Preview: Inexpensive multi-chip programmer

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.

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    1. True, there seems to be no direct support for programming MSP430s via FT232Rs … after taking a quick glance at the MSP430 BSL Protocol and interface

      it should be possible to implement a MSP430 programming application using the standard USB UART bridge function of the FT232R (RX, TX, DTR, RTS) with a few extra gates, caps and resistors – see chapter 4.1, p. 31 of above doc … or implement it using bit-bang mode.

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

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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))

    1. 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 ;).

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