MSP430 LaunchPad - Introduction to Low-powered Microcontrollers Development Board

Two months ago, I was working on an assignment which involved writing code for a simulator where the targeted machine was a microcontroller (also known as MCU or SoC). There were numerous issues with the project. One of such issue is using Interrupt Service Routine (ISR) to display the LED light at a specific interval and duration. There are numerious ways to solve this (I only found this after the submission), but we didn't managed to get it done right during that time. Furthermore, the main goal of the assignment was to let everyone experience a software engineering process through different team roles. Hence, correctness is not the priority here. Nevertheless, these unresolved issues piqued my interest on embedded programming and C/C++ programming languages. Also, my own self-exploration exposed me to different microcontroller kits available in the Maker community.

When come to microcontroller kits, Arduino Uno is the preferred choice right now due to its popularity, which again, is due to its beginner friendliness. But these comments by david-given (a), IgorPartola, wyager, Declanomous, david-given (b), and sotojuan at HN convinced me that TI MSP430 LaunchPad would be a better choice. Cheap (I've made a mistake purchasing the wrong LaunchPad kit, more on this later) enough and low-powered microcontroller for anyone to learn embedded programming and study hardware.

The next step is to purchase the microcontroller kits. Now, which MSP43X LaunchPad development kits? I bought the original LaunchPad kit, MSP-EXP430G2 for roughly MYR 50+ inclusive of tax from Element14. Make sure you add comment to the order form that the purchase is for personal use. Otherwise the sales person will have to reconfirm with you again. If you still remember I said I made a mistake picking the wrong kit. If I were to choose again, I will pick MSP-430FR4133 instead although it's more expensive. Two good reasons. First, the development board have an embedded Liquid Crystal Display (LCD). You don't have to buy an additional LCD display and going through the hassle of connecting it through the breadboard. Second, the MSP-EXP430G2 is not supported by GNU/Linux version of Code Composer Studio, the default Integrated Development Environment. These are not critical issues but just merely minor inconveniences. Videos below will show more details on the differences between two development boards.

The item arrived within 3 working days in a black box. The list of items inside the box is clearly explained by video below.

The full list of items are:
  • 1pc Quick Start Guide (slac432a)
  • 1pc MSP-EXP430G2 LaunchPad development board
  • 1pc MSP430G2553 microcontroller (with temperature measure demo app)
  • 1pc MSP430G2452 microcontroller
  • 1pc Mini-USB cable
  • 1pc 32kHz external crystal (I've no idea what this for even I've read slaa322c)
  • 2pc 10-pin PCB Connector (2 male/2 female)
  • 2pc LaunchPad sticker
One mildly interesting thing is the MSP430 part numbers. For example, the breakdown of the part number of microcontroller MSP430G2553 are:
  • MSP430 = CPU
  • MSP = Mixed Signal Processor
  • 430 = 430 MCU platform
  • G = Flash (value line) memory type
  • 2 = Generation 2 series where speed is up to 16 Mhz
  • 5 = Model within the generation
  • 5 = Memory configuration (RAM: 0.5K, ROM: 8K)
  • 3 = Variant of the devices
In the coming post, we will go through on setting the development environment in Ubuntu 16.10. Stay tuned.

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