New sub £4 embedded controller from raspberry pi

myPinballs

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So have we ordered our new raspberry pi pico’s this morning???

https://shop.pimoroni.com/products/raspberry-pi-pico

They’ve done it again and smashed the price on embedded controllers. A real possible alternative for teensys perhaps

if you are into embedded control pinball projects share what you have planned and if this might fit the bill for you. 😁

For me I currently use teensy’s to run all my low level pinball control ( as seen on indy and whirlwind), the firmware layer if you will, but these are certainly an interesting alternative and the low price cannot be ignored.
 
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DAFlippers

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So does that mean you have something interesting planned for a pinball mod??
Not sure, it is certainly a capable package. I do odd little mods like this - I did this over 5 years ago with custom board (about 6cm x 3cm) based on Attiny84. i used the same board for custom mods on Scared Stiff and Getaway.

David
 

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Fubar

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Interesting, I wonder if the RPi branding will be confusing - this is a very different SoC than what's on the "regular" RPis.

If it helps people move on from arduino that's great, but I don't know if it's got much over existing STM32 stuff.
 

DAFlippers

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BTW the price is nothing revolutionary - blue pills have been available for a long time around that mark, e.g. on banggood for £3 : https://uk.banggood.com/STM32F103C8...nt-Board-Module-SCM-Core-Board-p-1668936.html

The only difference here is much better marketing campaign :)
They are likely to have good libraries over time. Arduino is a great platform and I'm currently using STM32 in Arduino environment for the convenience - the STM32 Cube is awful. the Arduino IDE is ok but has a lot of shortcomings. You really see the difference when you switch to a writing a WPF C# .Net Core app using Visual Studio.

David
 
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PBrookfield

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Agreed with all prior - the fact that raspberry pi stuff largely does nothing new but provides an ecosystem that provides a lot of comfort, applies to almost everything they've made to date. Easy to turn your nose up at that, but it's honestly a very good thing, regardless of how it is achieved.

I remember having absolutely screamingly horrible times with the tools available for an old Keil ARM board that I had to use - a far cry from the tools available for working on Pi products.
 

Kman

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If it helps people move on from arduino that's great, but I don't know if it's got much over existing STM32 stuff.
I'm one of those Arduino people as more into mechanics so haven't invested time in raspberry. But this thread is a very useful prompt to what's out there so will take a fresh look.
 
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Fubar

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It's a good point about the tooling - I like to work close to the metal but appreciate that isn't the norm! Sorry if I came across as too critical - I do think that what they're doing here is great.

You really see the difference when you switch to a writing a WPF C# .Net Core app using Visual Studio.
I used to be a C# dev (asp.net and backend mostly), now I do C & assembly for in-house chips. Honestly, developing for ARM really isn't that hard -- cross-compilers are readily available. The problem is some tools (like arduino!) try so hard to hide the compiler & linker that they end up getting in the way (and teaching bad habits).

I do agree that the VS integration with the language/compiler is way better than anything else. But that's in part due to the fact that C# is a sane language (unlike C) :D

Anything based off of Eclipse is going to be a pile of crap (garbage in, garbage out). Give me a makefile over any of these GUIs though - the build XML crap from .NET still brings back nightmares...
 
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myPinballs

myPinballs

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Well you can keep going back in time if you want to go on about who did what first. PIC micro controllers have been around trailblazing since the mid 90s. I have a couple of pic related projects on the go right to aswell, but arduino (teensy) and rpi really have made things alot more excessible for people and the documentation has been much much improved.

Back in the late 90s writing RISC ASM code for PIC 16F5X series ics was not that simple , the technical book was 2000 pages thick, there was no google, and no support to be heard of.. YOU WERE ON YOUR OWN.. Microchip was like, thanks for the purchase, good bye....

One interesting thing i noted on this new pico device is the chip on there is there own creation not an off the shelf item. Manufacutered here in uk to. An something mentioned about simplification of bit transfer/manipulation.
 

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The problem is some tools (like arduino!) try so hard to hide the compiler & linker that they end up getting in the way (and teaching bad habits).
Biiiingo, lol. I had to break out of a walled garden really, really hard with my old example. Sucked.
 
