ‘Robotics: Intro to PICAXE’

PICAXE Microcontrollers

PICAXE Microcontrollers

In my article entitled ‘Robotics: Intro to PICAXE’ I started out with a generalized description of the various PICAXE microcontrollers available from Revolution Education Ltd.. Here I would like to expand slightly and take a bit more In-depth look at the PICAXE microcontrollers. First starting with the ‘Standard Use’ class, then moving on to the ‘Advanced Use’ class after that. Revolution Education Ltd. has changed their previous categories from ‘Education, Standard, Advanced Use’ and combined ‘Education and Standard Use’ into one category. The M2 and X1 microchips are classified as the ‘Standard Use’ class, while the X2 series of microchips are classified as the ‘Advanced Use’ class of microcontrollers.

As of the writhing of this article, you still can purchase several of the older PICAXE microcontrollers, namely: the ‘PICAXE-08M Module’, ‘PICAXE-08 microcontroller’, ‘PICAXE-08 microcontroller (5 pack)’, ‘PICAXE-08 microcontroller (50 pack) [Only available to educational account holders.]’, ‘PICAXE-18X microcontroller’, ‘PICAXE-18X microcontroller (10 pack)’, ‘PICAXE-18M microcontroller (25 pack)’, and the ‘PICAXE-20M microcontroller (22 pack) [Only available to educational account holders.]’. I would suggest however that you stick to the the new PICAXE microcontrollers as they are richer in features, power, and cost LESS in many cases than the older discontinued PICAXE microcontrollers. (I am unsure how long the X1 parts will be available and would suggest moving up to either an X2 part or an M2 part instead)

In the table below you will see the stats for the standard class of PICAXE microcontrollers:

PICAXE Type IC Size Memory I/O Pins Outputs Inputs ADC Memory(Data) Polled Interrupt
08M2 8 pin 2048 6* 6* 6* 3 256(Shared) YES
14M2 14 pin 2048 11* 11* 11* 7 256 YES
18M2 18 pin 2048 16* 16* 16* 10 256(Shared) YES
20M2 20 pin 2048 16* 16* 16* 11 256 YES
28X1 28 pin 1000-3200 23 9-17 0-12 0-4 128+i2c YES
40X1 40 pin 1000-3200 32 9-17 8-20 3-7 128+i2c YES

(NOTE: the top speed of the M2 Series is 32MHz and the X1 series is 20MHz)
(NOTE: * Input/Output Pins are configurable as either)

Just ‘a buck’ 😉
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Changing Face of Extreme Couponing

by on Aug.14, 2011, under Couponing, Maegan's Deals

Extreme Couponing with Maegan's Deals

Extreme Couponing

The topographical landscape of extreme couponing seems to be ever changing. I have been watching my wife Maegan venture out into this wild world of extreme couponing for the last several months – and though I haven’t been all that surprised by the sheer amount of work involved in tracking down and keeping track of all the opportunities to extreme coupon, I am surprised by the extent to which things have shifted out of paper and into digital over the last number of years.

I remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table clipping coupon after coupon. I half expected that to still be a large part of extreme couponing today. It isn’t.

Yes, coupons still come with the newspaper, but I’d say Maegan does 90% of her extreme couponing with a keyboard and mouse.

Extreme couponing digitally is a rapidly growing force that will likely take over as the primary method of distribution of coupons in the next few years if it hasn’t already! Companies like General Mills say they are moving more and more of their coupon budget towards digital coupons and away from news papers. Digital coupons boast higher redemption rates and often cost less to distribute.

Today the stigma surrounding extreme couponing and couponing in general is lifting, it is even becoming chic to clip coupons!

In todays age of economic turmoil more and more people from all walks of life are realizing that not only is extreme couponing fun, (There is no other feeling like getting 50%, 75%, 90% or even 100% off an item) but it is rapidly becoming absolutely necessary for survival.

