Saturday, April 11, 2009

Intro to the Basic Stamp

My interest in the Basic Stamp started as an upgrade for several of my inventions. Many years ago I designed several devices and several of them were published in electronics magazines. They included things like an LED sign, an O'Scope, an Audio analyzer, a video grabber, an energy management system, and even a heart monitor. The problem is that all of them used the printer port to connect to the computer and all of them used GW Basic as their programming language. However finding a laptop that has a printer port or that could run the old version of GW Basic is nearly impossible these days.

I had played with an 8052 Basic processor as a possible solution but even that processor is out of date. I also had some 68HC11's laying around but they are programmed in Assembler and I wanted this to be something an average person could work with. So I concluded that the best option available is the Basic Stamp.

Once I decided on the Basic Stamp I went on EBay and started looking for a simple proto board and processor that is cheap. On eBay I found a cheap circuit board from called the Proto 24. I bought the blank version because I have lots of parts around to populate it with and I like to solder things together. I did not have a right angle 9 pin serial plug so I cut the plug off a serial cable and glued it onto the board. Then I soldered the wires into the correct holes.

When I first started working with the Proto 24 board and a Basic Stamp 2e processor I could not even do something as simple as getting an LED to turn on and off. It turns out that this circuit board has the pins labeled in reverse order! Output 0 is on the left where it says C7 and output 15 is on the right where it says A0.

Proto 24 board web site -

Steps to get the Basic Stamp up and running;
1. Download and Install the Basic Stamp Editor program.
2. Plug in the AC adapter, the LED should light.
3. Connect the serial cable, must be a 1:1 cable not a null modem.
4. Start the 'Basic Stamp Editor' communication program.
5. Hit F6 to find the Basic Stamps serial port.
(It should say 'COM1 Basic Stamp 2e')
6. Select 'directive' 'stamp' and 'BS2e' to identify the stamp chip.
7. Press enter and then type 'debug "I am here"'
8. Select 'Run', 'Run'
A window should pop up and say 'I am here'
That's it, you are now up and running!

In the next article I will tell you how to set up a 2 digit counter using 7 segment LED displays. Then I hope to show you how to set up an 8 x 8 LED array.

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