Thursday, May 22, 2014

MCU Beginners: SparkFun Tutorials

For all us microcontroller (MCU) beginners, there are many online tutorials and other helpful web resources about electronics and related MCU topics.

A worthwhile set of tutorials for beginners participating in the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group 'learning the basics of using microcontrollers' sessions is the SparkFun Tutorials. According to the website there are 193 tutorials in the SparkFun collection. A beginner could spend weeks just reading the tutorials and never get any MCU hardware circuits built or software / firmware programs written for the MCUs. And if you start looking around at electronics tutorials that aren't on the SparkFun site, you'll have months of reading to plow through what the web has to offer.

As an alternative to having MCU and electronics beginners spend weeks or months reading tutorials, this post will point you to two particular SparkFun tutorials you may want to read if you're doing the first three Jeremy Blum 'Arduino Basics' video tutorials and you know nothing or very little about electronics.

In Jeremy's #2 video, one of the steps is to connect a resistor to the breadboard. Resistors come with many different values or resistances, which is often measured in ohms. Because you need to use resistors with specific values for different circuits, and because resistors don't have numbers on them to tell you how many ohms their resistance is, you need to be able to interpret the resistor color code to chose the correct value resistor for a given circuit. The SparkFun 'Resistors' tutorial will explain the color code and many other facts about resistors.

In Jeremy's #2 video, he also uses an electronics multimeter. You'll need to use the multimeter to
measure or check many things when you go through the 'Arduino Basics' video tutorials and probably in every electronics project you do after you finish learning the basics of microcontrollers. If you have previously used a multimeter and know how to use it to measure voltage, amperage and resistance, you're all set and don't need this tutorial. But if you're like me and haven't used a multimeter for a few years, or haven't ever used one, you probably want to read over the SparkFun 'How to Use a Multimeter' tutorial, or maybe the instruction manual for the multimeter you're going to use for your MCU or electronics work. As you can see from this picture of a SparkFun digital multimeter, there are quite a few settings for the meter selector switch, and only one of them will be the correct setting to use for checking a specific electronic component or circuit.

As you go through the 'Arduino Basics' video tutorials, there will be other topics you need to figure out or read about. If you like the SparkFun tutorials, check to see if they have a tutorial for your specific topic of interest. If they don't have a tutorial appropriate to your needs, do a Google search and you'll find lots of other tutorials or pages explaining the basics of whatever you're interested in. Another resource to remember is Wikipedia --- it's almost always a good first stop to read about the basics of any topic, including electronics.

A future post on this blog will list a bunch of links to online resources for microcontrollers. If you have any specific resources to suggest, or if you would like to see resources listed for a specific topic, send me an email at arcatabob (at) gmail [dott] com.


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