For a lot of us, our first exposure to the world of microcontrollers was through the offerings of Parallax, Inc. Perhaps you were interested in doing something small and light, and hoping to leverage your programming skills from an IBM-PC or an Apple ][, you chanced upon the magic of the BASIC Stamp. Or maybe you had a teacher who built a robotics class around a Boe-Bot, or you joined a FIRST Robotics team that used some Parallax sensors.
Whatever your relationship with Parallax products is, there's no doubting that they were on the forefront of the hobbyist microcontroller revolution. Nor can you doubt that Parallax is about a lot more than BASIC Stamps these days. Its popular multicore Propeller chip has been gaining a passionate following since its 2006 introduction and has found its way into tons of projects, many of which we've featured on Hackaday. And now, its long-awaited successor, the Propeller 2, is almost ready to hit the market.
The Gracey brothers have been the men behind Parallax from the beginning, with Chip designing all the products and Ken running the business. They'll be joining us on the Hack Chat to catch us up on everything new at Parallax, and to give us the lowdown on the P2. Be sure to stop be with your Parallax questions, or just to say hi.
Ken Gracey (Parallax)12:55 PM @Chip Gracey - marketing question! What's the ideal application? Do you foresee people using it as general-purpose or for a specific app? Maybe some of the forum members can share ideas.
Frank Buss12:56 PM I think this interactive programming style would work best in combination with APL :-)
monsonite12:56 PM @Chip Gracey I have been following your work for perhaps 15 years - and I am so pleased that P2 is coming to fruition. I totally buy into your educational ethos, and I hope that P2 will give more power to the next generation of engineers and creatives
Boian Mitov12:56 PM Maybe you can post it and see people posting ideas about it ;-)
engineering12:57 PM CNC machines and 3D printers along with drone controllers
Boian Mitov12:57 PM Social platforms are a great way to generate product ideas IMHO ;-)
James Newton12:57 PM Well, I just said... as a reader for our encoders which must do ATAN2. Multiple cores and A2D chanels means we could support more joints with one chip. Won't beat an FPGA, but might cost a lot less and be useful for the human input device to remote the Dexter robot arm.
Chip Gracey12:57 PM Ideal application? Not sure. I mainly see it as an inventor's playground, and trust that it will find applications.
Boian Mitov12:58 PM How it handles Multimedia ? Audio, DSP, Image Processing ?
Boian Mitov12:58 PM AI is also a very good application, especially for small robots
Boian Mitov12:59 PM It probably makes a very good small AI platform
Chip Gracey12:59 PM @james, it might not beat an FPGA in throughput potential, but it would be fast enough and code changes would take 1/500th the effort. A person might go to their grave getting Verilog code ironed out.
Jac Goudsmit12:59 PM I have several Propeller projects on Hackaday.io/jac but my current project is reverse engineering a Digital Compact Cassette recorder. I think the P1 and P2 would be a good match if it would be easier to bring up the interfaces (SPI, RS-232).
Chip Gracey1:00 PM @Yann, yes with VHDL we could retain all the complexity, but type four times as much code.
James Newton1:00 PM @Chip Gracey we don't use verilog or any text based language for our FPGA programming. totally visual language. wish I could say more, it's still fucking tied up in business shit, but will be open sourced soon.
We're coming up on an hour, which is usually how long we go before giving the host(s) a chance to bail and get back to work. Parallax folks, you're welcome to stay on and keep fielding questions, or to bug out if you need to. Either way, I think we all want to say a huge thank you for your time today!
Frank Buss1:01 PM I recently tried SpinalHDL a bit, a better alternative to Chisel, which in turn is much better than VHDL or Verilog, makes it really easy to rpogram things for FPGAs (if you know Scala)
dyee-go-bears1:01 PM Agree w/ comments re: CNC usage. Multiaxis motor control for p2, along with lots of sensor inputs, seems like a straightforward educational use. But eventually, practically speaking, you end up using a "real" motor controller in a production setting. I'd like to see how P2 compares to something like Jetson when it comes to AI / ML.
Jerry Hubbell1:01 PM I have developed the PMC-Eight system for Explore Scientific which is an astronomical robotic mount controller...
