Programmer's Hostility Towards Beginners

WB4JFI wb4jfi at
Sun Jul 6 23:42:34 CDT 2008


The only negative that I could come up with regarding your email was that it
might be somewhat vague and open-ended to an expert.  He/She might not know
where to begin..  do you know any programming languages?  Have you absorbed
any programming from your work experiences?  Which PICs, specifically?

But, from how you describe the response, it must be a lot more of a
brush-off.  Forget him, then.  Look at, and learn from his/her code and
diagrams, but don't take it personally.

I use the PICKit2 as well for initially loading a "bootloader" into the
18F2455/2550 series of PICs, then I program the user code starting where the
bootloader will place it (0x00400).  Makes life much easier.

My regular tools are the Microchip MPASM and C18 C compiler (free version).
Since the 18F2550 series connects to the host via USB, no RS232 ports, ICSP,
or other tricks required after the bootloader is in place.  No worrying
about fuses (usually).  I also use a version of the CCS C compiler for the
16F series PICs, plus the usual assembler in MPASM.

I strongly recommend that you get your hands dirty, and try using, then
modifying someone elses C code for a project that you are interested in.
Several times, I have worried that as I play with a new area of the PIC
(interrupts, A/D, timers, serial, etc), I will have major issues.  Each
time, I have been pleasently surprised how easy it actually was.

Believe me, programming for a PIC is a LOT easier than programming for

I would stick with one language (C or assembler or Basic), and not try to do
too many things at once.  Coming from somebody who used to hand-assemble
8008 code, I can say that generally I prefer C these days.  The PIC C
compilers are usually a lot more efficient than for other target systems.
They need to be, as there is little program or data space.  Once you are
experienced with the higher-level language, then you can play with the
assembler if you want/need.  I rarely look at assembly language anymore,
that that's saying something!!

Have you looked at the beginner PIC programming books advertised in Nuts and
Volts and Circuit Cellar?  They may be a good place to start as well.  I
seem to remember Easy PIC'N as one title... I could not find an ad in the
latest issue of N&V...  Check out:

Good luck.

-----Original Message-----
From: at
[ at]On Behalf Of Joseph
Sent: Sunday, July 06, 2008 10:50 PM
To: Tacos AMRAD
Subject: Re: Programmer's Hostility Towards Beginners

I think I'd better include the text of the email I sent to an
individual on the PIC list:

Hello ******,

We have corresponded from time to time in the PIC Microcontroller list.

I came across your web page quite by accident while searching for some
material.  I'll plan on bookmarking your pages and spending some more

I am still very much a beginner in programming.  I am a professional
electronics technician by trade, but that has involved mostly building
engineering prototypes or servicing equipment.  I'm currently
attempting to learn C as well as assembly via a few books and online
materials.   I'll need to concentrate on a particular chip to do my
experimenting.  Right now, I have a few different PICS courtesy of
Microchip's samples program.  I chose chips for my samples that were
used in projects I wish to build.  I do surface mount assembly under a
magnifier, and I hope to add some programming to my skills.

One of the primary things I want to build is clocks, particularly
Nixie tube clocks.  I've seen so many neat examples online, and many
include their code with the schematics.  I want to understand that
code, be it in assembler or C and learn to modify and add my own
functionality to the circuit.

My primary computer is a MacBook, and you've likely seen my posts in
the list about configuring the free Hi-Tech compiler, etc.  Perhaps
I'm getting ahead of myself, as I'm not certain I'm ready for these
tools yet.  Of course if necessary, I can boot into Windows XP and use

Thanks for your informative web pages.  If you can offer any
suggestion for learning the programming, please do.  I'm essentially
at ground zero as far as programming is concerned.  :-)



The reply I received wasn't terribly friendly, and upset me a bit -
which led to my post here on AMRAD. I thought I had written a friendly
note.  The individual did have a full PIC tutorial on his website, so
I didn't think my note out of line.  I'm very careful about what I
post to a list, precisely because of the newbie factor.  The PIC list
does have a searchable archive, so I do search prior to asking a
question.  However, the response I received from the above email
wasn't the first incident.  Admittedly, there are plenty of friendly
folk out there as well.

I'm not certain I want to start over with a new platform.  We use
Microchip's PICs at work.  I program them through MPLAB with the
provided hex file or even compile with PIC18 through MPLAB with the
provided C source from our engineers.  I want to learn enough to
understand the code that I'm burning into the chips.  Also, since I'm
also a ham and electronics hobbyist, I'd like to develop my own apps.
Perhaps someday code the equivalent  of the old Curtis keyer chip on a
PIC.  The engineers at work are somewhat helpful, but work is not the
time or place to pursue a hobby interest in programming.

All the tools I currently have for the PIC were free, including a
couple different C compilers that only are limited by the size of the
program.  Some are even reasonably priced if I learn enough to advance
beyond the 2k limitation.

I'll certainly look into the other links provided.  Good tools and
tutorials are always a good thing.

Joe, N6DGY
Pleasant Grove, UT

On Jul 6, 2008, at 8:09 PM, Robert E. Seastrom wrote:

> What mo said, particularly with the links that include connections to
> the Arduino and other AVR stuff; Atmel got it right by making their
> development environments open and giving them away for free, and the
> Arduino stuff is just a ball - in less than 30 minutes you'll be up
> and running and making LEDs blink and everything, without the PITA
> factor of trying to figure out fuse settings and all that other "fun"
> stuff.
> That said, as someone who's on the other end of this on a semi-regular
> basis in the IP network engineering arena, be sure you choose
> carefully where you're going to ask known newbie questions.  There are
> appropriate fora (LadyAda hosts some) for asking super simple
> questions, but some random software developer's in-box is not the
> right place, and it's awfully easy to get a little snippy if you are
> getting emailed out-of-scope questions on a regular basis.  I'm not
> defending the curt replies, just suggesting that if you're looking for
> maximum satisfaction, try to avoid doing the equivalent of posting
> "how do I wire up my CB radio and can I use this here coat hanger as
> an antenna?" questions to a ham radio group.  You'll be happier with
> the results.
> -r

Tacos mailing list
Tacos at

More information about the Tacos mailing list