LuanchPad Protoboard Booster Revisited

Well, I finally received the PCBs for my LuanchPad Protoboard Booster this morning.  They look pretty cool, and are ready to be shipped.  Unfortunately, I had some troubles with my source for the pass-through female headers.  That only affects some of the boards, the rest will be sold without any pass-through headers; you will use the headers that come with your LaunchPad.  Take a look at my project post about the Booster pack (http://projects.granzeier.com/2011/12/30/launchpad-booster-protoboard/) and look at the board without the solderless breadboard.  This is what is now available, you can pick up one (or ten) here: http://zenstore.granzeier.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=8.  I have also dropped the price by 33% from now until the end of May – enjoy!  Hopefully, I will be able to order the pass-through headers and offer the sister product for solderless breadboard development soon, but in the meantime, the protoboard booster is a pretty cool product, if I may say so myself. 😉

In addition, I have been spending a lot of time working on starting up the Pittsburgh Computer Museum.  Take a look at that blog at: http://www.pghcomputermuseum.org/ to see what is coming.  We want people to be able to access the exhibits whether they are here in the Pittsburgh area, or not.  Sometime soon, some (hopefully many) exhibits will be accessible through the Internet, using Telnet or some other protocol.

We are currently looking for sponsors and a physical location to host the museum’s exhibits.   Please pray for us or wish us luck with this effort.  Thanks.

LaunchPad Booster ProtoBoard

Well, my prototype boards arrived from BatchPCB (http://www.batchpcb.com.)  Thanks guys, the boards look nice and went together well.  I received two copies of my protoboard and set one up for each of the primary configurations.  The LaunchPad comes with two male, and two female, headers. For the more minimal configuration (just the board, itself,) I soldered the male headers from the LaunchPad kit to the bottom of the protoboard, with the female headers soldered to the LaunchPad.  This is opposite how the TI documentation shows, where the male headers are soldered to the LaunchPad, itself, and the female headers are left for booster boards.  Notice that I placed the headers in from the bottom of the Protoboard Booster and soldered on the top of the board:

Prototype Booster Pack – Note that this is the bottom of the board

The reason for inserting the headers from the bottom, is because of the jumper pins connecting the emulation section of the LaunchPad to the target section.  With the male header inserted from the top (component) side, there is not enough room for soldering components to the Protoboard.  Even with inserting the headers from the bottom, you will need to be careful, there is not much room.

Notice the tight space here by the jumpers.

Now, you can build your own circuit to add to the LaunchPad.  Insert the components just like you were using a solderless breadboard and then solder them down.  Wah-laa, nice and simple.  Create any kind of Booster Pack that you want, and with this solder version, you have a nice stable circuit.

Notice that with the Booster Pack installed, you still have access to the on-board programmable button, the LEDs and the reset button.

Next, for when you are starting out and still experimenting; check out the solderless version:

The solderless breadboard version – Notice that you still have access to the programmable button, the two LEDs and the reset button.

When you want to do some quick-and-dirty experimenting, this will give you everything you need to add your own components.  I took one of my Digital Interface Kits (https://www.tindie.com/products/Granzeier/digital-interface-pack/,) and a couple of hookup wires, and added a second programmable pushbutton switch and one more LED; all in just a minute or two.

Added an additional pushbutton and LED in a minute or two.

Now with a notebook (or netbook), the USB cable that came with your LaunchPad, the above dev kit and a small assortment of components, you can do your experimenting, even while on the go.

The solderless version of the kit will include the board, two female pass-through headers, two female headers for the power rails and a small solderless breadboard.  Solder the headers onto your Booster Pack board and then peel the backing off the double-sided tape on the bottom of the breadboard and stick it in between the pass-through headers.  Add your components and wire them together with hookup wires.  Write your program and get everything running.  When your circuit is working, you can transfer it to the soldered board for a permanent Booster Pack.

The soldered version of this kit will include the board and two 10-pin male headers.  You will solder them into the board and then you can add your own components.  Plug the completed board into your LaunchPad and you have your Booster Pack!

Both versions will give you full flexibility in a compact package, yet will still allow you full access to the LaunchPad’s on-board programmable pushbutton, two LEDs and the reset button.

Now, here is what I need from you: does this look like something that would interest you?  Am I missing something extremely important?  Is RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances, i.e. Lead-Free) important?  If there is lots of interest, I will order a larger initial order of boards.  Thanks for your help on this item.

The TI LaunchPad Booster Pack

Well, last night I sent off for the last of the items needed for the prototype of my Booster Pack.  I should be getting all the items, including my PCB from BatchPCB (http://www.batchpcb.com.)  When they come in, I will let you know how it works, as well as show you some new photos.

