I know how to program in C and I'm really interested in microprocessors and I would like to be able to buy a really cheap microprocessor that I can plug into my computer and program in C. I've seen some kits but they are very confusing looking or they are $60+.

I'm looking for something simple, I study electronics at school and my teacher thinks it's a great idea and he will help. All I need is a cheap

  • \$\begingroup\$ You can look for Arduino and its variants, they start from about 10/15 $. We have some other questions about this, but in general it's too specific (to one user and to one moment in time) for this site. \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Jun 13 '12 at 8:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ And are you 11 or 16, like your profile says? \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Jun 13 '12 at 9:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @clabacchio - the 11 in the original title means 11th grade. I also misread, because in Europe (at least in Belgium) we don't count that far. We have six years in elementary school, and restart counting for six years in secondary school. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jun 13 '12 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @stevenvh: nice to know \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Jun 13 '12 at 10:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Jordan - I'm sorry they closed your question - it seemed extremely useful to me. Lowest cost of offerings below is $US4.30 which should be OK :-). \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Jun 13 '12 at 22:47

Been there done that ;) You can get yourself AVR chip - go for bigger flash/ram version like ATMega32 or ATMega64, this will allow you not to think too much about memory constraints in the begining.

All you need is a breadboard, a chip, some pin headers and a programmer hardware. As for programmer hardware, something cheap and simple as USBasp will do, or you can get yourself Litle Wire which is a bit more than just a programmer.

If you want to run chip faster, get a crystal and a couple of caps.

Build environment is open source and rock solid, available for most popular platforms.

You could look into ARM platform too, chip like LPC1343 does not require external hardware to program it, but it comes in smd packages only, so you'd need to make a PCB yourself or get a ready made platform like Forebrain or mbed

What's nice about mentioned ARM platforms is that you get native USB interface.

PIC microcontrollers can be programmed in C too. I'm not experienced enought to talk about that, but in general you need the same as in AVR case.


I've noticed, you mention microprocessor in your question. I suspect, you are really interested in microcontrollers as these are integrated, microprocessors require more hardware knowledge to begin with.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you provide a list of everything I would need to buy and a total $$ Please \$\endgroup\$ – Jordan Jun 13 '12 at 8:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ a microcontroller, a breadboard, a programmer, usb cable, a piece or wire or breadboard friendly jumper set. as regarding $$ - it all depends on sources you get things from. i'm a cheapskate, so i got my stuff from different corners. \$\endgroup\$ – miceuz Jun 13 '12 at 8:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Will the Litle Wire and a breadboard be sufficient? \$\endgroup\$ – Jordan Jun 13 '12 at 8:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ little wire, breadboard, ATMega32 chip, usba-usba cable and... you need something to experment with, some LEDs, photoresistors, potentiometers ;) \$\endgroup\$ – miceuz Jun 13 '12 at 8:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ now i think, maybe all you need is a Arduino starter pack from adafruit - Arduino is not programmable in C as such (it's C-like) but it can be programmed in bare bones AVR C. It's ATmega chip on a board with nice and easy programming environment really. If you want to go cheap, get yourself Arduino from whichever source and then get some stuff to play with from your local electronics store - just look what's in starter pack in adafruit and choose yourself. Adafruit have lots of nice tutorials for beginners. \$\endgroup\$ – miceuz Jun 13 '12 at 8:52

Because you say: "All I need is cheap", you should take a look at the MSP LaunchPad. You will get it for about 5$.

Another very popular platform is the Arduino. On Sparkfun for about 30$.

Remark: These boards all use microcontrollers (not microprocessors).

TI Launchpad.

Complete development system for $US4.30 (cable included) (Some programming required)

enter image description here

TI say:

  • LaunchPad now includes support for new & future G2xx Value Line devices. Click here for more information. March 2011.

    The MSP-EXP430G2 LaunchPad is an easy-to-use flash programmer and debugging tool that provides everything you need to start developing on MSP430 Value Line devices.

    It includes a 14-/20-pin DIP socketed target board with integrated emulation to quickly program and debug MSP430 Value Line devices in-system through the Spy Bi-Wire (2-wire JTAG) protocol.

    The flash memory can be erased and programmed in seconds with no external power supply required due to the MSP430's ultra-low power flash.

    The LaunchPad interfaces MSP430 devices to an integrated software environment such as Code Composer Studio Version 4 or IAR Embedded Workbench. These IDEs are free and unrestricted on MSP430 Value Line devices. The LaunchPad supports all MSP430G2xx flash parts in a 14 or 20 pin DIP package (TI package code: N).

    The LaunchPad also features on-board programmable LEDs and buttons for custom projects and applications! 10-pin PCB connectors are also provided for attaching additional devices to the LaunchPad.

    Free downloadable versions of IAR Kickstart and Code Composer Studio Ver 4 integrated development environments are available and include an assembler, linker, simulator, source-level debugger, and C-compiler. These free IDEs are unrestricted on MSP430 Value Line devices.

Launchpad home

Projects page about 70 user contributed projects.

Capacitive touch boosterpack - $10 - plugs into launchpad.

  • The Capacitive Touch BoosterPack (430BOOST-CAPTOUCH1) is a plug in board for the $4.30 MSP430 Value Line LaunchPad development kit (MSP-EXP430G2 - sold separately). The Capacitive Touch BoosterPack ($10) features several capacitive touch elements including a scroll wheel, button and proximity sensor. Also, on-board are 9 LEDs that provide instant feedback as users interact with the capacitive touch elements. In addition, a timer-based UART enables communication to a PC for feedback via GUI or hyperterminal. This BoosterPack also includes a pre-programmed MSP430G2452IN20 Value Line device.

    When paired with the LaunchPad kit, the Capacitive Touch BoosterPack provides a complete hardware and software reference design to enable developers to quickly and easily replace any physical button with a capacitive touch element. This is the simplest, most cost effective solution for adding capacitive touch differentiation in many applications such as consumer electronics, point of sales machines and other devices with a physical button.

Other related TI MSP430 development tools

and more ! ...

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. $US4.30 all up is hard to beat (you have to supply your own USB cable at that price). \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Jun 13 '12 at 10:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Russell McMahon Actually my Launchpad (revision 1.6 I think) came with required USB cable. The interesting thing is that a cable such as one that came with the Launchpad here costs more than the Launchpad. \$\endgroup\$ – AndrejaKo Jun 13 '12 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pet - +10. Enjoy :-). \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Jun 13 '12 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Russell McMahon - Thank you for you edit. (Feeling almost guilty for getting all the upvotes ... ^^) \$\endgroup\$ – PetPaulsen Jun 14 '12 at 7:00

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