After my impetuous outburst
about the limitations of the Parallax Basic Stamp platform, Parallax co-founder Ken Gracey was kind enough to respond directly in the comments. Excerpt:
The BASIC Stamp product line will continue to be developed by Parallax. But most of the improvements we make to the product line pertain to documentation, operating speed and memory, and the addition of commands. You won't be seeing a floating point library built into the BASIC Stamp.
If you want to have true simultaneous processing with another high-level language, my suggestion is to use the Propeller. You seem to already know that processor so I'll skip listing the specifications. We aim to make the Prop very easy to use by publishing our educational tutorials (see Propeller Education on this page). The forums supporting the Propeller are very active. Supporting the growth of the Propeller is a big priority for Parallax and we back our position by responding to customer requests. In this case, you've got a complete floating point library to use. There's also a BS2 library for the Propeller in case the user wants to continue using something they've already learned.
He and I also had a good phone chat where we talked more about the options. Here's my bullet-point report from that, and summarizing the comments above:
- The Basic Stamp platform continues to be staple of electronic education in schools and will be for years to come. It's still growing in terms of its usage base.
- That said, the technology is not going to evolve much more. The things we want, such as floating point, C-like variable handling and significant increases in memory, are not planned for the Basic Stamp architecture.
- Instead, Parallax recommends that we shift to the Propeller chip, which has both everything we need and reflects the direction that Parallax as a company is going.
- Although Propeller is not currently as easy to learn as the Basic Stamp, Parallax is working hard to improve that. One thing in particular that will help a lot is a forthcoming serial debug window facility like that of the Basic Stamp. This will let you use the PC as a display screen for the chip's output and otherwise get real-time data on variables and program operation. Finally, it will be possible to write a simple "hello world" program for the Propeller and see "hello world" on your screen, rather than just a blinking LED.
As a result, this is what I propose for DIYDrones:
- We complete the Basic Stamp autopilot so that it works perfectly as it is, both as a teaching tool and for those who currently have the Basic Stamp hardware and want to keep it.
- After that is done, however, we will not develop it further.
- We will instead port the Basic Stamp autopilot code to the open source Arduino platform. All future development of our "entry-level DIY autopilot" will be on that platform
- After that, we will port the code to the Propeller platform and then encourage better programmers than me to help collectively build an open source "pro-grade" autopilot project on it. This is a big job (just ask Dean Goedde, who used the Propeller for his awesome AttoPilot commerical autopilot), so I'm looking for volunteers to help take it on. Anybody out there want to try their hand at the future of embedded computing (8-core, 32-bit, object-oriented parallel processing)?
- To that end, Parallax has kindly offered to donate $500 worth of Propeller gear to DIYDrones. If you want it and can make a public commitment to starting and sharing an autopilot project here (and can demonstrate that you've got the coding experience to pull that off), I'll work with Parallax to give you the gear of your choice up to that dollar limit. Please respond in the comments.