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Beginning with the Basic Stamp – Make: Video Podcast


In this special edition of the Weekend Project Podcast, Bre Pettis of Make: Magazine brings special guest Joe Grand to the podcast for the Awesome Electronics Workshop. Joe is a hardware hacker and shows you two simple projects to get you started programming with the basic stamp. Make an LED blink and make a little speaker to produce cellphone music.

If you download our programs and upload them to your own basic stamp you can make your own LED blink!

We’ve created a special easter egg in the form of a special medley of music in the rtttl cellphone ringtone program for your piezo buzzer to pump out of your microcontroller. What wacky tunes are on there? You can only find out if you upload the program to your basic stamp!

The programs are both zipped up here. Make sure to check out the pdf too!

Here’s an mp4 that plays on pretty much everything. Here’s a 3gp and 3g2 for people who like to watch on their phone! Of course if you subscribe in itunes, the videos and accompanying pdf get downloaded automatically for you, no muss no fuss. You can browse all the Make: videos on or on the weekend projects page at your leisure! – Subscribe Link

44 thoughts on “Beginning with the Basic Stamp – Make: Video Podcast

  1. peterkirn says:

    Nicely done, guys! Maybe it’s time for a little BASIC Stamp vs. Arduino comparison, though, as that’s been the source of confusion for many beginners, and they’re two of the most popular entry points for people these days.

    Either way, though, nothing stopping people from posting cool projects with all these various boards (and Make Controller Kit, MIDIsense, etc.)

  2. MazinBenny says:

    Dude, Knight Rider. Schweeeet.

  3. aolshove says:

    I started with the Stamp but there’s a much cooler option called an AVR Butterfly (I wish I had started with) that includes an LCD controller/display. Buy it and Program it in C for 20 bucks. There’s an excellent book called “C Programming for Microcontrollers Featuring ATMEL’s AVR Butterfly and the free WinAVR Compiler” by Joe Pardue. The book describes how to put the Butterfly to use as a development and testing platform.

  4. cheese1113 says:

    That was like the funniest make video ever! I loved it!

  5. arlencox says:

    Actually stamps are very good for folks that are programmatically challenged. C definitely isn’t the easiest language in the world and when performance and cost don’t matter, a basic stamp can be a really good solution.

    I’m not an AVR guy, so maybe they don’t have these problems, but the number of times I’ve had to worry about things like if my static array is allocated in ROM or in RAM and if I used more call stack than I had has been fairly large (when programming in C). The Stamps aren’t really going to have this problem.

    One thing I would recommend, though is checking out BASIC compilers for PIC and AVR. A lot of them use the same syntax as the Stamp, but they compile instead of interpret and they allow you to use run of the mill PICs and AVRs (1/5 the price of a basic stamp). BASIC compilers seem to range in price from free to about $250.

  6. cheese1113 says:

    Just downloaded it onto my BS2… sounds great!

  7. japroach says:

    The problem with the basic stamp is that they charge $45 for ~$3 of parts.

    You could get an equivalent PIC (but why would you because its horribly outdated), an ISP (or even a ICD), and a breadboard for not much more. Then use a free C compiler. Or I would get a butterfly over either of those options any day.

    arlencox: good luck fitting your array anywhere into a basic stamp, with its 2k of program and 72b of ram. :P

  8. danielj says:


    great video, but the financial interests of those who are in the video, i.e. Grand Idea Studio and Parallax, and perhaps even Make Magazine, aren’t explicitly stated.

    What I mean to ask is this: is this a paid advertisement for Parallax?

    I am curious to know the answer to that, as obviously Grand Idea Studio has an interest in selling Basic Stamps, having designed two very nice peripherals for the Stamp ( the GPS module and the RFID).

    As previous posters have mentioned, the Arduino provides almost identical functionality for 1/4 of the cost, so why not make it a Stamp/Arduino ad?

    This really looks like paid advertising rather than objective blogging. Thanks in advance for clarifying this in the case that I am wrong about it.

  9. joesmooth says:

    @danielj: To be clear, there is absolutely *no* financial interest with this podcast. MAKE and Grand Idea Studio (my company, I am the only person in it) have decided to do a series of technical video podcasts to showcase various cool electronic modules, technologies, etc.

    Yes, I have designed the GPS Module, RFID Module, and Text-to-Speech Module, all of which we demonstrate in upcoming episodes. But, if I was concerned about making money, I certainly wouldn’t rely on a hobbyist community. Also, I have no interest in how many BASIC Stamps Parallax sells, since my modules will work with any embedded system, microprocessor, etc. We just wanted to make videos that are fun, educational, and informative, and decided to work initially with parts that we knew a lot about and had lots of.

