PICAXE vs. PIC Microcontroller
d. bodnar revised 5-19-13
The PICAXE and PIC families of microcontrollers can easily be confused as one is based upon the other. Even though they are related there are significant differences that must be considered when deciding which to use.
A PIC processor is manufactured by Microchip Corporation in Chandler, Arizona. There are dozens of different PIC chips. They can be programmed in a number of different programming languages including assembler, C and BASIC. A special programmer is needed to put the program onto the PIC.
The PICAXE is a PIC chip that has had a special program installed on it that allows it to be programmed using a very simple serial connection, not an expensive programmer. The PICAXE can only be programmed in BASIC. The software for the PICAXE was developed in Great Britain and was designed for use by school students.
Programming the PICAXE in
The manuals for the PICAXE programming language are free downloads as well. There is also a very helpful on-line community that provides help and support.
The programming editor runs on Windows computers. There is a simpler program that can be used on a MAC or Linux computer.
Programming the PIC
Processor in BASIC
Programming Hardware for
Since most modern computers no
longer have a serial port you need to purchase a USB to Serial
adapter. A number of them are available for less than $20.00.
I have described a number of such adapters here:
Programming Hardware for PIC
Recommendations -- PICAXE or PIC?
The PIC processor is a better choice if you need to write long and more complex programs. In most instances the PIC can hold two or more times the programming code than the PICAXE can. The programs also can run faster and can react to inputs more rapidly. On the down side the programming language is much harder to learn and you must set a number of configuration parameters to set up programming for each chip.
There is an extensive on-line community but they tend to be less willing to guide beginners through their initial learning.
PICAXE information is available here: http://www.picaxe.com/