P1 - lower half

The PIC LAB-1 printed circuit board can be divided into three sections: 
1: Amplifying (or interfacing) circuitry for the input devices, 
2: The microcontroller, and 
3: Output devices.

view of PIC LAB-1
The top socket (Pot) is the A-to-D conversion input, the middle socket (mic/coil) is the analogue input and the Probe socket detects temperature. 


The overlay (also called the LEGEND) for the PIC LAB-1 Printed Circuit Board

The overlay for the board clearly shows where each component is placed. The advantage of buying a kit is each component is designed to fit the board. Click the "Buy Kit" button on the left-hand side of the page and the kit will be sent the same day. All boards have a screened top layer showing the position of the components and the underside is solder-masked so that only the lands are exposed and tinned without any blocked holes. Four corner mounting holes allow the board to be fixed to the top surface of a box or lid for demonstration purposes or class project etc. 
To read my comments about making your own PC board, click HERE

Many input devices cannot be connected directly to a microcontroller. They either produce a very small AC voltage or a change in resistance. These devices must be connected via an amplifier.   
The amplifier increases the amplitude of the signal to a DIGITAL LEVEL. In the case of a change in resistance, the device is connected to the supply rail via a resistor and the change in voltage across the resistor (you can also say "the change in voltage across the device") is amplified (via a transistor) and passed to the microcontroller. If the device produces a voltage or resistance that changes over a long period of time, other interfacing circuitry must be used. This will also be covered in the project. 
It is the job of the program to detect a signal from the device and process it correctly. In our case this involves turning on LEDs, showing the result on a 7-segment display and/or producing a tone from a piezo diaphragm. 
The PIC16F84 microcontroller has 13 lines that can be programmed as inputs or outputs ( in ANY combination). 
It has a code-protection feature, so the program cannot be "looked at" by any outsider and thus any project you design can be protected. 
The microcontroller we are using may be considered very simple and limited when compared to some of the larger microcontrollers, but its capability will certainly allow quite impressive projects to be developed. And most-importantly, it allows you to start at the beginning. 
One of the aims of this course is to steer you into programming and designing. For this, we need to start at square-one, and talk about complexities, later.  

The output devices on PIC LAB-1 consist of a set of 8 LEDs and a 7-segment display, as well as a piezo diaphragm. A buffer transistor allows a relay, globe, motor or speaker to be connected.
This gives a large number of combinations for outputting the data. 

Before we go any further, you will need two other things:
 A PIC16F84 chip and a Programmer to program the chip. 

Talking Electronics has produced a Multi-Chip Programmer suitable for programming the PIC16F84. It can be assembled in less than an hour and comes with a serial cable (in kit form) to connect to the serial port of your computer. The PIC16F84 chip comes with the PIC LAB-1 kit. It can be re-programmed about 1,000 times.

With a Programmer, Chip and PIC LAB-1 you have the equipment needed to study the concepts of writing PIC programs and developing quite complex projects. 
Many projects presented in books and magazines, using ordinary logic chips and discrete components, can be converted to a PIC design and the "building blocks" on PIC LAB-1 will help create a micro controlled project. 
This will be the discussion for an article in the future (we have already produced other modules using this chip). For the moment we need to explain how to create some of the simplest routines. 
But the first thing to do is assemble PIC LAB-1. This has been made easy with a fully-detailed printed circuit board. All the components are clearly identified and the kit contains the smallest, neatest, components available. The supplier of the kit is TALKING ELECTRONICS. The cost is less than if the components were bought separately and we suggest you invest in a kit.
To order, simply click the button.
You can buy the kit or a "Ready Built and tested" version.


Using a PC board prevents a wiring mistake and assembling a kit means you have the highest chance of success. The kit comes with a pre-programmed chip with a Test Routine and a section on "If it Doesn't Work" is included below, to help with any problems that may arise. 
The board has been designed for both functionality and presentation. It should NOT be housed in a box as you need to access the buttons and IC. The chip is transferred to and from the Multi Chip Programmer in a "carrier." This is an 18 pin IC socket fitted to the base of the chip. The two are moved as a "unit." This makes the chip easy to insert and remove from the socket on the PC board and prevents the pins stabbing your fingers. 
Simply move the chip sideways and it will come out of the socket. You don't need an expensive ZIF socket!  
The PIC chip in the kit contains a special TEST ROUTINE to test each of the input and output devices. 
Once the kit is assembled, insert the chip and switch ON. Go to the Test Routine section for further details. 
The project is now ready.  
The site contains over 25 programs, including the HEX listing for the Multi-Chip Programmer and this will provide you with the basics to produce routines for your own projects and ideas.   

