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From: Mike Poulton
Subject: Re: Help with senior project: PC synchronized digital clock
Date: 26 Sep 2002 04:56:41 GMT
Organization: MTP Technologies
References: <firstname.lastname@example.org> <email@example.com>
On 25 Sep 2002, firstname.lastname@example.org (Richard Steven Walz) said:
>>Once I've got this done, I still have to figure out how I'm going to
>>design the clock to recieve this information and use it to synchronize
>>itself, which I know is just going to be a majorly huge pain in the
>>Also, and this is my major handicap, I'm getting into Assembly
>>language a little late (next quarter), and won't be learning
>>microprocessors until the spring! So I was going to design the clock
>>using only logic gates and counters and other obvious things.
> As a product that's a bust, but a good school project!
That's the kind of project only a sadistic professor would assign!
Build a clock that syncronizes with a serial signal, but use no
processor or memory -- only discrete gates? Ouch! Since even a BASIC
Stamp can handle a task like this, you might want to consider using
>>So what do you guys think? Is this project too insane or should I run
>>with it? Is this a dumb thing to try without knowledge of
>>microprocessors or memory?
With no knowledge of processors or memory, no -- I don't think that's
wise. You will need some real hardware wizardry to overcome that. Your
whole project would be much easier if you used some kind of
microcontroller. You don't have to program them in assembly. I am now
using PIC's running compiled BASIC, and C compilers are readily
available as well. Note that I am not an engineer, I'm a college
student (construction management major) who does electronics for fun.
With a PIC micro, I could hack out the firmware code in PicBASIC and
breadboard the circuit in an afternoon. Doing it without a micro would
take way too long and be way too little fun -- I'm not even sure where
to start. If you already know where to start, then bravo, you are a
more versatile designer than I -- which is to be expected, since you are
an engineering student and I am not.
Perhaps more importantly, as a professional engineer, your bosses will
want you to be efficient and save money. Only fellow engineers will
really appreciate amazing feats of arcane hardware hacking. It is
generally good to use the simplest and cheapest design possible, and
employers want engineers who think in those terms when designing. Those
looking to hire you may or may not be impressed (or depressed) by the
fact that your senior project utilized thirty year old technology, when
it could have been done much more efficiently using newer methods. It
might be better for your resume to make it using a microcontroller and
add interesting bells and whistles in the time you'll save. How about
using an IrDA link to the PC instead of wires? What if the clock
displays messages or calendar reminders, too? How about a clock with a
display that seems to float in the air? See http://www.fantazein.com.
I have one, and it uses a PIC. There are plenty of interesting things
to do with this project, and they become much easier (or even possible)
if you use a microcontroller. What if your clock walks around the room,
following its owner? What if...
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