Ken Gracey (Parallax)12:29 PM Hey @Joshua Donelson so good to see you here. Initial languages most likely: Spin2, MicroPython. BlocklyProp not determined. C a possibility for our development (required to get Python). This sausage is still getting made, on the Forums, within Parallax and by all of you.
IRC12:30 PM [Kamilion] yeah, right now micropython is running on top of a RISCV ISA simulator (and still rediculously fast)
IRC12:30 PM [Kamilion] i think someone else was working on a native port as well
Jeff Martin (Parallax)12:30 PM @Joshua - We are encouraged by all the forum interest in getting other languages implemented. MicroPython, Spin, C. We haven't decided yet when we'll implement Blockly and what language(s) it will generate.
pvoss12:31 PM Yes, P1 reliably runs at -40C/-40F. I believe I had a P1 payload operating down to -50C once, but will need to check. The lipo batteries really die at these temps, so likely the P1 was not the issue when the payload stopped transmitting.
Chip Gracey12:31 PM The P2 has deep debugging hooks, so I look forward to making a very fast Spin2 compiler (hit the key and your code is running 100ms later), with a really thorough and interactive debugger. The more you can quickly see and interact with your code, the better stuff you can make.
David Carrier12:31 PM When start-up time is critical, it would be pretty easy to chain load from flash to an SD card, and do timing-critical initiation from flash, while the SD card code is booting in another cog.
JDat12:31 PM to solve motor driver problem while booting, use external pullup or pulldown resistors. Yes it is assitional complexy to schematics, but safety first! On any MCU. P2 can work in two stage bootloading. Boot quickly minimal code from EEPROM and set-up safety. Then boot from SD card.
Yann Guidon / YGDES12:33 PM Antifuse or Flash-based FPGA (from ex-Actel) have no startup time problems :)
IRC12:33 PM [Kamilion] yeah, my personal preference is using the micropython REPL to live-code
JDat12:33 PM in FPGA/CPLD it can be solved with zero boot time models
Chip Gracey12:34 PM Text programming is hard to beat, once you know what you're doing. It's amazing how much can be expressed compactly with 7-bit ASCII.
David Carrier12:34 PM We have BLDC servo motor drive in our to-do list, so it could just be a matter of implementing our reference design and having the FET drivers connected straight to I/O pins.
Ken Gracey (Parallax)12:35 PM Interested to know if all of you see Python for P2 as primarily intended for an educational audience, or for commercial product development? Of course, you may ask "but what other languages could I choose from?" But I ask primarily about the role of MicroPython and P2, based on what you know, think, prefer.
James Newton12:03 PM Hi Ken, Chip. Wanted to say I'm a huge fan of Chips work. I ran sxlist.com back in the day and appreciated being able to translate PIC code to SX and run it 4x faster. (or nearly 4X, jumps killed the que of course)
Ken Gracey (Parallax)12:04 PM Chip will answer the die-testing question; I'll address the availability of chips by ChipMas.
Chip Gracey12:04 PM Well, the chips we got back, initially, work great. However, ON Semi started running into lots of trouble testing the remaining wafers. It turns out that we have a latch-up problem in the I/O circuit that will require a slight redesign.
David Carrier12:04 PM James, I am glad sxlist is still running, I used it to find something last year, when working on an SX project!
Ken Gracey (Parallax)12:05 PM ON Semi has about 1K die (possibly more) which are engineering samples we will soon have packaged. They plan on getting the packaging done after they unravel the current testing issues with Chip. At that time, we're looking at about 7 weeks from release to packaging.
Yann Guidon / YGDES12:05 PM chip testing can look dull but it's actually something I focus on in some of my Hackaday projects, so please elaborate and explain you workflow :-)
James Newton12:05 PM Huge fan of Kens work as well, but the chip work (see what I did there?) was amazing.
IRC12:06 PM [Kamilion] I'm still in awe y'all managed to blow past 300Mhz for a fMAX of 185Mhz/85C
Ken Gracey (Parallax)12:06 PM These 1K chips could easily help us build another 250 Propeller 2 Evaluation Boards and accessories. I think it's realistic to say we'll have these boards available ChipMas (if I have to guess) so we all have something productive to do when relatives come over.
IRC12:06 PM [Kamilion] reminds me of the old Celeron 300A -> 450Mhz