Construction is made very easy by referring to the overlay on the PC board. It shows exactly where each component is placed and its orientation. Fine solder is included in the kit to make the overall appearance of each joint very clean. Fine solder makes an enormous difference to the quality of the joint and you need a low-wattage iron for the delicate work. Low-wattage does not mean low-temperature (at the tip) and if the solder smokes as soon as you apply it, the iron is too hot. 
A power-diode in series with one lead will reduce the temperature to the correct value. Get a qualified person to add the diode for you - he will understand its function.
Clean the tip of the iron with fresh solder before starting a connection (if the iron has been left standing for any length of time) and tap off any excess. Add more solder when the iron is actually heating the component-lead. Make sure the joint is bright and shiny after completion, before going to the next connection. Do not touch or wiggle the joint until it has thoroughly cooled down.
Only add one or two components to the board at a time and snip the leads after each operation. These are the basics you MUST adhere to. 
There are many ways to fill the board. You can start with the high components, such as the IC sockets and then the small components, or move across the board from left-to-right, fitting each component as you come to it. The best way is to add the IC socket first, to fill the majority of holes.  The most important point is to hold the component in your fingers while soldering and if it gets too hot to hold, you are taking too long. The author always holds each component to make sure nothing is damaged by overheating.
Push the components up to board before soldering, except the transistors and LEDs. These should be 1/4" (3mm) from the board to prevent heat running up the leads and damaging the semiconductor material inside.
The 7-segment display is identified by the decimal point at the base of the display. 
The final item to fit is the battery snap.
Fit the pre-programmed PIC chip and the project is ready for testing.   
The input devices such as the microphone, coil,  photo-transistor and potentiometer, are connected to the board via small 2-pin plugs. These fit into sockets made from machine-pins.   These plugs and sockets are cut from a strip by scoring between the pins with a sharp knife and breaking with your fingers. The microphone and darlington photo-transistor must be plugged-in around the correct way and if they are soldered to the plug and bent as shown in the photos, they cannot be plugged-in around the wrong way.  They will not be damaged if reversed, however it is best to make sure they are connected correctly. They can be connected via a short lead if required.
The potentiometer and diode are also connected to the board via a 2-pin plug.

By bending the microphone, diode and photo-transistor to 90, the plug is effectively 'polarised,' it can only be fitted around one way.


The input devices are soldered to machine pins that fit into a machine socket on the PC board. The orientation of some input devices is important as they will not work when connected around the wrong way. The diagram below shows how to connect each item:

The 10mH choke (coil) must be wound on the ferrite former, using the .005" (5 thou) wire provided. The number of turns is not important, however it is best to wind as many turns as possible on the former until the winding is flush with the outer edge. This will produce a coil with about 300 turns and it will have a resistance of about 15 ohms. The resistance is not important, however each turn will increase the voltage generated when a magnet is passed across the end of the former.
Fit the sleeve over the winding and shrink with a hot flame such as a match or cigarette lighter.
Clean the ends of the fine wire with a blade and solder to the ends of the thick wires where they emerge from the former. Bend one lead over to produce a one-ended inductor. Cut both leads to the same length and solder them to the machine pins provided, to produce a plug.

PIC LAB-1 kit comes with a pre-programmed chip containing the TEST ROUTINE. Turn the project ON and the row of 8 LEDs will scan across and back. The individual segments of the 7-segment display will also turn ON. Push button "A."
The letters "Pb" will show on the 7-segment display - for "Push button."
Push button "A" again and the top 4 LEDs will blink, followed by the lower 4 LEDs. Push button "A" again. The letters "AUdiO" will show on the display. Push button "A" again.
Fit a microphone to the 2-pin plug marked "MIC" and talk or whistle. The lowest LED will turn ON to indicate audio. Push button "A" again. 
The letters POt will flash on the 7-segment display. Push button "A" again.
Insert a potentiometer into the 2-pin plug labelled "Pot" and rotate it in both directions. The 7-segment display will indicate rotation. 
All the input and output devices are now tested. 
Push button "A" to repeat the sequence.

If the project doesn't work, there are 4 areas to investigate. 
They are:
These notes apply to a project that has assembled from a kit with the pre-programmed PIC chip fitted to the board. Anything built on matrix board, using junk-box parts, may have any number of other introduced faults. 99% of faults eventually boil down to the builder using non-kit components and failing to let us know. After dozens of emails we finally realise he has used "odd-ball" components. 
A capacitor may appear to be "22" but is really "2.2"  A resistor may appear to be 100k, but is really a 1% type and the colours have been read incorrectly. 
Here is a resistor colour-code calculator for
1% types  and  5% types.

