This is a guest post about the low cost Launchpad MCU devkit. This kit was unveiled in 2010, but since I’d never written about this $4.30 development kit previously, I’ve accepted to publish the post below with slight modifications and amendments.
You may be itching to get started with a micro-controller based project but held back because of the high cost of the development boards, and the complex nature of tools required. The good news is that Texas Instruments have come up with a development kit – including a board and the required development software tools. This tool is intended for beginners as well as experienced users. In fact, at under $5, the Texas Instruments’ LaunchPad gives you a complete environment in which you can get started with your projects.
This LaunchPad Development Kit is a part of the Texas Instruments MSP430 Value Line series of micro-controllers. You can program, debug and evaluate the kit, since it has an on-board flash emulation tool – which allows a direct USB connection to a PC. With the free and downloadable software development environments included, you can write and debug your software. The Launchpad has on-board LEDs, push buttons and additional input/output pins, which allow for easy integration of external devices (for creating interactive solutions).
With the Launchpad Development Kit, Texas Instruments have provided an affordable, scalable and easy-to-use method of introduction to the world of MSP430 micro-controller family. Texas instruments have provided all the hardware and software needed by anyone to get started. There are code examples and open source projects, which help users to run their programs efficiently.
The LaunchPad kit includes a development board, two programmable MSP430 micro-controllers, a mini-USB cable, expandable PCB connectors and an external crystal for those who require greater clock accuracy. The IDE (software Integrated Development Environment) is free and downloadable from the Texas Instruments website. Although a gentle introduction to the MSP 430 micro-controllers, applications formulated on the LaunchPad can be easily ported to the more complicated devices in the MSP430 family.
The incorporated DIP target socket on-board supports 20 pins, so other Value Line devices related to the MSP430 can be plugged into the LaunchPad board. One of such devices is the Capacitive Touch BoosterPack. This is a plugin board for the LaunchPad and has a complete package of hardware and software reference design for capacitive touch technology. It features capacitive sensitive buttons, proximity sensors and scroll wheels.
Capacitive touch technology works on the principle of charge bleeding from a linked capacitor when touched by a human finger. The sudden dip in the charge when one plate of a charged capacitor is touched is measured by the micro-controller, and recorded as a touch. More information on the LaunchPad and other plugin boards is available here.