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Fubar

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Fubar

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the chip on there is there own creation not an off the shelf item. Manufacutered here in uk to.
I very much doubt the chip is manufactured in the UK - there are no foundries here. Actually I found a source saying it's fabricated by TSMC (on their 40nm process).

However the PCB might be assembled in the UK - and certainly most of the design work (including the ARM core) will have been done here. (Just down the road from me in fact!)
 

MadNat

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I enjoy faffing with the ESP modules.

Cheap as chips, tons of library support and lots of hackers messing with them.

Support for VS Code and Platform IO is handy for managing your builds.

Built in wifi on both and Bluetooth on the ESP32, plus 4MB flash gives scope for all manner of applications.

Each to their own.
 

*paulb*

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BTW the price is nothing revolutionary - blue pills have been available for a long time around that mark, e.g. on banggood for £3 : https://uk.banggood.com/STM32F103C8...nt-Board-Module-SCM-Core-Board-p-1668936.html

The only difference here is much better marketing campaign :)
Quite a spec difference:
Blue Pill (in your link): 64K Flash, 20K RAM Single core 72MHz clock
Raspberry Pico: 2MB Flash, 264K RAM, Dual Core 133MHz and no waiting for shipment from China.
Obviously you want to have a need for the extra power.

For £3.60 + delivery and (hopefully) with the good support and long term availability you get from the Pi foundation - this is the dev board I've been waiting for for my early SS Bally CPU/Sound emu project!
 

Fubar

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Quite a spec difference:
Blue Pill (in your link): 64K Flash, 20K RAM Single core 72MHz clock
Raspberry Pico: 2MB Flash, 264K RAM, Dual Core 133MHz and no waiting for shipment from China.
Obviously you want to have a need for the extra power.

For £3.60 + delivery and (hopefully) with the good support and long term availability you get from the Pi foundation - this is the dev board I've been waiting for for my early SS Bally CPU/Sound emu project!
As you say I don't think it matters to most people -in particular RPi's target audience- but nonetheless that is a slightly naive comparison in my personal opinion. M0+ vs M3/M4 core will make a big difference in terms of performance. Dual-core sounds great, except their SDK doesn't use the second one (plus concurrent programming introduces other problems). Flash is bigger but it's also off-chip - you can hook a SPI flash to any existing MCU and get similar storage capacity. If you have a use for more RAM, you can just go up the STM32 food chain and get a beefier part. Support and long-term availability are not going to be a problem with either manufacturer. UK shipping is great if you don't have one already - it doubles the cost though :) The point I was making is that there's nothing new here - it's just packaged/marketed better (and I appreciate the value of that!)

I'm not saying one solution is better than the other - the target audience is just different. If this helps more people get into embedded that's great and I'm all for it. RPi have also historically been better at not creating walled gardens, and the work they're doing in education is fantastic :thumbs: Kids really need to grow up knowing more about how technology works.
 
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myPinballs

myPinballs

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The point I was making is that there's nothing new here - it's just packaged/marketed better (and I appreciate the value of that!)

The point of posting the note about this new product and manufacturer entering a crowded market was in the context of pinball related projects only where in my view GPIO's are the key to any successful project. We are firmly embedded here in a parallel 8 bit world because of the chips available back in the 80s hence why we are always burning through so many io ports.... Wireless and Radio features are less important or they are for all the projects i've worked on over the last 5-10 years .

As i was mentioning earlier there is something new (unless i have missed this type of approach on other devices, there are lots after all) that i think helps alot with pinball projects. I didn't get time to read about it much yesterday other than seeing there was some new sort of io assistance.


A quote from it the hackaday article linked previously (https://hackaday.com/2021/01/20/raspberry-pi-enters-microcontroller-game-with-4-pico/ ) below:

"The real standout peripheral on the RP2040 and the Pico is the Programmable I/O (PIO) hardware, which allows you to define your own digital communication peripheral. There are two of these PIO units, and each one has four programmable state machines that run sequential programs written in a special PIO assembly language. Each of the state machines has its own clock divider, register memory, IRQ flags, DMA interface, and GPIO mapping. These allow essentially arbitrary cycle-accurate I/O, doing the heavy lifting so that the CPU doesn’t have to."

