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The Maximite Computer, Pt.1

There's on often-quoted cliche in advertising which says "its use is limited only by your imagination . . ." Well, here is a project that goes way beyond your imagination because you, like us, will have only scratched the surface of uses. We're pretty proud of this one: a powerful but very economical microcomputer which has so much potential that you will probably think of uses we haven't even dreamed of!

Part 1 - by Geoff Graham

At a glance . . .

Processor:               PIC32MX795F512H-80I/PT (or PIC32MX695F512H-80I/PT)

Clock speed:              80MHz

RAM:              128K (internal)

Software:              MMBasic (similar to Microsoft BASIC)

I/O              20, individually configurable

Video output:               Monochrome standard VGA or composite video

Audio:              500mV for amplifier, sound card, etc, or hi-z speaker

Interfaces:             SD, MMC or SDHC card; USB 2.0 and IBM keyboard

Power supply:              9V DC @ ~150mA

Size & weight:              155 x 92 x 29mm; 150g

Remember the very early days of personal computers when the most common answer to “but what can it do?” was “oh, it can store recipes and track you household finances”. It was pretty lame back then, especially when personal computers cost up to ten thousand dollars.

But The Maximite can do that. Or it can detect intruders. Or measure voltages. Or sense water levels. Or log phone numbers. Or teach children computers and programming. Or . . . OK, you get the picture, we’re sure.

Of course, that’s only half the story. It can also act on those inputs and do something, such as turn on lights or video recorders. Irrigate a field or greenhouse. Dial a phone number and play a message. Control a website. Launch a first-strike nuclear missile. . .

If you think we’re being a bit over the top, we are. However, the simple truth is, with appropriate programming (and what better way to learn than with the Maximite!) this powerful little micro CAN do all of those things and just about anything else you can think of.

We’re extremely confident that the Maximite will spawn its own army of users and supporters, along with Maximite software, simply because it is so versatile and so simple to build. Best of all, it’s cheap to build – almost bubble-gum cheap!

Click for larger image
Inside The Maximite case. There's not a great deal to it as all of the “smarts” is in that PIC32 chip in the centre. Also seen in this shot is the memory card slot on the front panel which can be used to drive The Maximite or to save data.

So what is the Maximite?

Elsewhere in this issue we described the incredible new Microchip PIC32 processor. . . and now we put it to practical use. It is the heart of the Maximite – a complete computer based on a single chip.

On the one hand it is a full-featured micro computer with keyboard input and a video output with extensive graphics capabilities to a TV or VGA monitor. It runs a powerful BASIC interpreter and can save and load programs and data to and from a low-cost SD memory card.

At the same time it has 20 I/O (input/output) lines that can be a mix of analog inputs or digital input/outputs.

You can measure voltages, temperatures, frequency and record the data to the SD card, all under program control. You can also detect switch or contact closure and respond by activating relays, turning on lights or whatever.

You can connect it to a larger computer via USB and upload or download programs and data. You can also pop the SD card out and read the data on your desktop computer where you can load it into a spreadsheet such as Excel for further analysis.

The Maximite will automatically load and run programs from the SD card so you can use it as a stand-alone computer without keyboard or video display. But, if you do connect a video display, you can display readings, draw graphs or do whatever you need to do to display data for your application.

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