Until they do, I will be starting back on the Move Computer (AKA Ultimate RISC).

A Low Cost Board – The TI LaunchPad

Well, as promised, we will discuss the LaunchPad board from Texas Instruments (http://www.ti.com/launchpad.)  At U$4.30 per board (including shipping), this may “seem too good to be true.”  Let me assure you that the offer is very real.  It appears that TI is taking a loss on this deal (probably writing it off to advertising) , and hoping to make it up in higher units sold.  Let’s get started with this cool part and see if we can’t sell a gazillion of the things for them – and, by the way, selling a gazillion of our products in the process. 😉

Here is a picture of one of the LaunchPads that I recently received:


Notice that there are series of ten holes along either long edge (left and right sides in the above picture.)  These are for the male and female headers, which are supplied with the kit, so that you can easily access all of the signals to and from the MSP-430 controller chip. If you are including the entire LuanchPad in a production unit (the price is low enough that you can actually do that!), then the holes could be used to solder the additional circuitry directly to the LaunchPad.


TI recommends that you solder the male header into the top (component side) of the LaunchPad board, and then solder the female connectors to the bottom of a Booster Pack.  The Booster Pack, is simply their name for a plug-in daughter board, similar to the shields used to connect circuitry to the Arduino controllers (http://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/arduinoShields – Click on the list .)  Limor (AKA Lady Ada) has a nice Arduino prototyping board with lots of nice pictures on her site (http://www.ladyada.net/make/pshield/.)

I think that, if you want to do experimenting with the LaunchPad out of the box, it would be better for you to solder the female headers to the top of the LaunchPad, rather than the Booster Pack.  This will allow you to plug simple wire jumpers into the female headers to add circuits on a breadboard, while allowing you to solder the male headers to a Booster Pack and still have full functionality from the Booster Packs.  Take a look at mine to see better what I am discussing:


This way, all you need to do to get started is to solder in the female headers, and then plug-n-play.  Plug a red wire into the Vcc socket on the uppermost pin of the left socket on your LaunchPad (when held with the top side facing you and the USB connector up), and plug the other end into the positive power rail of your breadboard.  Repeat that with a black wire going from the Gnd (upper-right pin) of the LaunchPad to the ground power rail on your breadboard.  Abracadabra, and you have (nearly) instant prototyping.  Plug a wire from one of the port pins on the LaunchPad and into a socket on your breadboard and go wild adding circuitry to your MSP-430.

Actually, for really simple circuit experiments, you can even use the female headers on the LaunchPad by themselves as sort of a breadboard on their own.  Take a look at this photo:


I took one of my Speaker Packs (http://zenstore.granzeier.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=5,) and plugged it directly in to the Vcc pin and the P1.1 pin.  Now, for simple sound output, I can write a program to send a sound signal out to the P1.1 output and hear the results without even the need for a breadboard system.  Talk about portable; write a music box while riding the bus or train in to the office.  😉

I drew a protoboard Booster Pack about a week or so ago (actually before I saw Limor’s shield), and will be sending it out for a proto run (http://www.batchpcb.com.)  If the boards work properly, I will be sending out for a production run and putting them into my store.

Here is a picture of my Booster Pack:

As this is currently laid out, the outside pins, closest to the labels in the above picture, mate up to the LaunchPad’s expansion pins.  If you solder the female headers to the LaunchPad, and then solder male headers to the bottom of those pins on my Booster Pack, the Booster Pack will plug directly in to the Launch Pad.  You could use pass-through female headers (headers with extra long pins) and solder them to the top of my board, that way, you could use my board and also plug in a different Booster Pack on top of the Protoboard.  Also, when you plug my LaunchPad Prototyping Booster Pack into the LaunchPad, it will leave the on-board pushbuttons and LEDs available so that you can use them in your projects.

You can either glue a solderless breadboard onto the Prototyping Board, or you can use the prototyping area on my board and solder the circuits right to the Prototyping Board.  Either way, there is room for a couple of 10-pin headers which will provide you with Vcc and Ground, along with complete columns of Vcc and Gnd down the center to provide easy access to power for your circuit.  There is enough room on the prototype area to place a single 40-pin DIP, or up to four 8-pin DIPs.  You can quickly add new circuitry to your LaunchPad; great for learning too!

Well, that’s it for today.  Be sure to take a look at my store (http://zenstore.granzeier.com) for other electronics packs and kits.  Also, if you are interested in Retro Computing, check in with my RetroChallenge entry at: http://retrochallenge.granzeier.com.)