Electronic Design

Dev Kits Round 2: Freescale's Flexis MCU Dev Kits

Today on my lab bench I’ll be cracking open Freescale Semiconductor’s Controller Continuum offerings. The Controller Continuum is Freescale’s way of unifying the 8- and 32-bit microcontroller platforms with the 32-bit ColdFire architecture at the top and the 8-bit S08 at the other end. The chips in this collection share common peripherals allowing their access and control using identical C device drivers. There are, of course, architectural differences but using C or C++ as a programming language effectively hides these differences allowing the same application to run with a simple recompile/relink step.

“We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges”
Freescale Flexis JM Badge Board was first given out at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) in 2008 (see Fig. 1). The white version has been transformed into a green version that anyone can buy. Both include an LED array on the back (see Fig. 2) plus a number of capacitive touch-sensitive buttons.

The original idea was to allow programmers at FTF to create applications and highlight them at the show—the best being chosen for various prizes. Of course not everyone had enough time to tinker. Unfortunately I didn’t, and had to wait until later to check out the board. As usual, the booth was filled, but its green cousin showed up and loosened things up. So, now I can talk about the dueling boards.

The white and green versions are identical other than their color—which makes for some dull comparisons. Each has a MCF51JM128 ColdFire with USB support, a MMA7260QT 3-axis accelerometer, a MC34673Li-ion battery charger IC, a MPR084 capacitive touch sensor plus the LED array screen on the back. The kits, including software, is only $30. It comes with a DVD to get you started with Freescale’s CodeWarrior IDE and an evaluation version of IAR Systems’ YellowSuite for Coldfire.

Overall, the boards do a good job of highlighting the ColdFire and the other Freescale parts. The accelerometer and capacitive touch sensors make interesting I/O devices for creating games. A USB interface provides power and debugging hooks during development. The on-board battery allows mobile operation.

Getting up and running using either toolset takes less than an hour, and there are a number of demos provided. There were some interesting applications developed at FTF, and after as well. Having the drivers and demos for using the accelerometer were handy. Most coding will be done using C, but you can always drop back to assembler if you really want to.

Check out the Can Your Badge Do This Web site for more details. Now, will we ever see a wireless version? Hmm…

Plug And Play Demo Board
One thing the JM Badge Board does not do is highlight the Controller Continuum Freescale started pushing many years ago. The Demo AC board (see Fig. 3) comes with a pair of 8- and 32-bit plug-in modules. The board uses the same modules that plug into the $99 PE Micro Demoqe board (see “Dev Kit Addresses 8- And 32-Bit Microcontrollers,” ED Online ID #16218).

The Demo AC comes with an 8-bit MC9S08AC128 (green module board) and a 32-bit Coldfire MCF51AC256 (red module board). The base board accepts either and includes the usual array of switches and LEDs for sample applications to exercise. The light display is not as fancy as the JM Badge Board but it does have an MMA7260 accelerometer.

The MC9S08AC128 has128 Kbytes of flash and 8 Kbytes of RAM. The 32-bit Coldfire MCF51AC256 doubles the amount of flash and RAM and runs at 50.3 MHz. It provides an impressive migration path with minimal software changes required.

The support DVD came with 8- and 32-bit versions of Code Warrior that are now integrated into a single platform. It also includes the Multilink Toolkit from P&E Microcomputer Systems to handle debugging.

The DemoAXEX expansion board was not part of the package but it will likely be something most developers want to take a look at. It connects to the 80-pin expansion port and includes touch sensor buttons and dial areas along with CAN 2.0 headers and a patch area. Without the expansion board, the Demo AC is essentially a software test and evaluation system.

The ability to swap between chips gets old quickly simply because it is so easy. The same CodeWarrior project is used to target both platforms and it is just a matter of changing the target in software and then in hardware to get things to run. From this point of view the demo is definitely successful.

Can Your Badge Do This

Freescale Semiconductor

IAR Systems

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