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Chip programming made simple

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Adelaide-based elabtronics ’ CoreChart software has aroused considerable interest after Electronics News story on the company in the last issue. (See Electronics News 23 October 03 front cover.) Here we describe some of the product’s technical features.

CoreChart (formerly named bitset) is an icon-based development tool for microcontroller programming. By grouping machine text language into icon graphics, it simplifies and reduces the error involved in assembler-based programming. According to elabtronics, unlike other icon-based programming suites there is no compromise of machine speed or efficiency. CoreChart’s methodology is to use a “one-to-one” equivalent method based on a flow chart system.

The company explains that as a true assembler, the software produces code that is smaller and faster than that produced by the compiled programming languages typically used in product development. Since its code can run on smaller, less costly microcontroller chips such as the Microchip range, CoreChart is particularly suitable for the development of smaller and more cost-effective applications.

Shortening the development cycle

CoreChart has a user-friendly graphical interface. The program itself consists of 10 icons which can be used in any combination to form the total microcontroller instruction set. This is said to enable shorter product development cycles helping to lower development costs. It also provides designers with the opportunity to create more original products. Perhaps most importantly, in light of the shortage of skilled programmers, it makes microcontroller programming accessible to engineers not familiar with generic programming languages. The company points out that students and enthusiasts can quickly learn CoreChart.

CoreChart currently supports programming of the PIC16F84A, PIC16F628, PIC16F877, PIC16F877A, PIC12F629 and PIC12F675 from Microchip. In combination with elabtronics’ development hardware or other microcontroller programmers, it provides functions and features that allow users to develop programs by simply adding relevant icons (each icon corresponds to an assembly instruction), and assemble the source files (.asm) from the icon instructions and program the chip in one go.

One of the features of the software is the “Send to PIC” function under the “Options” menu command. This function converts the program into a source file, assembles and compiles it into a hex file and then brings up the “IC-Prog” program loaded with the corresponding hex file ready to be programmed to the microcontroller.

CoreChart runs under most of the Microsoft Windows Operating Systems (95, 98, 2000, ME, NT and XP).

As a Microchip Consultant Member, elabtronics receives endorsement for its services and has access to the company’s latest development tools. This aids the South-Australian firm to develop leading-edge microcontroller-based applications.

Development tools

elabtronics can supply several development kits. One example is the elab628 which incorporates the PIC16F628 microcontroller from Microchip. This chip retains the flexibility and ease of use of the PIC16F84A whilst incorporating a greater degree of functionality. It has in-built Flash, for ease of onboard programming. The board can be used to input/output signals, switches, sound, LEDs, transistor drives, relays and serial port data among other applications

elabtronics offers a free 30-day version of CoreChart for evaluation. The full registered version costs $77.

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