Maegan will continue to post her finds in new articles and posts and list links to these treasures right here at

Check out the section ‘Maegan’s Deals’ for your links to deals, freebies, samples, and more…

Just ‘a buck’ 😉
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Robotics – Microcontroller ? Microprocessor ? or Microchip?

by on Aug.10, 2011, under Electronics, Microprocessors, Picaxe

Robotics - Microcontroller vs. Microprocessor vs. Microchip

Difference between Microcontroller , Microprocessor and Microchip

I know I promised to talk about the individual PICAXE microcontrollers from Revolution Education Ltd., and to go into detail on the features of each of their products, and I will… However, it was brought to my attention that there is some confusion about the differences between these three terms; microcontroller , microprocessor , and microchip ,… what they each mean,… and if they are interchangeable terms. This was Something I was confused about when I first started down this exciting road of robotics and electronics. It is easy to forget back then, (Not that I am an expert by any sense of the word) but we all have different levels of experience. The best advice I was given in the beginning was to just ask questions and not be afraid. There is always someone who knows more than you, just as there probably is someone who knows less than you. Most forums are great and the people more than willing to help out a newbie. 😉

So what is the difference between these three terms; microcontroller , microprocessor , and microchip?

Well, to be quick and to the point a microchip is a small piece of semiconductor material carrying many integrated circuits. Basically ANY ‘Chip’, or ‘IC’, is a Microchip. It is the broad category that describes and encompasses these devices. For example an Op-Amp, Memory chip, a microcontroller, a microprocessor, a timer such as the popular 555, and many more. They come in many different packages, such as SMD (surface mount device), MSOP (Micro Small Outline Package), SOIC (Small Outline IC Package), SIP (Single-In-Line Package), and many, many, MANY, more! The most popular package however is the DIP, or Dual-In-Line Package. This is the kind you see in the main picture of this article. It is breadboad friendly, sockets for the different pin sizes are cheap and readily available, and generally, at least in my own opinion, the easiest to use. I use DIP microchips almost exclusively. I always look for a microchip (or commonly called ‘chip’ or ‘IC’) in this package type first before settling on an other package type.

So if both microcontrollers and microprocessors can be called microchips, what is the difference between them? Well, basically, microprocessors are CPUs (Central Processing Units), and they can process data. That’s it. Whereas microcontrollers (sometimes abbreviated µC, uC or MCU) are much more in that they are a combination of a CPU, with memory (RAM, ROM, EPROM, or EEPROM), and programmable input/output peripherals, all in one neat single package or device. Basically an entire computer on a chip! Refer to my article ‘Robotics -Intro To Microcontrollers’ for more info. These Peripherals are devices that also have other functions that allow for interfacing between the microcontroller and other devices, such as; input/output pins, analog to digital converters, digital to analog converters, and more. In my blog posts and articles I’ll be focusing on microcontrollers, and just what all we can do with them. For more info on the PICAXE microcontroller refer to my article ‘Robotics – Intro To PICAXE’.

Just ‘a buck’ 😉
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Green Solar Panel Energy Collection

by on Jul.31, 2011, under Green, Technology

Green Solar Panel Energy

Green Solar Panel Energy

Clean and green. That seems to be the buzz words of the century. With sky rocketing energy prices, pollution, and dwindling resources, more and more people are looking towards alternative energy sources like solar panel energy collection. Also, the prices of key clean energy technologies are plummeting. This is bringing many technologies, such as distributed solar, and energy storage, closer and closer to mass deployment.

Just look at the cost of solar panels today. Solar panels are approximately 20% below the price that of what they where a year ago! Also best of all, they should continue dropping for the foreseeable future! In other words, the performance/price ratio is improving exponentially. We also see the costs per watt In advanced thin films dropping. Even more dramatic price drops are occurring in battery storage systems across a range of chemistries with prices halving themselves in the the last year. Plummeting prices that translate to rising performance are good news for developers, electric car-makers, the global industry at large, and all the rest of us too.

