PicKit 3, all the way from Colorado

Josef van Niekerk" rel="author">Josef van Niekerk

Quite recently I was looking for schematics to a Microchip PicKit 3 programmer / debugger clone. The electronics noob in me, thought it would be cool if I could build my own debugger, and attempt to save costs. Not thinking further than the skin on my nose, I wasn’t taking into account the risks that I’m letting myself into. I it would have been quite a mess if my inexperience might have me attempting to debug a debugger. Not a good idea at this stage.

I did ask around and Googled a bit in search of schematics and community driven projects aiming to produce clones of the debugger. Followed by snide remarks and people frowning at my brave stupidity, there was one response from someone that was so outgoing and wanting to help, that this chap offered to send me his PicKit 3 debugger that he wasn’t using.

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About a week ago, thanks to Kevin Sidwar from µCasts, the package arrived from Colorado, in Cape Town via UPS. After happily paying the duty fees, which were a fraction of the costs of the device, Sparkbuzz had it’s very first donation and probably one of the tools I’ll be using the most during my embedded programming escapades.

Who’s µCasts, you ask? Let’s let them speak for themself, their site offers “Short, focused chunks of embedded learning awesomeness. Helping µ hack DIY electronics.” They offer some nice tutorial videos on electronics, aimed at DIY enthusiasts, so hop over and check out the µCasts YouTube Channel. So I’d also like to extend my thanks to Kevin, who sent me the PicKit 3 debugger, being a hobbyist, my projects are on a shoe string budget, and this welcomed contribution is most certainly a big boost!

The past few days has been involved with double checking Eagle CAD schematics I drew up to get a minimal setup going to program a Microchip PIC32MX250F128. After checking datasheets over and over, confirming facts on as many blog articles possible, probing voltage supply pins with the Rigol oscilloscope, the time is coming near to hook up the PicKit 3 and hopefully get to program a simplistic LED flashing application. Honestly speaking, I’m nervous, worried and trembling at the fact that I might attempt to program the chip, and nothing happens.

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After having having checked that every Vss and Vdd was connected, bypass caps inserted into the right places, external crystal hooked up and the 5V to 3.3V regulator hooked up, I’m itching like mad to find out if this setup is going to work or not.

Only time will tell, but I’m not going to rush thing. I’ll be checking and probably recheck again. Next step is to add the header pins for the PicKit 3 programmer, and add on an LED to pin 2, and see if I can get it to light up like a Christmas tree.

Keep watching, and hold thumbs!