What is the best programmer/development board for someone new?

I was wondering if anyone could point me in the right direction. I'm looking for a programmer/development board that your only limited to your knowledge and right now I don't have much, but will want to expand upon it without buying a whole new programmer/development board. So I'm also looking for something that will be easy to get started in also with tutorial to get you up and running. I don't want to start with something and be cut off and have to go out and buy something completely new and start all over again learning. What would anyone recommend for me and had experience in? Thanks for your help.


P.S. I'm looking for work with LED, 3D LED cubes, and robots. Something all around you could use. I know there are alot of smart peoples here. Hope to share one of my project in the future with you guys.

Many directions

Make magazine has a lot of info on LED stuff, the LED cubes, POV bits, and stuff, and every now and then something robotic. A lot seems to revolve around the Arduino, which a few folks here have used for robots, so it has some developing helps.

A lot of folks here work with the PICAxe too. I don’t know of an LED cube with one, but it should be possible.

I got my intro to robotics with the Basic Stamp 2. There is an incredible amount of detailed information on how to use this which very much helps a beginner. It’s been aroiund for a while, and I saw someone made a cube with one, but don’t have any details.

That said, I’d probably try to begin with the Arduino at this point, but it would probably be best for you to read a bit of each of these, to see what makes the most sense to you. Then go for it.

Although the Basic Stamp 2

Although the Basic Stamp 2 is very beginner-friendly, many people have said that it is underpowered and overpriced compared to the others.

Picaxe is programmed in BASIC and Arduino is programmed in C. If you have any programming experience, this may be a deciding factor.

As robologist suggested, though, Arduino seems to be the direction that most people are headed in nowadays … it’s gaining a lot of popularity.

Both are adequate for robot building or any other application, really. Microcontrollers themselves are, by their programmable nature, very adaptable to a user’s needs.

PIC, baby!

While there is much support around here for picaxe, I advocate the flexability of raw pics, programmed in raw RISC assembler (only 32 instructions!).

The PICs are free and there are many homebrew programmers.

OR, you can pick up a pickit 2 clone programmer on eBay for $30, which comes with a free experimentors board.


I’m also just getting into

I’m also just getting into the electronics world, found this site and immediately bought the electronics learning kit from Radioshack.

I’m stuck in the same boat, I don’t have any programming experience, and want to get the “Most bang for my buck” if you will, lol.

I’m really tempted to get the Arduino Decimeila (I know, I spelled it wrong, /shrug) but it seems like alot of people here prefer the picaxe, making it a hard decision.

I do recall a post about this previously by fritsy, but it did me no justice :stuck_out_tongue:


Based on that article it

Based on that article it seems that Picaxe may be the best starting place. Even though you haven’t done any programming before, I don’t think switching from BASIC to C would be very difficult if you decide in the future to switch to Arduino. Learning a programming language for the first time is difficult, but once you get the hang of it, learning another language will be much easier. I learned BASIC my freshman year of high school and picked up C pretty easily my sophomore year. Having programmed in BASIC for a while, it gave me more appreciation for the abilities of C!

There are a couple things I want to point out from Fritsl’s guide: The Arduino can be had for much cheaper in a generic package such as the Bare Bones Board. Also, the lack of a motor driver and proto board are two things that the Arduino DOES support, albeit with a few extra parts. The Arduino Proto Shield and Motor Shield can be very easily attached to the Arduino, but are more costly than the all-in-one package of the Picaxe board.

Another newbie


I’m also about to start my first project - the Mousey from the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. Although I’m up to speed on programming (mostly high volume data driven web sites - don’t mock, it’s a living) it’s about 20 years since I was last involved in electrical or mechanical engineering, or C programming. So I’ve got a lot of re-learning to do. Having started with LMR (thanks to GeekDad @ Wired), I have been browsing the web and buying some books. I kind of know what I want to do,and it focuses on the programming. However, I’m stuck on my choice of MCU.

Based on the Beginner’s Guide, I initially plumped for OOPic over, say, STAMP. I now realise that most of the books and much of the stuff on the web is at least five years old. Moore’s law has had its effect and OOPic may not be the current best choice - the info on their website isn’t well laid out for the novice and seems to be dated.

This is the most active and comprehensible site for roboteers that I’ve found so far, and the Picaxe seems to be the most common MCU, so I’m going to research that one next. What I’m looking for is an MCU that’s already built onto a board that I can build onto a robot. I’d also like a reasonably high-level language to work in, so a robust and documented compiler is important for me.

One thing that really anoys me - just the one, so far - is the high price of components in the UK.

Any hints or tips welcome.



No experience


If you have no programming experience, then learn RISC assembler! I think most folk learn pic BASIC because they already know BASIC…

I’ll puppywalk you through it. No problemo.

My first thought was to get

My first thought was to get a picaxe but I’m not seeing anything new with it. Everything I see is the same robot fritsl made and some of them have tracks. So doesn’t really seem to offer me alot to learn. Still might get one since it just seem so simple to do somethings. I have a little knowledge in basic and c++. So I thought about an arduino though. Pic seem good to. So anyone can recommend what the best pic or arduino to get. I notice the Pickit2 but wasn’t sure about the arduino. Thanks for all your help.

People are building those

People are building those for the reason of starting out in this hobby, as they get more exp in building and understanding, you will see more and more interesting things. Take CTC, he’s been doing all sorts of projects with his picaxes, playing with memory and attempting some sort of mapping technique(sorry if I got that wrong ctc). Zanthess has a pretty nifty projects (as well as having some musical amusment)thats far from being a fritszbot… The picaxe is very easy to get started with and a great starter and advanced alike. It’s really about your ability to make the most of the tools that you have. Again, starting out with the same bot is just a way to get famiiiar with the tools. The arduino is great but you could get frustrated a lot faster if you don’t have exp in c due to it’s higher complexity among other attributes.

pics…mmm I defer thta to BOA, but it would be a fun challenge if you want to try to learn assembly.



Thanks, I think I might just
Thanks, I think I might just go ahead and get a picaxe to start. Maybe I will be able to figure more out that no one else thought of or something. The problem is that for me living in the USA I don’t come across any places that sell the usb cord with it. They charge you a good $25 for that which is high when in UK you can get it with that. I know I think it was posted before where you can get everything here in the USA. If anyone still have that site handy please leave it in here. Thanks a bunch.

USB Cords

I expect that you could make a USB cord fairly easily. get a standard USB cord, cut off the ‘B’ end and replace it with a jack or whatever your PIC board requires. The jacks are standard, and the pin connections must be on the web somewhere - possibly in the great big PICAxe manual that you can get from Amazon and other places.

Having researched both PICAxe and Arduino (sp?) I also reckon that a PICAxe is the right place to start. The Arduino seems to have a better spec, but seems to have fewer kits and on-line resources. The main advantage of the Arduino appears to be built-in ‘H’ Bridges on many project boards. I also sneaked a look at ARM based boards that look to have stunning specs and prices to match.




Picaxe 28x1 for $28

the usb cord is $15

Now for the 28 chip for $6.63 a bad price. Or can you get them somewhere else cheaper. Also what motor driver would I need again and a place someone got it here in the US.

If you have absolutely no

If you have absolutely no programming experience, I would most definitely go with the picaxe to start if you want to be a hobbyist.

Other than a few special functions, the programming Picaxe uses is BASIC, a very simple language that I refer to it "coding in plain english"

Again, either is great, I haven’t had experience with Arduino yet, but have been very happy with picaxe so far.


Either way, you’d have a lot of support here!