True or False: Boolean Is a Data Type?

True! Boolean is a data type. However, it’s also a term that gets thrown around in the electronics world by programmers presuming that everybody else knows what they are talking about; I can personally attest that this is not always the case. In light of this, let’s go over some of the data types that are commonly used in programming.

Digilent Pmods: Connector Pmods

It’s time for another Pmod feature! Today, we’re going to check out the Connector Pmods. Rather than just being strictly limited to a pure input Pmod or pure output Pmod, all of these Pmods are able to easily communicate with the system board in both directions. Although many of these Pmods might be chalked up to simple “pass-through” modules, I certainly wouldn’t label them that way. These Pmods offer some invaluable features that are otherwise not so easily obtained.

Shields vs Pmods: Good vs Better?

Today we’re going to compare two different ways of increasing the functionality of a system board: Pmods and shields. Those of you have that have been following the Digilent Blog know that Pmods are Digilent’s series of peripheral modules with 6-12 pins that can easily be connected to appropriate pins on a system board to provide extra functionality and include audio amplifiers, GPS receivers, USB to UART interface, seven-segment displays, accelerometers, H-bridges with input feedback, analog-to-digital converters, and much more. For the rest of you who have been in this sector of the electronics industry, you know that shields are a type of board that you can plug directly on top of your microcontroller in a nice pin-to-pin fashion for expanded functionality. Although you might suspect which of these two items I prefer, we’ll check out the advantages of both of them.

What Are “Pointers”?

This blog post will cover the basics of pointers, a programming tool that is used in languages like C and C++. In this post, we will be using C as our primary language. Pointers are variables that contain a memory address (a concept used to access the computer’s primary storage memory). Variables normally contain a value such as 1 or ‘a’, but pointers contain an address of the value. When we reference a variable through pointers, this is called indirection. Each link goes to a text file of C code. This code can be run as is and will help show us the power of pointers!

Running 5+ Servos on a uC32…Can I Do It?

In the not too distant past, we made a couple of posts on Pmods that can help drive motors as well as a post on stepper motors. Today, we’re going to check out running multiple servo motors on a chipKIT board. Why would we want to do this? Well, aside from the nice feeling that comes from successfully doing some extreme multitasking, we’d also be able to run some super cool mechatronics projects, such as a robot arm!

What Are Muxes and Demuxes?

A huge part of FPGA design is using logic blocks in design. With logic blocks, you can compartmentalize your design, rather than trying implement everything in one shot. Designing without smaller blocks would be like trying to design a car without subsystems like the braking system or engine. About half of the way through the course there is a project that covers a variety of basic logic blocks, including multiplexers (muxes) and demultiplexers (demuxes). So what are muxes and demuxes?

How to Read a Datasheet

Here at Digilent we have a ton of products with a large amount of documentation and examples (like our Learn site and our Instructables page) letting you know how you can use our products. Within all of these, there are statements about what each product is (and is not) capable of in addition to the recommended operating condition. Some of you may be wondering, “How do we know these things?” Much of the information presented is determined from a datasheet. But where do we find this sort of information in the datasheet, or how do we even read a datasheet? Let’s find out.

What Is an H-Bridge?

One of the most exciting things you can do with electronics besides blinking LEDs, is make things move. What’s the most common way to make things move? Motors. If you’ve done much with motor control, you’ve probably heard of H-bridges. But what exactly is an H-bridge?

Computer Memory: Differences between the types of…(what was it again)… memory!

Computers have several difference ways of keeping track of the information that it is given. Most people in the world, which included myself until recently, might think there are only two kinds of memory: the “random access memory” (RAM) that computers have, and the flash memory that you can put on a thumb drive and carry around in your backpack without an issue. However, despite knowing that these two types of memory are not the whole picture, it was my personal experience that trying to learn more usually resulted in my eyes instantly glazing over; this is rather unhelpful in terms of actually learning something. Keeping this in mind, we’re going to do a broad overview of the different types of RAM, hopefully without the glazing over effect.

Digilent Pmods: Input Pmods – Tactile User Input

Today, we’re going to check out the last chunk of the input Pmods™ that Digilent offers. This set of inputs are slightly different than the inherent sensors that we saw last time. Although these Pmods are designed to give the system board information about the outside world, but this time you are their whole world. These tactile Pmods are designed so that they respond when you physically interact with them. It’s kinda like playing outside…in the comfort of your own home.