It may not be long before you can say ‘goodbye’ to that ever increasing, and outrageous, hydro bill we all are paying each month. A quick search of a “well known” auction website for ‘solar panel’ shows that, if you were willing to assemble your own solar panel collection system, you could get started for as little as $1.40/per Watt! Possibly for much less! How many Watts of solar panel energy could your buy with just ONE year’s hydro payments? Imagine how many Watts of solar panel energy you will be able to buy in a year from now!! It is for this reason I have; “Build a solar panel”, down on my list of projects to do. Watch for my future article and “How To” on this solar panel project.

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Robotics – Intro To PICAXE

by on Jul.06, 2011, under Electronics, Microcontrollers, Picaxe

PICAXE Microcontroller

PICAXE Microcontroller

In my previous post I discussed what a microcontroller is, what a microcontroller consists of, and also a few common types of microcontrollers. In this post I would like to explore the PICAXE microcontroller from Revolution Education Ltd. A PICAXE microcontroller is a standard Microchip PICmicro microcontroller that has been pre-programmed with the PICAXE bootstrap code. The bootstrap code enables the PICAXE microcontroller to be re-programmed directly via a simple serial connection – eliminating the need for an expensive conventional programmer. This makes the whole download system into a very low-cost and simple serial download cable.

Why the PICAXE microcontroller from from Re-Ed.? Well, the PICAXE is a cheap, easy, and a surprisingly capable microcontroller. For just a few dollars, a simple download cable and free programming software available from Re-Ed. you can be up and running with the PICAXE microcontroller. You also get many advanced features with the PICAXE microcontroller such as; parallel multi-tasking, servo support, I2C interfacing, musical ring-tone tune support, ADC inputs, touch sensor inputs, and also standard, infra-red, and serial input/output pins to mention just a few.

The PICAXE microcontroller comes in several different sizes and variants. You can choose between 8, 14, 18, 20, 28, and 40 pin sizes and either standard DIP or SMT packages. There is also a special 28 pin DIP ‘module’ that contains a PICAXE-28X2 (PIC18F25K22) chip, voltage regulator, download socket, and reset switch all in one convenient package Ideal for breadboarding. The variants available are ‘M2’, ‘X1’, and ‘X2′. The older 08, 14, 18 and 20 pin ‘A’, ‘M’ and ‘X’ parts are no longer manufactured as
they have now been superseded by the M2 parts and the older 28 and 40 pin ‘A’ and ‘X’ parts are no longer manufactured and they have now been superseded by the X1 and X2 parts. There is still an 08’M’ module available but I suspect this will be discontinued soon and replaced with an 08M2 module. You can also get an 18’X’ but this has been replaced by the 18M2 and most likely will be phased out unavailable soon. For more detailed information and to checkout the different project boards available see the Revolution Education Ltd. website.

– [The following table shows the primary functional differences between the available PICAXE microcontrollers:]
(For general ‘hobbyist’ the M2 and X2 series are recommended.)

Standard:(800 – 1800 line memory)

PICAXE uPU : – Total I/O Pins : – Max ADC Pins : – Max Speed :
08M2 5 configurable 0-3 32MHz
14M2 11 configurable 0-7 32MHz
18M2 16 configurable 0-10 32MHz
20M2 16 configurable 0-11 32MHz
28X1 0-12in,9-17out 0-4 20MHz
40X1 8-20in,9-17out 3-7 20MHz

Advanced:(2000-3200 line memory, per ea. of (up to) 4 separate slots)

PICAXE uPU : – Total I/O Pins : – Max ADC Pins : – Max Speed :
20X2 18 configurable 0-8 64MHz
28X2 22 configurable 0-16 64MHz
40X2 33 configurable 0-27 64MHz


We will examine the different individual PICAXE microcontroller chips and their individual capabilities in more detail in my next post…

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Samuel A. Clarke

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