SO, WHAT’S NEXT?
Your program is done, and it has compiled without errors. Next, you will want to see how your program works on the microcontroller. So, you’d need to instruct the microcontroller do by programming it. The only way to do this is to electrically change the series of 1’s and 0’s in their memory. But of course, you cannot just copy the whole program, create and connect a USB port to your computer and download to it. You need a programmer.
I got this very matured programmer two decades ago and only after so many years of trying, it worked. I know it worked but I needed to learn to be able to write a program to test it. That took me a long time. Anyway, the programmer is the device that will program your microcontroller. This device is connected to the computer via a serial RS-232 cable and runs off from a 9v power supply. The reason is that for the older Microchip PICs, they need the 13.5v programming voltage. One favourite feature of mine is the PICStart Plus programmer has a large 40-pin programming socket. As I tend to use microcontrollers of different sizes and programming adaptors, this is very important. There are other programmers out there which does the job faster but requires different connection. So, when I do a run of my boards, this workhorse will be programming them without any issues..
But it is getting on. I have just replaced its cracked inductor a few years ago. So, I am looking out for a backup or unless, the new Pickit 4 is economically available. It does have some drawbacks such as the 5v programming voltage and it is using ICSP (In-circuit serial programming) instead of the big 40-pin socket. I am OK with the latter because I can insert this feature into my new designs but then, I would have to get newer chips only that accepts 5V programming voltages.
The PICStart Plus is hardware, it needs software to control it. So, one of the software is called MPLab IDE. I have no idea what the name stood for and the creators have long since forgotten it. Still, “Make Programs Like A Boss” sounds nice.
The MPLab IDE takes your finished program and build them into a more digestible format for the chip to understand. Basically, these are the stages below, from program creation to chip programming:
Flowcode: Compile the Flowchart in the C Code,
Flowcode: Compile the C code into Assembler
Flowcode: Assemble the Assembler into Hex format
MPLab IDE: Send the hex codes into the chip
In a nutshell, using Flowcode speeds up the chip program development stage. This gives me more time to prototype and intergrate the circuit into the model.