Friday, December 31, 2010

F and C confusion

A few days ago I got the urge to build a memory keyer into my MFJ Cub. There isn't much of a practical reason for doing this as the noise level on 20m makes the band unusable without the MFJ Noise Canceler which is plumbed into my K3 and too much hassle to disconnect and use with anything else. But I thought it would be a fun thing to do.

I really wanted to use the SKC keyer that is in the DC20B transceiver as it has some nice features and is easy to use. It uses an Atmel ATTiny13 microcontroller. I happened to have a spare one in my parts box and I had managed to find a way to program it using a PICkit2 programmer designed for Microchip parts. Unfortunately my unorthodox programmer always fails trying to read the contents of the chip so I was unable to copy the code from the chip in the DC20B to my spare chip. Nor could I find a source or hex file for the SKC keyer or indeed any other keyer using an ATTiny13 chip. So I had to give that idea up.

I did find a couple of source files for Microchip PIC based keyers on K1EL's website so I decided I would have to go with that. A couple of years ago I had bought a MikroElektronika EasyPIC5 development system with the intention of experimenting with microchips. Unfortunately I found PIC programming too difficult so I gave up. However I could compile the K1EL keyer code and use the EasyPIC5 to program it into a chip, which I could then build into a keyer that would go in the Cub. Perhaps I could even understand enough of the code to modify it to work the way I wanted.

My first problem was compiling the code. The compiler seemed to object to a label called CONFIG in the source code which caused a fatal error. Eventually I had a lightbulb moment that perhaps CONFIG was a reserved word in the current version of the MPLAB compiler, so I changed the label and the reference to it to CONF. That overcame that problem.

The other problem was that numerous lines in the program produced a message 306, "Crossing page boundary - ensure page bits are set." I didn't have a clue what that meant, and although Google turned up a few pages that mentioned the message I didn't understand what I was supposed to do about it.

The keyer code on K1EL's website was written for the PIC12C509A chip so I had ordered a couple from PIC Projects on eBay. They arrived in the post this morning. That was when I discovered the second problem. The EasyPIC5 development board does not support PIC12C509A chips. In fact, it doesn't support any PICs that have C in the number, only ones that have F. It appears that the F chips have Flash memory and can be reprogrammed while the C chips can only be programmed once. So I have two 12C509A chips I can't use.

I have now ordered some 12F509 chips which are supposed to be compatible with the 12C509 and which my programmer is supposed to be able to program. In a few days time I will discover if that is true and whether message 306 means anything important.
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