Jeff’s vintage and new
SBC: Single Board Computers


The following are specific enough to get their own web page:

I categorize microprocessor development kits as follow:

Admittedly, there are many cheap devices that can be hacked, modded or repurposed.
Personal digital assistants (PDAs) such as PalmPilots or smart phones have built-in touch-screen, buttons, CPU, RAM.
Free open-source development software is often available.
The Sega Dreamcast VMU (Visual Memory Unit) and Sony PocketStation were essentially teeny tiny PDAs, not just memory units.
Even some USB flash drives have teeny LCD or e-paper displays.

But microcontroller development kits have certain advantages
I didn't intend to collect so many SBC (single board computers).
Some were gifts or so cheap I figured I'd give them a try.
I did not keep all of them. Some have been sold, swapped or traded.
I figure they're like a wrench set: you many never use them all but having the right one at the right time makes all the difference.
For example, the TICkit would be ideal for a one-shot project where I don't want to surrender one of my PIC-18 kits.
The Ampro Littleboard is ideal for something using DOS.

PIC-18 gumstick and toy version
This is the AWC Electronics APP-III GPMPU28 18F252
The "gumstick" form factor is so popular that it's a Bendos bendy toy!

"Chip Chase" (the bendy) was my thesis mascot since I used this PIC-18 system to prototype a medication compliance device.
I chose this PIC-18 development kit above all others because it's pre-programmed with a bootloader in protected flash so it programs via the RS232 port (no need for the In Circuit Emulator or programmer). The serial port was then used in production/run mode to link to the cellphone for SMS (texting).

TIC62H64C TICkit development kit
The TIC62H64C TICkit development kit is a Basic Stamp clone by Protean Logic Inc.
The 40 pin DIP header contains a PIC-16 and 24c65 (64kb I2C EEPROM).
The prototyping card adds the power connector and an I2C socket.
It's nice because I tried it one evening and gave up because It's still a LOT cheaper than the Parallax BASIC Stamp Microcontroller, as seen in Radio Shack.
The Basic Stamp is now discounted at Micro Center (which kinda replaced Radio Shack & CompUSA).

68008 trainer
ECE 395 Microprocessor Laboratory was a pre-req course for my master's degree at NJIT. The 68000 based board is by ACL Equipment of Livingstion NJ, part # NJIT 5584. We programmed it in assembler since the projects were mostly about interfacing things and learning the hardware/software interactions. The ROM monitor is very rudimentary, with a few functions to assist programming, run/debug the code and upload/download the binary.
I used the DOS programs asm68k and emu68k (not the Windows EASy68k) and PROCOMM for the terminal emulator & file upload.
The red lines on the generic breadboard are to remind myself that the busses are split in the center (a nasty un-marked gotcha!)
Yes, I drew smiley faces on all the disc capacitors. The main chips: The monitor's entry points and commands are here,
and the monitor source is here.

In the early 2000s, the lab kit was updated to a Freescale 68k/coldfire kit with CodeWarrior SDK.
In 2014, the course was updated to C on an ARM.

Wow, kewl effects! That's when data books had fun cover art
Here was an album of 101 old computer ads, including the Honeywell critters made entirely of electronic parts!
And I scanned some more.

other 68k resources

Ampro Littleboard/186
Ampro advocated using SCSI as a network, not just as a master to slaved peripherals (disks, tapes). I wish I knew that at the time, for I'm still curious about using SCSI in non-traditional ways, particularly with features such as AEN (asynchronous event notification).

I can think of only a few drawbacks to this SBC:

other Ampro Littleboard/186 resources

Mark Graybill has an excellent site about the Ampro Z80 Littleboard

64180 Vitrax IX Micro Controller by Control Technologies
The Hitachi 64180 powers this VITRAX IX MICRO CONTROLLER SBC (single board computer) with BASIC in ROM!
I guess it's kinda a BASIC stamp when size is not a constraint.
I found this card in bad condition, unsure if it works particularly since I do not have documentation on this specific version of the card.
The Vitrax plus manual is similar but the connectors are different.

Cybernetic Micro Systems CY512 evaluator board rev A
features the CY 525 stepper motor controller chip.