If the operation of pushing the switch does not work in the TEST ROUTINE, It may be faulty, fitted to the board incorrectly or not soldered. The 47k resistor may be missing or not soldered. Measure pin 17 of the chip and make sure it goes HIGH when the switch is pressed.
The TEST ROUTINE may not be responding to the switch. You can try Experiment 1, if you think the Test Routine is faulty.

If the 8 LEDs do not illuminate, you will need to test pin 14 for approx 5.4v  Also check pin 16 for approx 5.4v (clock in).
The most likely fault is the chip failing to "clock." Check the 22p. The chip has been pre-programmed and checked in a PIC LAB-1 project, before it is sent with the kit, so it will NOT be faulty. 
The main problem will be the 22p and the impedance of the circuit. At 4MHz the chip is operating at its maximum frequency and if the circuit is not "tight" the chip will fail to oscillate. The answer is to reduce the frequency at which the chip will be oscillation, by adding a 22p to 100p across the  22p. You should also make sure the batteries are fresh. 
To reduce the impedance of the circuit you can add another 100n across the rails NEAR the chip. 
You can also check for shorts and dry joints around the chip as well as incorrect component values, especially the 4k7 and 22p on the oscillator input to the chip. 
Do not operate the project from a power supply or use long leads to the batteries. These tend to increase the impedance of the supply and can result in the chip not oscillating. 
Any project built on a "home-brew" board or matrix board can suffer from a very "loose" supply rail called a high-impedance rail. This will prevent the chip oscillating. 
It's a bit like getting 4 people to hold a trampoline in the air while you bounce on it. You can see exactly what would happen. You would not be able to get any spring into the air. 
The same happens with the internal oscillator of the chip. If the supply rails are loose, the chip fails to oscillate.

If some LEDs do not illuminate, they may be around the wrong way. If the display is up-side-down, only the end LED will illuminate. If the LEDs are damaged by excess heat during soldering, the output will be very weak. 

If a program from one of the experiments does not work, you will have to go over all the steps involved in producing the program. 
The hardware side of the project is operational as it has been tested via the TEST ROUTINE. 
If this is the first program you have "burnt" into the chip, you will need to check the Multi Chip Programmer project and the serial cable. 
You can read and verify the program in the chip via the Multi Chip Programmer to see if it has been loaded correctly. 
Also check the config settings. These are also called "fuses" and will also prevent the chip operating if not set correctly. If the chip is set to operate with a Xtal, it will not "clock" with RC components. In the top right-hand-side window, make sure RC is showing in the window.
For the experiments in this project, the fuse settings (WDT, PWRT and CP) must be turned off (unclicked) in IC-Prog. 

The circuit consists of three sections. The input device and its associated amplifying circuitry, the microcontroller and the output device. 
One or more input devices can be connected to the circuit at the same time and the program (in the microcontroller) detects the presence of the device and produce an output to activate one or more display devices.
The main purpose of the input-amplifier is to increase the amplitude of a signal to a level called DIGITAL LEVEL. This is an amplitude of at least 75% of rail voltage and a minimum of about 10%. This is needed to make sure the micro detects a HIGH and LOW. 
A waveform below Digital Level is called an ANALOGUE waveform and the amplifier that converts (amplifies) the signal is called an Analogue-to-Digital stage, or A-to-D amplifier. It is given this reference-name to show the stage must have sufficient amplification to produce a digital signal. 
We have provided sufficient gain for all the devices in the experiments with a two-stage amplifier and the actual term is OVER-AMPLIFICATION. This is to ensure the signal is at a digital level. The first stage is a self-biased common emitter stage with a gain of about 70. It feeds a second stage and this is where the clever design is evident. This stage is biased OFF, with approx 500mV on the base. It only needs approx 250mV signal through the 100n capacitor to turn it on. The collector voltage will change from rail voltage to about 300mV. The result is a fairly clean square wave for the input of the microcontroller. 
More details on designing A-to-D amplifiers is provided on other pages in our site. 

The circuitry for the temperature probe is a little more complex. The probe is a diode and the voltage across it changes by -2mV per degree centigrade. This means the voltage across it reduces as the temperature increases. This is not a problem as the circuit and program can be adjusted for any situation. This is a fairly small voltage change and we have opted to amplify the change by using a transistor to detect the voltage across the diode. 
To turn the transistor ON, a voltage divider made up of a 22k and 1k has been added in series with the diode. Any variation in supply voltage will alter the amplification of the transistor considerably and so a constant supply voltage has been obtained by using the constant-voltage characteristics of two green LEDs in series. This provides a supply rail of  2.1v + 2.1v = 4.2v for the base of the transistor. 
As the temperature of the diode changes, the voltage on the base of the transistor alters and this modifies the effective resistance between the collector-emitter terminals of the transistor. 
The micro charges a 100n capacitor via a 1k, 10k and collector-emitter resistance. As the capacitor charges, the voltage on Pin1 reduces. The micro detects the time for the voltage to fall to the lower threshold voltage of an input line and this time is referenced to a table to determine the temperature detected by the probe. 

