Sensing and Control for hobbyists and schools: Programming

Always try to think of electronic projects in modules. Try to work at several levels of abstraction. If you were an automotive engineer, you might break a car down into steering, propulsion, braking, etc. Propulsion could be broken down into carburetor, cylinder, etc.

Sensing and control projects involve sundry modules, and this site has been broken down to reflect my choice of breakdown. In this section, I'm concentrating on the software that you will use to accept the information from the sensors, and send messages out to the actuators.

Some of you will have come from a background that treats computer work as the sum of input-processing-output. Sense and control work is pretty well the same thing: For "input" think sensors, for "output" think actuators.

You can embark upon sensing and control work with packages that take care of the programming for you, but the real fun comes when you can write your own programs. This does not have to be complicated or expensive.

If you don't mind picking up an elephant gun for the job, because you might as well learn one language which will meet many, many jobs for years to come, you could do a lot worse than Delphi. There are free or inexpensive options for the hobbyist. My most successful and largest contribution to the internet is all about programming with Delphi.

For more dedicated systems, if you have no idea of where to start, have a look at my page extolling the virtues of the Arduino, the BASIC Stamp, PIC microcontrollers and Pascalite..

Another place to visit is my page about programming in general. It includes information on finding inexpensive or free programming tools.

If you're really programming-challenged there is a relatively expensive kit produced by Lego (not Logo!) which provides you with sensors, actuators, and a simple programming environment... for a price. The kit is called "Lego Mindstorms", and you will find that lots of educators have used it. Click here to visit Lego's site.

If you want a package where everything's been done for you, for which you'll pay, you might want to check out the X-10 product line. I've made some notes and set up some links for you here.

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Other projects

This is just one of the guides I have published on the net. Please visit any of the following that relate to interests you have....

Delphi Tutorials
Pascal programming tutorials
Electronics for hobbyists and schools
Main Home Page

Here is how you can contact this page's author, Tom Boyd.

Index of sensing and control pages (From there you can also go to other help from the editor of this page.)

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