Friday, May 31, 2013

RPN Scientific Calculator: External RAM

The last part of the hardware needed to complete the calculator is external RAM. Even if it does not have any programming capabilities, it will still need more RAM for the stack than the 512 bytes an MSP430G2553 has. Microchip makes 128K SRAM chips that are small and accessible over SPI that would work well for this project. However, I had this parallel SRAM chip from Alliance left over with nothing in mind for it and I decided to use it instead. It needs 8 pins for data so I am using one 74HC595 for output and one 74HC165 for input. The 17 address pins are driven by two more 74HC595s. This only gives 16 outputs so the 17th address pin is tied directly to a microcontroller pin. This will allow me to have two banks of memory, although I don't have any use for that at the moment. Putting this together took a lot of wiring but it wasn't too difficult.

Accessing large amounts of memory like this over serial can be a speed bottleneck, so I decided to use the USCI module of the MSP430 to do hardware SPI and speed up transfers. After learning how it works I saw that it is really easy to set up and convenient to use. As with the shift registers that read the button matrix, I decided to share the clock but to use different latches. The USCI has separate data in and data out pins so those aren't shared. This is handy for reading the 165 shift register because after it is latched you can just push a dummy value out then read the USCI receive buffer. There is a flag to control whether the USCI stores data in MSB (Most Signicant Bit) or LSB format but it can't be set separately for the input and output buffers. This means data goes out with the right orientation but comes in backwards. To remedy this I hooked up the data inputs of the 165 in reverse order to the data bus of the SRAM.

To test the speed of this setup I made a test program to write a pattern to every byte of the RAM then read it back and make sure the values are as expected. This worked fine at 1MHz but the LCD glitched when I tried running at 16MHz. After I fixed that I was able to finish the whole test in about two seconds. That is pretty good throughput for a calculator!

Now that the RAM is working, the hardware part is finished. It is good that I don't have anything else to add since all of the microcontroller pins are taken up. In fact the input shift registers for the SRAM and keypad share the same latch since it is unlikely that they will ever be used at the same time. If I need anything else I will have to use the two remaining bits in the keypad shift register (the keypad only has 6 rows and the LCD only needs 5 bits) or add another shift register. Now I can focus on the programming and worry about hardware again when it is time to make a circuit board. Here is what the hardware looks like now:

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