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25 May 2000

Books - Serial PIC'n

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Serial PIC'n : PIC Microcontroller Serial Communications

0965416224M.gif (10438 bytes) Roger L. Stevens
Paperback
Published 1999
526 pages
Rated: 5
Price: $49.95

[Good] [Bad] [Interesting] [Rating] [Purchase]

Summary:

Covers PIC serial communications in both overviews and in detail. Gives useable code examples for most common asynchronous and synchronous communication protocols and standards.

Good:

By attacking the code and the theory behind the code head on, Roger L. Stevens book "Serial PIC'n" will be a valuable addition to the library of any serious embedded designer. Roger has managed to put all of the steps, code, and gotchas for implementing serial communications with PIC microcontrollers in one book. Starting with a basic introduction to serial communications, he then covers (in detail)

His style of writing is very clear and easily read. I did not find myself re-reading sections to try and understand something he was talking about. I found the book to be full of useful relevant information, without tangents or other distractions. Roger discusses each topic at a time, and in an order such that he doesn't have to say, "We're doing this now, but we won't discuss it until the next section." (The bane of all too many technical books!)

Have you ever needed to implement a PC to PIC interface quickly? Perhaps you've have to access data in a serial EEPROM? Maybe you're porting a simple application from a chip with a UART to one without. In every case the code included with this book is truly "Plug and Play". Whether you are using a 12-bit core chip(12Cxxx) up through to the newer 16-bit core chips(18Cxxx) you'll find the code you need to use, and be able to integrate it into your program quickly and effectively. The code includes copious and useful comments. By using it in your program directly, you may not need to refer back to the book for information on that code.

More important is that serial communication principles are taught in "Serial PIC'n". While a novice will be able to understand an implement this code quickly, even advanced programmers will find useful information in here. He doesn't tell you how to program for multiple bit-banged serial channels, but after reading this book you'll feel confident about doing it yourself, easily and quickly. Programmers of other MCUs will find the "Serial PIC'n" code and knowledge easy to use and port to their favorite architecture.

Bad:

While Roger gives an example of a protocol (with code) for RS-232 communications, he only touches on it. He does not cover RS-485 at all, nor mentions network communications. What Roger chose to cover, he covers very well, but there still seems to be no suitable book which covers PIC networking issues.

The size of the book was unexpected, a full 8.5" x 11" (x 1.5"), making it decidedly a two-handed book, or table reference (especially as a soft cover). The type is medium sized, so the publisher could have cut it down by using a smaller typeface. It takes up a lot of desk space if you leave it open next to the computer, and it won't fit on a typing stand. It did NOT come with the code examples on disk, one must go to the website for them. While this assures that one has the most updated/bug free versions, it also means you can't get started right away (unless you like typing ;-).

Interesting:

I was particularly surprised (and pleased) to see auto bit rate detection covered. With this code one can have any PIC detect standard bit rates from 300 BPS to 19200 BPS with no special hardware. Also, instead of picking odd names, or acronymizing the code examples (ie, Bit-Bang, Full Duplex via Interrupt code module might have been BBFDWINF.ASM) he uses colors and numbers. Section 5 has seven different pieces of code, from INDIGO1.ASM to INDIGO6.ASM, and a full application as RED1.ASM. Each section has a different color, and each application has a separate color, none of which go over 8 characters (nice for those using legacy programmers and software). This will appeal to those used to naming computers after a particular theme.

Conclusion:

"Serial PIC'n" has earned its spot on my bench (not a shelf!) right next to the Microchip data sheets. While I could live without it, I would have been tearing my hair out for hours solving some of the issues it brings up (TRISC[6:7] setup when using the UART, for instance). Since every third PIC project you will likely work on needs serial communications, "Serial PIC'n" is not just a wise investment, but a necessary one. Even if your time is only worth $0.50 an hour to you, you will make up the price of this book in well under 6 months.

Rating:

Topic Covered

8 The topic was covered well

Author's Knowledge

9 Roger knows what he's discussing here

Readability

9 Easy to get into and comprehend

Format

8 Somewhat physically larger than it needs to be

Useful Reference

10 Very concise, easy to flip to and use a small part

Applications/Examples

10 Code for every minor section, real-world examples

OVERALL

9 Very well done, will be often used

Amazon.Com customers gave "Serial PIC'n" a 5 out of 5 rating.

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