Saturday, April 21, 2012

Serial ICD

This is the last version I built of an ICD2 clone, to program and debug Microchip PIC and dsPIC microcontrollers. It's based in the original In-Circuit Debugger made by Lothar Stolz.

It's the simplest version: must be plugged to a RS232 serial port (no fancy USB ports in this device). It has two LEDs, the green one is the Power LED, the red one is the Busy LED. The switch, when closed, allows to power (5V) the target. The case is the same I used for the RGBUZEBOX, tiny, cheap and easy to work with.

I have used it even with 3.3V dsPICs and it always worked pretty well, for both programming and debugging, but has two drawbacks that doesn't allow me to recommend it if you want to code medium-high or high complexity stuff, or if you plan to use one of the newer chips:

  1. While debugging, stepping through the code, and watching variables, is SLOW, specially with dsPIC chips.
  2. I couldn't make this ICD2 clone work with MPLAB versions later than 7.5. I'm not sure, but I suspect Microchip have added a protection to MPLAB to avoid the use of these kind of devices.
Other than these two problems, it works great. In fact, this is the tool I actually use for my PIC/dsPIC projects!

If still interested, you can grab the schematics and Gerber files here.

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