One of the best things about the holiday season is that it gives me a chance to work on some projects that I've been putting off, mostly because they require more than a few minutes of undivided attention. Thankfully, the past couple of weeks offered that, as the phone didn't ring too often and e-mail slowed somewhat.
One of the projects that's been on my To-Do list is to play around with one of Atmel's development kits. If you're a regular reader, you probably know that I try my hardest to “think like a reader.” By that, I mean that I put myself in the place of a typical developer, and try to work through the same struggles that you might have. I only wish that I had more time to do this.
So I get very excited when a development kit/debugger/programmer like this one shows up at my door. In this case, it was the STK600, which Atmel calls a “complete starter kit and development system.” I'd agree with that billing, as it allowed me to really get a feel for how what's required to work an AVR environment. The debugger/programmer was the JTAGICE mkII.
I must admit, that the last few kits I've worked on were more of the “just get a feel for the architecture” type, whereby they get you up and running really quickly, but what you can actually do with the kit is really limiting. The STK600 was quite the opposite. It was a full-blown development experience. For that reason, it took me more longer than I expected to initially get it running. But once I did, I was pleased with what I was able to accomplish.This particular kit was equipped with the company's 8-bit AVR microcontroller. And I used the adapter board to attached ATmega2560 256-kbyte flash device.
Going out on the Web, I was able to find some sample code, which I downloaded and ran on the board. Writing code from scratch would have taken more time than I could allow for this test. But it did give me a good feel for what a typical developer has to go through.
What I really like about this kit was how customizable it is. Using an array of sockets and adapter boards, users can experiment with the whole range of AVRs. And while the tools weren't the most intuitive I've come across, the learning curve was far from steep.
The bottom line is that the experience was a good one. If you have some level of familiarity with the Atmel tools, the task will be much smoother, but either way, it's worth the effort.
Richard Nass is editor in chief of Embedded Systems Design magazine and editorial director of TechInsights. He can be reached at .