Dev Kit Weekly: Schmartboard Parallax Propeller SchmartModule Development Board

February 02, 2024




In this modern age, we’re faced daily with a lot of technologies that are riddled where timing is imperative — especially if you yourself are a developer making or utilizing that kind of tech. Think applications like motor control, audio generation, robotics, things like that. All those applications have a critical thing in common, with multiple sensors, UI systems, or output devices have to be managed such that they all work together precisely.

These types of timing-sensitive applications are exactly the sort that the Propeller P8X32A MCU from Parallax was made for. It features eight symmetric 32-bit processors to enable parallel processing, each of which is capable of executing up to 20 MIPS of processing power for a total of 160 MIPS when all eight are running simultaneously. The chip also features a central hub alongside a common system clock that enables shared access to common resources like RAM. Each processor, or cog, can perform tasks either individually or in cooperation with other cogs to allow for high-speed processing with low power consumption.

With a chip like this, you obviously want it to live on a board that’s compatible with its capabilities, and that’s exactly what the Propeller SchmartModule development board is.

Now, it’s important to note that this board does not come equipped with the P8X32A MCU itself. But the draw of this little development board is that you can very easily hand solder custom packages onto the board yourself to tailor its capabilities to your needs, with the Schmartboard | ez technology.

As I said at the beginning, the Parallax MCU chip was made for timing-sensitive applications, so it makes sense that the device features multiple clock modes to accommodate to a user’s needs; and as previously mentioned, a shared system clock that facilitates synchronization between the chip’s eight cogs. But another important feature of the development board here is its included strip of header pins that can give the user easy access to the Propeller chip’s I/O pins.

Additionally, the board features both 3.3 and 5 V DC regulators, an operating temperature of 32º to 158ºF, and has an input power requirement of 6 to 9 volts. When you’re all soldered up and ready to begin developing, the Parallax Propeller chip is compatible with a couple different programming languages: Spin and Propeller Assembly. There is an open-source, Windows-based tool available as either a library or an executable for compiling and downloading to a Propeller chip — and the link for that will be in the description below.

If you’d like to get your own Propeller SchmartModule development board, they’re available for purchase from Schmartboard for just $15. Of course, if you’d rather put that money toward purchasing the Propeller chip itself, you can also enter the raffle, below, for a chance to win this development board totally free. Good luck!

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