Have a project that needs to communicate via USB? This device appears as a normal RS232 port and more.
Spark Fun Electronics sure is selling some nifty stuff lately.
One of their latest products is called the USB Bit Whacker. It’s basically a PIC 18F2455 microcontroller wired-up on a small PCB with the usual support stuff (ceramic resonator, resistors, etc.) However, the one really interesting thing about this board is that the chip is pre-programmed to communicate via a USB cable with a computer and when it does so, it appears to the computer to be a normal RS232 serial port.
I think that most people reading this site know that RS232 ports are traditionally very simple to program for (on the computer side) and are therefore a very convenient means to talk with your microcontroller projects. However, many computers these days don’t even have serial ports, thus making the USB connector feature pretty valuable.
The board gives you 16 general purpose I/O pins which can be controlled via the PIC code. Also, the PIC can be programmed via the USB cable (no programmer required!) due to the on-board bootloader.
The uses for something like this are many. The fact that the PIC is reprogrammable via the USB makes embedding this device in your electronic projects a no-brainer. You can collect data from the project via the USB and also make updates and changes at the same time. The USB Bit Whacker could even be used to program other microcontrollers, serial EEPROMs, etc. which reside in your project but do not have external connections. Very handy! Oh yeah – the price is very reasonable as well at only $25.