Texas Instruments’ LaunchPad

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Texas Instruments (TI) has a new line of microcontroller (uC) development system called LaunchPad. If you go to their website, you will see that there are three families: MSP430, C2000, and Stellaris. There are many other uC systems out there, but what is interesting about TI’s launchpad is their low price.

For example, MSP430 costs only $4.30 including the shipping. The price includes the USB cable, the development board, an extra 20-pin uC, and more importantly all the development software you would need at no extra charge.

At the upper end, Stellaris is a 40-pin uC that includes a real time operating system and costs only $12.99. It is amazing how far prices have come down. To give you an example, two decades ago Intel’s Real Time Operating System License costed thousands of dollars without any hardware to run it on.

I ordered both MSP430 and Stellaris. The MSP430 arrived in just a few days, fast shipping. The Stellaris is on back-order.

MSP430 package contents

MSP430 Package Contents

In the picture above you can see the contents of the MSP430 package: the emulation board, an external crystal, an extra uC, and a sticker. There is also a USB cable that I forgot to include in the picture.


I downloaded Code Composer Studio (CCS) from TI’s website. When I tried to install it on my laptop running Windows XP, it complained that Service Pack 2 (SP2) was needed. So I downloaded SP2, installed, and rebooted. When I tried to install CCS again, this time it went forward without any problems.

I chose CCS, but there were two other options: IAR Embedded Workbench, and MSPGCC open source cross compiler. I did not try them, so I can’t tell you anything about them.

Running CCS

When you run CCS, you will see that there are many targets you can pick. To pick the right target, you need to look on the uC to see the exact part number. For me the demo uC was marked M430G2553, and the other uC was marked M430G2452.

The demo uC has a program on it to blink the two LEDs when the board is connected to the USB port. The CSS allows the user to pause and inspect the variables, single step, step into a function, etc. It is nice!

Hello World

The Hello World version of the LaunchPad is to blink an LED. I removed the demo uC and installed the other uC which did not have any program on it. You have to pick the right target for the new uC when you create a New Project.

I started a New Project, wrote a simple LED blink program, downloaded into the uC and ran the program. Changed the delay to blink the LED at different frequencies to be sure that I was running my own program.

Standalone operation

The next step was to use the uC without the emulation board. To accomplish this goal was much easier than I thought. Here is the picture of the circuit.

Standalone Operation

The only external part needed was a 47K resistor from pin 16 (RST) to pin 1 (Vcc). I did not have 47K. I used 30K resistor without any problems. I used two ultra bright LED that work with 3V, and a 3V lithium ion battery to power the uC.

Now onto bigger and better projects with this uC!

Update: Stellaris

I did receive the Stellaris last week, here is some pictures.

LaunchPad Stellaris LM4F120

LaunchPad Stellaris LM4F120

LaunchPad Stellaris LM4F120

As you can see from the pictures, the Stellaris comes with a circuit board and a micro USB cable to connect the circuit board to the computer. But the problem is this: the microcontroller is a Surface Mount Device (SMD) and it is soldered onto the circuit board. It really is not geared towards people with simpler tools. The only way to use it would be if the circuit board itself was used in the target system. Maybe that was the intention, I don’t know. Normally you would do the prototyping with the evaluation kit and based on that prototype, design a target system.

So, for me Stellaris is on hold for the time being.

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