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05 Feb '09
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Book Reviews

If you are going to but just one book, I recommend Myke Predko's book as the one you will find most useful.  The second choice is the Nuts and Volts books because they have so much information in them but there are four of them so together they are expensive.  If you are a rank amateur consider the two books by David Cook.

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You can save money by buying used books form Amazon.

Easy Microcontrol'n
A Beginner's Guide to Using PIC Microcontrollers
By David Benson at Square 1.  Version 4.0
8.5 by 11 inches
178 pages, soft cover

A very good book for learning how to use the 16F84 with the free assembly language programming software provided by Microchip Technologies Inc., the manufacturer of this family chips.  Requires a lot of work but a very good book if you are interested in learning assembly language level programming.  Using the PicBasic Compiler is many times faster to program and much easier to learn though the programs developed are a bit slower on the 16F84 machine.  (The 16F84 is similar enough to the 16F877 to make this book useful for learning about the LAB X-1).

Robot Building for Beginners
David Cook
Ai Apress
7 by 10
568 Pages, soft cover.

If you don't know anything about electronics, and if  you go through this book, you will be able to put together simple circuits that work.  This book is about building simple electronics,  Not specifically about the PIC microcontrollers.  Even so if you are not an electronics person it will be very useful to you.

Intermediate Robot Building
By David Cook
Ai Apress
7 by 10
442 Pages, soft cover.

This is Cook's second book on building robots and contains a lot of easy to used advanced advise on electronic circuits.  Again, this book is about building slightly more advanced electronics,  Not specifically about the PIC microcontrollers.  Even so if you are not an electronics person it will be very useful to you.  David Cook is good.

Microcontrol'n Apps
PIC Microcontroller Applications guide
By David Benson at Square 1.  Version 1.0
8.5 by 11 inches
437 pages, soft cover

This book essentially follow up on Benson's Easy Microcontrol'n book and expands on what you will already have learned.  A very good book with lots of good information in it.  My only argument with it is that once again it concentrates on assembly language programming and though there is nothing wrong with this, programming is so much easier to learn and use that unless you have a serious interest in using the more rigid discipline.  Even so there is a lot of reference material that you can refer to and use without programming in assembly language.  A book worth owning if you are going to use PIC microcontrollers for any length of time.  I learned a lot form this book and I still do not know how to program in assembly language.  They few diagrams here and there will get you comfortable with how to connect the PIC MCU to the real world.

Programming Robot Controllers
By Myke Predko
McGraw Hill
7 by 9
456 pages, soft cover

Myke Predko is very very good and a great teacher.  I recommend this book as a must in your library.   A little more advanced but well within your ability to understand what is going on if you are technically inclined.  Though this book concentrates on robots, robots at this level are about the right amount of sophistication to provide a good platform for experimentation.  (Thus their popularity with experimenter.)  The book ranges over a lot of subjects all of which you will find useful to your study of microcontrollers.

The CD ROM that comes with the book contains all the software you need.  Even so the book does not use PICBASIC PRO programming.  It uses the PIC Lite compiler and provides the Microchip Technologies IDE software for a comprehensive package.  Lots of good instructive diagrams and great explanations.  Recommended.

Interesting tutorial on stepper motors.  The best one I found and therefore useful if you are interested in running steppers.

Robots Androids and Animatrons
By John Iovine
McGraw Hill
7 by 9
332 Pages, soft cover

This book is a poor cousin the Myke Predko's book.  Good but not much point in buying it when you know about Myke Predko's book.  End of discussion.

PIC Microcontroller Project Book
By Chuck Hellebruyck
203 pages, soft cover.
Newnes Publisher

12 Projects you can learn some good things from.  Uses PicBasic.  This is a beginners guide that I can recommend.  It is a good introduction to using the 16F84 microprocessor.  Project are simple but instructive.  Good programming techniques.  Some up front pages on software installation could have been left out.  The best part is that the programming is in PicBasic.  Recommended as a first book on the language but could be skipped in favor of Predko's book which is the top of the bunch but does not use PicBasic!

Programming PIC Microcontrollers With PicBasic.
By Chuck Hellebruyck
CD Rom included
317 pages, soft cover.
Newnes Publisher

Second book by Chuck Hellebruyck and not half as good as his first effort.  I was very disappointed.

The CD ROM that comes with the book contains the full text of the book so it is easy to search.  A very useful capability.  This book actually used PicBasic in its programs so the programs are directly applicable to what we are doing.  Still I felt the book was too shallow to be able to recommend it.   Specially since Chuck's first book is well done and more useful to what we are trying to learn about. 

Good sample programs in PicBasic.

PIC Robotics
By John Iovine.
274 Pages
TAB Robotics  McGraw Hill

This book uses PicBasic Pro for its programs and is the only book  related to our work that I found that did so.  Covers a lot of material in a short format.  Not specific enough for our interest but still there are things that you might find interesting.  Some interesting sensor and speech generation but all of it in 6 shallow experiments I found not in depth enough for our interests.  If you are looking for a fast overview of some of these robotics subjects and the related techniques this is the book for you.

Nuts and Volts Basic Stamp
Books 1, 2, 3 and 4
Compiled by the editors of Nuts and Volts Magazine
And Edwards, Glazner and Williams the three shining lights of the movement in the early years.

These four books provide a lot of hands on information for the beginner.  The projects vary all over the field and there are a total of 104 projects described in detail.  There is a lot of information here.  The books get smaller with each issue.  516 pages, 466 pages, 268 pages and 220pages.  Since these are all reprints, they are longer than they need to be but still make for interesting learning.  The experiments get more and more sophisticated as you go along.

If you have never worked with microprocessors, these books give you a good introduction to all the wonderful things that can be done with Basic Stamp controllers.  Basic Stamps are essentially junior cousins to the PIC microcontrollers.  Even so buying four of these is a big investment and you may not want to spend so much money.  All these articles appeared in Nuts and Volts magazine which continues to provide interesting articles on using small logic engines to do fun and interesting work.

This is good reference material to look at before you start your project.  It will save a lot of time. 

Nuts and Volts Magazine Subscription

A years subscription to the magazine will bring you up to date with the state of the art and is money well spent if you are interested in these things.

EncoderGeek / EncoderGeek