Using a simple text editor and one of the many assembler programs - I use MPASM from Microchip - it is easy to write programs in assembler for the PIC. The 16x84 have a RISC instruction set of about thirty commands. It's fun to experiment and learn at the same time by writing your own programmes. I've written and breadboarded up a few circuits - from led flashers to cw memory keyers …once you get the hang of assembler you can do virtually anything, and you'll be amazed at the small memory space taken up by the code, even for complex applications. If you're into Basic or C there are compilers available to convert your code to the PIC's. There are even specific high level languages, such as JAL, made just for these microcontrollers. If writing code is not your thing, there are already many programmes in books, magazines and downloadable files on the internet which may suit your requirements.

Programming the PIC 16C84 or newer 16F84 is easy with a PC serial port programmer such as Ludipipo or PicProg. Download these files from the Internet and read the instructions carefully. The Ludipipo programmer uses half a dozen components and is very simple to build.

 Homemade serial programmer

I used a ZIF socket on mine but an ordinary DIP socket can be used to cut costs. The circuit doesn't need a separate voltage supply, getting power from the PC's com port. It needs 12 volts - most portable PCs may not work because they only use 9 volts. Connect the programmer up to the PC's com port using a short cable or, better still, directly to the com port's connector for better programming success. The 16C84 and 16F84 are virtually identical. The 16F84 has the PWT bit inverted - so to programme it you select 16C84 as usual, but the PWT fuse should be the opposite.

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