Thursday, February 2, 2012

Propeller Project Status

If you have been following this blog and the links contained, you will know that Julian - G4ILO, Jeff - KO7M and myself are experimenting with the Parallax Propeller Micro Processor for Amateur Radio Projects (and for fun). Jeff and I live very close to each other and occasionally get to together to compare projects, Julian provides insight, inspiration and keeps us up-to-date with his projects via email and his blog posts.

Our current efforts with the Propeller center on WSPR, QRSS and OPERA Beacons, but I suspect the Propeller will find it's way into many of our future Amateur Radio Projects.

Originally I thought the Propeller Micro Processor was just a toy, with it's "Propeller Beanie Hat Logo", it was just a hobbyist micro processor, similar to the Parallax Stamp Micro. Several years ago, I had dismissed the Stamp and Parallax as a less than serious project micro platform. In the last few weeks I have learned that my pre-judgement was WRONG. Now I know the Propeller is a Serious Hobbyist Project Micro Platform, that provides many capabilities that most other micros lack.

I first learned of the Propellers RF PLL Oscillators and other interesting functions via a post by Wardy, it has since been my center project focus.

Many of my previous projects used Microchip micros, or the relatively new Atmel micros. With them I found myself always writing control software to do multi-tasking. In some cases the multi-tasking control software was larger than the desired task. With the Propeller multi-tasking is as simple as one line of code to create a new COG (process). The Propeller contains eight Independent COG's for programs to run. Enough sales chat, back to my project.

Julian, Jeff and myself are working on independent implementation of the Human Interface, see Julian's, and Jeff's Blogs.

(paragraph corrected Mar 1, 2012)
My approach centers around the "Propeller Proto USB" board. The boards are available in groups of four (4) at about $100, or about $25 per board. Note, I could not buy, build or collect enough parts to Homebrew my own platform for $25.

The idea is build a generic project Human Interface with the following attributes or functions:
Initial Stages of  Control Integration
The controls, speaker and LCD are solder in place, wires to connect to the micro is next.

Because the Human Interface will occupy the upper level of the "Propeller Proto USB" board area, add-on projects will be attached below via standard header pins. This combination provides a nice project stack, similar as seen in the Arduino world. Two full rows of holes are available on the right or the lower edge for location of project headers, I need to think more about that soon.

My current Beacon project could really use this type of interactive controls. I am excited and looking forward to more fun projects.

Join the fun, . . . get a Prop.



  1. Ham Radio is an amazing hobby in that it leads you into finding out about much more than just how to talk on the radio. People who think it's all about making contacts with distant places don't know what they are missing! It's no exaggeration to say that having these projects to think about and work on has kept me sane these last few months and helped me accept the disabilities that I now have to cope with.

  2. Hi again Eldon. I'm glad the Propeller is still proving useful in your radio exploits. :)

    On another note, have you seen "TopoRouter" before? There are two reasons I figured you might like to see this, the first being that it is made by the same guys that do Diptrace and should be fully compatible. And secondly I'd be interested in your opinion since you are well versed in the complexities of tight-tolerance and high frequency circuit design.

    It's a bit of a departure from "intuitive" PCB layout principles but it seems to be able to yield more noise immunity and fewer crosstalk problems.

    The blurb on the website is fascinating even if you don't have time to give it a whirl, they make some fairly big claims!

    Great blog as usual, always fun to read.