Now, if this appears to be what it sound like and 2 pic16 type devices included internally that you can set up to handle some repetitive function such as polling a switch matrix or updating a lamp matrix then this is big for pinball projects and something i've not seen available before. (I may have missed this on other devices though i guess). The problem so far with any pinball related controller have been the balance to update everything in a timely manner without running into delays even with interrupts. bogging the cpu down moving bits about can be problematic

So , from what i've read so far it does look interesting for pinball projects, of course its a big commitment to move from something you are already happy using isnt it, but its always wise to know what alternatives are around and often with rpi stuff there is scope to get advanced if you want to, its not just for newbies.

And for the cost of things. For real comparisons on devices from china, we should use the ex vat price so these are £3 plus shipping. I got 3 with shipping for just over £10! unbelievable value really.
 
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DAFlippers

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I bought the display, dual dock, 2 boards and headers (I know I was paying through the nose for them) all for £28.50 plus VAT. Nicely packed.

David
 

stumblor

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I use the Arduino Nano for all my current pinball projects, running in vscode using platformio. I've had a look at using ATTiny, and esp32s, but to be honest it's more out of a desire to look like I know what I'm doing and not seeming like such a microcontroller noob. I will use the attiny again for a project where the number of GPIO doesn't matter, and have plans to use the esp32 for a project coming up where processing is a factor, but in all honesty, I'm not really hitting any of kind of blockers that would require me to shift onto something else. Happy to be shown a better way of course!
 

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Is there any posts on here that show this sort of tech being used in pinball? Including the code and the physical stuff?
Love to learn, but have no imagination whatsoever, so like to see what people use these for and how they do it.
 
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stumblor

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Is there any posts on here that show this sort of tech being used in pinball? Including the code and the physical stuff?
Love to learn, but have no imagination whatsoever, so like to see what people use these for and how they do it.

Don't think there anything that goes into that level of detail, but that's a great idea. Like a shop log. I've got a project come up that uses a nano to monitor lamps, coils and switches (physical, not from the matrix) I could put together a little how to guide for that if there is an interest?
 
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myPinballs

myPinballs

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Is there any posts on here that show this sort of tech being used in pinball? Including the code and the physical stuff?
Love to learn, but have no imagination whatsoever, so like to see what people use these for and how they do it.
Both my custom rewrite projects - stern indy jones and whirlwind have threads on here and use multiple embedded controllers (teensys) and rpi 4's to run them so thats a pretty good example of what is possible, or so i think anyway. I've tried to share info on here to show whats possible and inspire others to make their own stuff to.
 
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myPinballs

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I use the Arduino Nano for all my current pinball projects, running in vscode using platformio. I've had a look at using ATTiny, and esp32s, but to be honest it's more out of a desire to look like I know what I'm doing and not seeming like such a microcontroller noob. I will use the attiny again for a project where the number of GPIO doesn't matter, and have plans to use the esp32 for a project coming up where processing is a factor, but in all honesty, I'm not really hitting any of kind of blockers that would require me to shift onto something else. Happy to be shown a better way of course!
Its the end result that counts. If you like using the ATmega328p ic and it has enough i/o and horsepower for your projects then stick with that. Its a brilliant chip. One thing maybe on the hardware later is just install the ic directly instead of the nano dev board but not essential (if you dont need usb connection etc). Also look at teensys (basically higher speed arduinos) for more horsepower to and also the PIC16F and PIC18F series of ics for alternatives generally to if you want to assess what else there is.
 
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Both my custom rewrite projects - stern indy jones and whirlwind have threads on here and use multiple embedded controllers (teensys) and rpi 4's to run them so thats a pretty good example of what is possible, or so i think anyway. I've tried to share info on here to show whats possible and inspire others to make their own stuff to.
Thanks, I’ll have a look at those.
Don't think there anything that goes into that level of detail, but that's a great idea. Like a shop log. I've got a project come up that uses a nano to monitor lamps, coils and switches (physical, not from the matrix) I could put together a little how to guide for that if there is an interest?
Great idea mate.
Watching with interest
😀
 
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stumblor

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Both my custom rewrite projects - stern indy jones and whirlwind have threads on here and use multiple embedded controllers (teensys) and rpi 4's to run them so thats a pretty good example of what is possible, or so i think anyway. I've tried to share info on here to show whats possible and inspire others to make their own stuff to.

Speaking of which Jim, are you going to make those boards available to the public (or are they already?) got my sights set on a Diner dmd conversion at some point!
 
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