Skip to main content
A programmer is the device that physically connects a PC to the MSP430. The PC sends data to the programmer, and the programmer copies it into the flash memory of the MSP430 microchip. I know of no DIY MSP430 programmers. Fortunately, TI sells a complete programmer, debugger, and development board for only $20 (see below).

Newer MSP430s are programmed with the two wire SPY-BI-WIRE protocol, but older versions were programmed with a large JTAG interface. Some new, high pin count MSP430s support both the old JTAG interface and the new 2 wire protocol. This tutorial only applies to the new SPY-BI-WIRE devices.

TI's ez430
The ez430 is a $20 debugger and development board that looks like a USB flash disk. It works with TI's IAR Kickstart C compiler and development environment demo. The programmer connects to a tiny circuit board module with a real MSP430F2013 processor and LED. The standard board sports a F2013 with 16 bit ADC, but TI sells 3 packs of F2012 "target boards" for a few bucks. The ez430 will program any MSP430 chip that supports SPY-BI-WIRE.

You can get a free ez430 at TI's MSP430 days. Check this website to check for one near you. I got mine at one of these events. Watch out though, mine was ruined when IAR Kickstart accidentally updated the firmware in the programmer - something that should never be done to the eZ430. It was irreparably ruined and I had to order a new programmer.

This is an expensive ($100) programmer and debugger for the MSP430, but you usually get a code for 50% off at MSP430 day. This will also program the older JTAG chips, but we're not likely to encounter any of these.

There are a few of third party programmers for the MSP430. Most of them are really expensive, but the line of programmers from Olimex is geared towards DIY'ers. The Olimex MSP430-JTAG -Tiny is an inexpensive alternate to TI's MSP-FET430UIF (above) -- with the same features and compatible with the same applications.

MSP430 Programming(click thumbnails to view gallery)

TI's MSP430 Programmersez430 MSP430 programmerMSP430 ProgrammerPreview of next week's project

Programming software/compilers
A compilers and integrated development environments (IDEs) is simply an application that is used to write software. I'm familiar with three IDEs that can be used to write software for the MSP430 and program code into the chip. There are several third party compilers, but those listed below have free or limited versions that work great for DIY projects. The IAR compiler, for example, is limited to 4K -- but that's twice the program space of the F201X chips!

This is the demo compiler, debugger, and development environment that comes with the ez430 programmer. It's a self contained environment for writing code in C, compiling it, and programming it to a MSP430. It can also control code execution in a prototype chip - this helps hunt down problems in complicated programs. This is a fairly nice and reliable way to work with the MSP430. Watch out, though, if it asks you to update the firmware on your ez430 USB stick, DON'T LET IT!

The IAR compiler is quite expensive, and the demo is limited to 4K. If you run into that limit, you'll probably turn to the next program.

This is an open source compiler for the MSP430 based on the famous GCC compiler. It's accompanied by a complete tool chain that includes a programming and debugging application that works with the MSPFET and the ez430.

These tools can all be combined, with heroic effort, into the Eclipse development environment. This is a bit like bolting a text editor onto a compiler and debugger yourself, rather than giving IAR the privilege. I successfully followed these directions to install MSP/GCC and integrate the tool chain into Eclipse under Cygwin on MS Windows. It worked great for standard equipment, but lacked support for some modern MSP430s. That isn't quite true - the changes were present in the code but not the compiled version. It should be significantly easier to setup and compile under Linux.

Code Composer Essentials
CCE is TI's own compiler and debugging environment for the MSP430. The demo version will compile unlimited assembly code, but only 8K of C code. This is the MSP430 equivalent of Microchip's MPLAB. Historically, CCE has been fairly unloved, but it looks like a new version is available.

Taking it further
What do you do with a 16 bit low-power microcontroller? The MSP430 is popular among educational institutions because of the inexpensive development kit. Power conservation features also make it quite popular in the field of wireless sensor networks.

Next week, I'll show you how to use the MSP430's 16 bit pulse width modulator (PWM) to play audio files. The following week we'll record audio with the 12/16 bit analog to digital converter (ADC) and complete the digital audio recorder prototype. Finally, we'll look at how to turn the prototype circuit into a talking picture frame or stealth digital recorder.

TI has a host of training materials for the MSP430.
Probably the best source for help is the archive at the Yahoo MSP430 group.
TI maintains a list of discussion groups.

  • Eric Chapman

    your project is very promising to my application. how could this application be converted to say an analog to data storage device at a frequency of 1Mhz.

  • Ian Lesnet

    There are two things you'd have to consider. First, can the MSP430 write 1 mhz (1 megabyte/second +) to the SD card -- probably. Second, can the MSP430's ADC convert samples at 1mhz -- doubtful. I think the ADC maxes out at 256,000 samples per second, about a quarter what you are looking for.

    Check out the TI website, though, I've worked with a TI ADC that samples at +20MHz -- that might help out in your application.


  • 2 Comments / 1 Pages

Follow Us

  • No features currently available.

  • More Hot Topics The Daily Fix  •  DIY Warrior  •  Home Ec  •  Handmade
    DIY Disaster Doctor  •  In the Workshop  •  Product Picks

    Home Improvement Videos