I/O, I/O, it's off to develop I go!
Sure, it might sound cheesy, but the new UBW32 is a low-cost development board that sports 78 I/O pins! Roughly the size of a big stick of gum, the UBW32 is literally ringed with I/O pins.
The brainchild of Brian Schmalz (of, USB Bit Whacker [UBW] fame), this board features the powerhouse 32-bit PIC32MX460F512L microcontroller from Microchip. Luckily, there's more than a string of I/O pins that makes this board appealing to the developer.
For starters, the board can be both powered and programmed via a mini-USB port. You don't need an expensive FTDI cable for burning your code on this chip. Furthermore, the USB functionality of the UBW32 enables USB On-the-Go (OTG), USB Mass Storage, USB Virtual Comm Port, and USB Host modes. In fact, a set of auxiliary USB connector pads (plus jumper pads) allows you to power the VBUS 5V USB host wire, making the UBW32 the master of its USB domain.
Other noteworthy features of the UBW32 include:
- 512K flash storage
- 32K RAM
- 3 pushbuttons
- 5 LEDs
- 5V voltage regulator
- Terminal emulator command interface
- USB bootloader
- SMD resistor pads for every I/O pin
Most flavors of PC OS (Linux, Mac OS X, Windows) should be compatible with the UBW32 USB terminal interface. In order to gain the maximum benefit from the board, there is a Windows-only C compiler for 32-bit microcontrollers that works within the Microchip MPLAB IDE. If you're interested in pursuing 32-bit microcontroller development, Microchip also makes a 32-bit PIC32 Starter Kit (DM320001) that is available from DigiKey for $49.95.
The UBW32 is available from SparkFun Electronics for $39.95. Look for a Popular Science project featuring the UBW32 in 2009.
By the way, while the PIC32 starter kit from Microchip is a great tool (and does allow for real hardware debugging from inside Microchip's MPLAB IDE), it is not a requirement in order to do development on the PIC32! The UBW32 includes a built-in UBS Bootloader so that you can write your own code (using the free C32 compiler from Microchip) and then download it - all over the USB! No hardware programmer needed.