Adventures with MSP430 and Launchpad.

On May 3, 2012, in Misc, by Cmc

A Few weeks ago I got a phone call from the postal service.

At first thought that my led strip from E-bay had arrived but that was not the case. Instead it turns out that a UPS courier delivered a TI Launchpad to my doorstep. I had no idea about why it arrived but I’m always up for new gadgets.  A Few days later I noticed that a friend of mine from India had keen on finding out if I had gotten any interesting mail. The connection for me was way too far to understand. So he straight up asked me if I got my MSP430 development board.  Thank you a lot Sameer!


What is a MSP430 Launchpad? Well, I’m glad you asked . The best answer for this question comes from the Launchpad wiki .

What is LaunchPad?

LaunchPad is an easy-to-use development tool intended for beginners and experienced users alike for creating microcontroller-based applications. At $4.30, the LaunchPad offers everything you need to get started with your projects.

The LaunchPad development kit is a part of the MSP430 Value Line series. LaunchPad has an integrated DIP target socket that supports up to 20 pins, allowing MSP430 Value Line devices to be dropped into the LaunchPad board. Also, an on-board flash emulation tool allows direct interface to a PC for easy programming, debugging, and evaluation. Included are free and downloadable software development environments for writing and debugging software. LaunchPad can be used to create interactive solutions thanks to its on-board push buttons, LEDs, and extra input/output pins for easy integration of external devices.

Technically we are talking about TI-s push to appeal to the hobbyist market. As we all know everyone wants to use the same kind of tools at work that they are used to. The Launchpad is a very nice push to make people use the MSP value line processors instead of the nowadays standard AVR . As Dave Jones from EEVBlog pointed out, the main problem with TI-s push is that their development board is not Arduino compatible. Even Microchip decided to push there and many see that as a success.

For me, as I am not very interested in the Arduino, the missing compatibility is not an issue. What is a real issue is the missing of nice free IDE for development work. If someone decides to use an AVR processor they will get the free development and simulation environment AVRStudio, but TI’s cpu has mostly proprietary environments. There is also a MSPGCC toolchain, but for many beginners a tool that works in terminal environment is really scary!

I did test out the IAR embedded workbench and toyed around with the Launchpad, but I never felt at home with it. Also after the evaluation time ran out it closed itself on me and left me in a dire situation where I wanted to test out some more code but could not. Also the half closed environment is really not my thing. It leaves me feeling like I am chained to something especially when I could do AVR programming and simulations on AVRStudio with no restrictions, full support, huge community and aesthetic GUI.

A little time went by and I decided to try out the MSPGCC toolchain. Basically it works like a charm if one can take a linux terminal and feels at home when using a console.The only problem there is with some dependencies that take time to load and  install. If anyone that is trying that has got previous experience in programming using AVRGCC then it is even easier. Also I toyed around with the simulation program there but I have no opinion about that yet.

The development board itself is really nice. It is small and compact, has its own programming interface that one can use for all the same value line MCU-s, spy by wire debugging interface AND the cpu is 16bit with possible clock up to 25MHz witch is pretty nice.

The TI has taken a little novel approach to the MSP430 datasheet (or maybe to their cpu datasheets as a whole) . They have basically three documents for one cpu. There is the infamous errata, processor specifications sheet and cpu line user manual. For me it seemed alienating at first, since I’m very used to Atmel datasheets, but after some time I really got used to it and it is pretty comfortable.

Another really awesome feature for this line are the working example codes provided from TI and very informative header files. When there is anything you can not find about intialization, setup or peripherals go check the C header file of your cpu. It is almost always there.

All in all I find the MSP value line CPUs to be very useful pieces of silicone. I will surely use one of these processors for some of my projects and maybe even post here about my feelings about them later.


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