Programmable LOOK-ALIVE servo controller from EFFECTive ENGINEERING.
I think there's a tiny PIC chip inside this programmable servo controller, intended for animatronics.
It's really easy to use: put in "learn" mode and use the potentiometer to program the motion. Then play it back!
Sadly, EFFECTive ENGINEERING is defunct but it lives on as broken web links on other web pages :-)

Texas Instruments Stellaris EKK-LM3S9B96 Evaluation Kit
cleverly packed in a CD case

I'm really frustrated that I didn't complete my Circuit Cellar contest entry in time to enter. Not just because I'm not in the running for the prize money but because the development software stops running shortly after the contest. I'd love to CONTINUE enjoying the kit!

The main board has an ARM-based Texas Instruments Stellaris microcontroller & ethernet.
The USB board contains the debugger and flash programmer.

The contest challenge was to use the Texas Instruments' Stellaris LM3S9B96 microcontroller with Keil's RealView Microcontroller Development Kit (RVMDK) and Wittenstein's SafeRTOS to create the design contest entry.

The EKK-LM3S9B96 Evaluation Kit includes:

Dage Scientific MC-3

Underneath the breadboard is a 1802 COSMAC microprocessor based development system that's similar to the RCA COSMAC ELF.
It has the EPROM programmer daughterboard but the keyboard/display unit is missing :-(
Google found some info about the Dage: The 1802 is now SO TOTALLY RETRO!

TI MSP430 LaunchPad
The MSP-EXP430G2: MSP430 LaunchPad Value Line Development kit (top)
and the EZ430-RF2500T: MSP430 2.4-GHz Wireless Target Board (bottom).

The TI MSP430 LaunchPad is a $4.30 starter kit (the price is the part number).
For that price, there's no display so the OOBE (out of box experience) is rather underwhelming :-(.
There's no CD of documentation or software, but that's okay because the CD versions are often out of date by the time I get them.
The kit contains a card with this URL for online manuals & documentation.
I got lost rather quickly because I'm not accustomed to totally electronic documentation,
but once I found Getting Started with the MSP430 LaunchPad Workshop, I was well on the way.

My suggestion: download all your can to a USB flash drive and keep that with the kit.
That way you have all the documentation in one place, accessible I prefer to re-name the files such as MSP430_User_Guide.pdf instead of slau318b.pdf so I can manage them easier.

By the way: the latest Acrobat reader now has features I've always needed to migrate from paper/printed manuals to all electronic documentation. I can add "Yellow Sticky Notes", annotations and notes to the PDF! That's wonderful since I don't want to have to print, handle & store 600+ page data books anymore.

TI links: And what I should've done first: google for msp430 launchpad tutorial

My other MSP430 is the RFID badge for the 8th HOPE Conference also featured the TI MSP430 X430F2618T rev F

Freescale's Zigbee Circuit Cellar contest kit
With the amazing snap-apart board of many sensors!
It came in a lunchbox!
With a t-shirt!
and all documentation & software on CDs
With plugs of all nations (almost as silly as Zilog's eZ80 with spare power supplies!)

This is the contest kit from the Circuit Cellar 2004 Freescale Wireless Design Challenge
It encouraged participants to It contains but the star of the show's the snap-apart board of sensors
to use with the remote SARD for wireless sensors!
Neil Cherry's Zigbee/802.15.4 resource page

Smart Cards

The VCT BASIC SmartCard developer's kit

Smart Cards are really single CHIP units, not single board.
They're more like an accelerator or peripheral since they perform operations external to the CPU.
But they're clever cryptographic devices, whether contact-based or contactless.
My masters' thesis started as SmartCards but evolved into a wireless medication compliance device. I still want to follow up and implement SmartCards for data assurance such as digital signatures and encryption.
Smart Cards ought to be a natural companion to Zigbee wireless devices since it includes encryption and security, as well as low power and long battery life.
This RSA handheld SmartCard reader uses a keypad and LCD to form a 2 factor SecurID authentication token.

The Eracom SmartCard reader is a work of art, and really HEFTY with that solid metal ball!

The American Express card once offered contact based SmartCards, so they gave a free USB or keyboard interfaced card reader for secure online transactions. They even had convenience applets such as saving passwords on the card since it had enough nonvolatile RAM.
Target's SmartCard credit card even allowed loading "virtual coupons" but it didn't catch on.

See Also: