Sunday, September 8, 2013

RPN Scientific Calculator: Second MSP430

The next step for the calculator is the interface. The code for handling input ended up being fairly long but now entering numbers works as well as the basic math functions. A lot of flash space was taken up by the mathematical checks that must be done with trig functions to convert them to useable forms and ensure that they are within a valid range.
At this point the firmware took up about 14kB, which is close to the 16kB I have to work with. There probably isn't enough space left to add all of the functions and accompanying checks so I decided to add another MSP430. This will give me more more space but also make things more difficult since I will have to coordinate communication between the two. Moving to another chip with more Flash would be an option but I have plenty of MSP430s on hand and I don't want to move chips now that I have everything working well together.

Since I only have one LaunchPad I had to program the second MSP430 on a breadboard. This is pretty easy to do. The LaunchPad has jumpers on the RST and TEST lines where the programming signals can be diverted and used elsewhere. In this case they go to the breadboard, and a dip switch is used to select whether the programming signals go back to the LaunchPad or to the breadboarded chip.

With two chips I have a lot of left over pins. This let me eliminate the read and write shift registers used with the SRAM. The data port is now connected to one whole port of the second MSP430 instead and should work a little faster. The next step was to establish communication between the two chips. Using one pin for data and another as a clock signal, I was able to do some simple data transfers. Unfortunately this caused an error, usually after several thousand successful transfers. It's not clear whether the error was caused by hardware problems like breadboard crosstalk or if there was a timing error of some kind in my code. My plan now is to use hardware UART between the chips instead. Hopefully this will be more reliable.

There are now also enough pins to drive the LCD directly instead of using a shift register. When I tried doing this before with a 16x2 LCD it worked well but at some point in the project it began to randomly stop working. In retrospect I think it may have started after adding some of the other components to the project. In any case, sending signals to the 20x4 LCD from the LaunchPad does not work at all. This problem will have to wait until I can replace my broken multimeter and test all the voltages involved.

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