    We plan on covering a large number of different sensors, processors, and other “awesome electronics.” So, please give us a break while we try to launch a new podcast series and just happen to be using modules that we are intimately familiar with. Thanks!


  10. danielj says:


    thanks for the excellent explanation! It’s kind of you to take the time to answer. And hey, I do like your RFID and GPS modules a lot, they are really well designed!

    One thing that would be great to do in your series is to mention the other platforms somewhere along the line. If the goal is to educate new hobbyists, there are much cheaper platforms like Arduino that are equivalent to or exceed the Basic Stamp…


  11. fstedie says:

    Content is good, but Bre makes it almost unwatchable with all his clowning around. Keep it simple, to the point and cut out the crap, it is not geared towards 5th graders (at least I don’t think so).

  12. Bre says:

    Hey Fstedie,

    Not every video is going to be funny, some will be deadly serious – others will take a humorous approach to dry subjects… like writing code for microprocessors. Our videos are free to watch and not the default content on all computers and portable media players (yet) — so here’s an idea, write or rewrite the script for a past and/or future MAKE video and we’ll use it. You can post it here, or email me — or shoot a video and we’ll include it in our “What do you make” video.


  13. philliptorrone says:

    fstedie – some people like humor (see the comments above) and some don’t. personally i prefer the vulcan (and/or romulan) style of learning electronics. cold, sterile and monotone – i’ve asked bre to consider this approach, we’ll see what happens (any support here for vulcan style will only help).

  14. joesmooth says:

    Thanks for all of the great comments! I don’t speak for Bre, but if people are looking for dry, boring videos, they can find them elsewhere. :) I think we definitely want to stay fun, exciting, and show off new technologies in a way that is compelling. We aren’t necessary an educational training video as much as a showcase for things we think are cool (and providing source code, schematics, etc. for any projects that we demonstrate). I think of these videos as simply an introduction or building block that people can say “Oh, I never knew about that technology” or “I never knew that part existed” and then go and dig deeper on their own.

    We do have a list of upcoming technologies we’ll be working with, but if you have specific products you want to see, feel free to send me an e-mail.


  15. samurai1200 says:

    I, for one, welcome the fun-centric Make videocasts. They are a good way to get people interested in the topic. HOWEVER there are 2 problems with this: a) people visiting this site are ALREADY interested in the topic, and b) I felt like there was not enough cold information infused into the video. I was left wanting MORE MORE MORE! I think another example in addition to the LED and piezo buzzer would have done it.

    Anyway, good stuff, ya’ll. Can’t wait for the next one(s)!

  16. gear_head says:

    I got chills watching it. If you’re going for funny then BE funny.. this was toe curlingly bad. A good example of humour in instrucional media content would be Alton Brown’s ‘Good Eats’. But maybe you should just do it straight up, but in Star Trek costumes, I know how you sparkies like to role play. No offence to Bre or Joe, this was a good effort and I’m looking forward to more, it just needs tightening up. Set a time limit, say 3 or 4 minutes (plus a little padding for credits and graphics) and storyboard the content before you get started. Keep the video scenes to 4 or 5 seconds and narrate over the sequences if you have to, try not to chop the audio up like you did, it’s very hard to watch when the audio is cut the same way as the video. All that said, I do enjoy what you’re doing and look forward to seeing more, whatever style to decide to go with.


  17. q:bus says:

    i wounder why they try to get you to buy the project over prices project board from parrlax too… when you can just work right off a bread board.

    anyway after watching this it reminded me of a website i started and never finished. Neon Animation for a class i took in college where i designed a breakout board for the bs2.

    Basic Stamp 2 Breakout board

  18. newtonian says:

    Bre (and Joe), you guys are great. You guys have a great sense of fresh energy, don’t change the way you do things.


  19. Freddelito says:

    Nice episode, cant wait for the next one ;)

    For those who are more similay to Java instead of Basic, i can recomend the “Javelin Stamp” from Parallax. Works the same way, but with java. :)

  20. jmassaglia says:

    I thought the video along with the pdf was great. The only think lacking was more information about he stamp board. After watching it, I still wouldn’t know what to buy or where to find it unless I did a bunch of googling.

  21. jmassaglia says:

    Hey, I just realized that I won one of these boards in the BOE-bot kit at a Halloween gathering. I’ll have to break it out and play around with it.

  22. petes98 says:

    Hey, my BASIC stamp stopped working after i tried to restart my computer. The BASIC stamp was connected to my computer when i tried to restart it. So i don’t know if that did anything, also my computer doesn’t start up anymore. Even though i keep restarting it, all it displays on the screen is _ , and it keeps flashing. So anyone please help me with my computer! Please!!!!!!!

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