Preview: Inexpensive multi-chip programmer

Posted on Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 in Development, programmers by Ian

This is a preview of an inexpensive, medium-speed AVR/PIC/CPLD/Arduino programmer. It’s designed for people who don’t own a programmer and just want to rescue a bricked PIC or AVR.

The programmer uses the bitbang mode of a FT232R FTDI USB->serial converter chip. The same one used on the Bus Pirate and Arduino. There’s existing apps to program AVRs with the FT232, and PIC programming will be supported by piratePICprog. There’s a serial output header that can be used to program USB-less Arduino boards. The final version will also probably program CPLDs.

The FT232 chip has internal voltage level translation, so the programmer can run at any voltage without an extra buffer chip. It can also supply a few mA of power from the internal 3.3volt regulator.

Large schematic and PCB images, and Eagle files, are in the forum. There’s also a development wiki with more links for this project.

As always, name suggestions are welcome.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 at 9:45 am and is filed under Development, programmers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

15 Responses to “Preview: Inexpensive multi-chip programmer”

  1. Tobi says:

    I love your design folks – I’d buy it right away if you’d put MSP430 support into it :)

  2. Ian says:

    I don’t see anything out there about programming an MSP430 with a FT232.

    You could check out the GoodFET though:

  3. JoSSte says:

    Could someone please explain to a novice like me what the difference between this and a regular programmer like a PICKit is? besides this one being “open source” ofc.

    I recently bought and built a kit ( to practice my soldering and realised that the kit included a PIC ICSP header, so you can alter the programming, but would this programmer be adequate?

    • Ian says:

      The pickit2 has lots of debugging features for PICs (step through the code, read out variables), this is just a cheap programmer.

  4. -S- says:

    Name could be Programmer for Dangerous Prototypes ;)

  5. IPenguin says:

    Looking at GoodFET and Ril3y’s GoodFet Built and flashed blog ( it seems like Travis Goodspeed actually uses the FT232 to load the initial firmware into the MPS430 on the GoodFET via it’s BSL interface … this could be a starting point. …

  6. DrF says:

    I was going to buy 1 of the cheap programmers (for pics 16f84) from eBay and had 2 choices, however now I see this coming along I would rather spend my money helping developments around here :D

  7. Sal_The_Tiller says:

    If this comes with cables, I will buy it the second it drops.
    Any idea if this will be a real thing by the end of August? I wanna take that Processing and Arduino in Tandem course by make with an Arduino mini, but I lost my FTDI cable. This would fill the gap and more, but if it comes out after the class starts, it’s a moot point.

  8. sander says:

    brick bang!

  9. Tobi says:

    Well I agree that it should be possible to emulate the MSP’s programming interface with the FT232 (via JTAG and/or BSL). All MSP430 seem to have JTAG so it should be possible to implement some software….
    When talting about JTAG… ARMs do have JTAG too… You would kill two birds with one stone.

    Myself I use an USBProg ( ) Which can program just about anything … except MSP430s (at the moment) (And it’s a bit slow (especially when using JTAG))

    • IPenguin says:

      MSP430 JTAG would not be possible (at least not directly) with the FT232R … but MSP430 BSL (Boot Strap Loader – a serial interface/protocol that can be implemented via standard asynchronous port/UART) is feasible. Actually the GoodFET uses RX, TX, RTS and DTR of the FT232R to directly load firmware into the MSP430 on the GoodFET (without any extra logic ;).

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Recent Comments

  • KH: Well, I'm sure the HDD can handle a little vibration *cough*. What I am more interested in is this: the fan appears to be placed...
  • Alan: The Si5351 runs on 3.3V, and several FPGA dev boards now include "Arduino compatible" headers [if you stick to 3.3V logic levels]. Maybe it's time...
  • hli: Sunday++
  • JB: Hi
  • Peter: Sunday