Zach had a chance to check out a really interesting new chip from Parallax and has let us repost his first first impressions – “I just spent the past two days at Parallax’s headquarters using the new Propeller chip (they even gave me a couple chips to take home, woot!). These chips are real (non-vapor) and very cool.”…
First impressions: It is similar to your standard microcontroller (PIC or Atmel) but darn fast. It has eight parallel processors running at 80Mhz (20MIPS) each. That’s 160 MIPS. Memory and IO access use a unique “cog” architecture under the hood, but it is mostly obfuscated unless you do direct assembly programming. For those of you that are experienced programmers, the main hurdle is going to be the new language they use. It looks a convergence of pascal, basic, and python. I sure hope someone comes up with a c compiler.
Fortunately, they have created a bunch of “objects” for doing all your standard stuff. They even have objects that can read a standard PS2 mouse and keyboard. One of their coolest objects allows you, without any extra hardware and a minimal amount of software, to create NTSC (or PAL) or VGA output directly. I’m not talking about boring B/W blocks and text, I’m talking about 64 color animated graphics and text. The best part is that fully animated video only takes two of the eight “cogs”. So, you have 6 other cogs to do other stuff. You could do music, motion control, IO, anything. You could even create four separate video streams using all eight cogs. There is even an extra option to modulate the direct video signal and create a short range broadcast signal (picked up on channels 2-16). This works from about 20′ away without any extra antenna (just radiating off of the chip, sorry FCC).
The final pricing hasn’t been set yet, but raw chips (40 dip or 44 LQFP) should be around $20 each. Their whole dev. board kit should be around $200.
More about the Propeller chip here.