There are many companies that have targeted their products to intermediate’s and beginner’s lever users. They have developed educational material as well as support. My initial choice was the Parallax BasicStamp, which is a very popular microcontroller. There is a vast source of information, code, examples, experiments, support, user groups and material available. It is sold as part of a basic kit for beginners or as a stand alone product for advanced users. The kit includes a board, microcontrollers, compiler and a companion book to develop experiments. BasicStamp is programmed in variations of the BASIC programming language which nowadays is not widely used. The most persistent drawback of the BasicStamp that actually made me reject it, is the fact that it has only 22 usable pins. 22 pins would not be sufficient to drive an 81 LED matrix, and an additional circuit similar to the one that Simon Greenwold used for the Hotpants/LittleVision would have to be manufactured. Greenwold had the same problem which he managed to solve by the use of shift registers. Shift registers turn serial outputs parallel by piping clocked values to their output pins on a specific signal. With the addition of 4 shift registers Greenwold got 32 extra outputs controlled by 3 pins on the microcontroller (data, clock, and value). Building an additional circuit for this project would be time consuming, so another microcontroller kit with more output pins was selected.
The Wiring software
Wiring is an open project initiated by Hernando Barragán (University of Los Andes | Architecture and Design School). Wiring started at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea and it is currently developed at the University of Los Andes
Using Everyday Objects as Communication tools
Fig. 41 Parallax BasicStamp BS2sx as a starter kit - Includes BS2SX-IC, Board of Education programming board, Serial Cable, BASIC Stamp Manual v2.0, and cd-rom. [source: http://www.parallax.com/]
Fig. 42 Parallax BasicStamp2 as a stand alone product [source: ibid]