Resistance is measured by a series RC circuit called a TIME DELAY circuit. 
The time taken for a capacitor to charge is detected by the micro and can be referenced to a table to determine the value of resistance in the circuit. 

The output devices are connected to the output port and the program can be designed to give a reading on the row of 8 LEDs, the 7-segment display or drive the output transistor to operate a piezo diaphragm, or other device connected to the output terminals.


To reset the program in the PIC chip, the reset button is pressed momentarily. The program will then start at location "000" 
For the reset to work, the program must have instructions in SetUp to clear (zero) files and turn off any outputs. Files are not emptied by the action of Reset and it will appear that "reset" is not working if the files are not emptied in SetUp. 
File 06 must be cleared or loaded with a starting value so that the program appears to be reset when the button is pressed. 


Inputs detected: push-switch, microphone, piezo, coil and photo-transistor
Note the modification above to make the microphone input less sensitive to noise.
Take the 47k microphone dropper-resistor to the 4v2 provided by the two green LEDs.

Inputs detected: temperature via diode, resistance via potentiometer


The pin-outs for some of the devices used in this project

  Kits for this project are available from Talking Electronics.


au$49.90 plus $4.40 post
Order kit

8 - 150R     all  1/4 watt    5% resistors
2 - 1k
1 - 2k2
2  - 4k7
3 - 10k 
3 - 22k 
3 - 47k 
1 - 1M 
1 - 2M2 
1 - 10k mini trim pot with shaft 
1 - 22p NPO ceramic 
3 - 100n monolithic capacitors "monoblock" 
2 - 1u 16vw electrolytics 
1 - 100u 16vw electrolytic 
9 - 3mm red LEDs 
2 - 3mm green LEDs 
1 - 7-segment display   FND 500 or equiv.
1 - 1N4148 signal diode 
1 - 1N 4004 power diode 
4 - BC 547 transistors or similar 
1 - mini PCB piezo diaphragm
1 - electret microphone insert
1 - MEL-12 photo Darlington transistor
1  -  black sleeve for MEL-12
1 - 10mH choke
1 - ferrite magnet
1 - SPDT mini slide switch
2 - PC mount tactile push switch
1m - very fine solder 
1 - strip of 18 machine pins
2 - 18pin IC sockets (put PIC chip in one!)
1 - PIC16F84 chip (with Test Routine)
1 - Battery Snap
1 - 4-AA cell battery holder
4 - AA cells
1 - PIC LAB-1 PC board

Kits for PIC LAB-1 can be obtained from Talking Electronics:

There are more than 25 experiments for the PIC LAB-1 and the project must be working correctly before they can be loaded. 
Don't forget to test the project with the TEST ROUTINE (in the PIC chip that comes with the kit) before starting the experiments. 
Each experiment (in a group) starts with the simplest for a particular device and gradually increases in complexity. They start on the next page and you can see the list of experiments above. But first you have to know how to burn a program into a PIC chip.

Each experiment on the pages that follow is shown in a layout very similar to a text-editor. But it cannot be copied and loaded into a program for burning into a PIC chip as it contains hidden formatting. 
To burn the experiments into a PIC chip, the files have been zipped for downloading. 
The extension you need for the burning process is .hex and these files can be found by clicking: 
PIC LAB-1 Expmts-hex
. You can also see:  PIC LAB-1 Expmts-all
Go to the menu of your computer and create a new folder: PIC LAB-1  
Download the .zip file(s) into PIC LAB-1 folder.
You will also need a programmer to "burn" the PIC chip. 
We say "burn" to identify the operation of putting a program into the chip, rather than "program the chip" as we use "program" in the context of writing a program.
The PIC Programmer designed by Talking Electronics is Multi Chip Programmer
Build the Programmer, test it and have it ready. 
You will also need the software to transfer the information from a .hex file to the programmer. 
The software is: ICPROG.
Download IC-Prog.exe  and a help file: ICPROG-Help (IC-Prog.chm)
Extract all the files into PIC LAB-1 folder.  Place ICPROG.exe into your desktop folder and it will appear on your screen.  
Go you your front-screen (desktop) and open ICPROG.
On the window showing the types of chips the programmer is able to program, select PIC 16F84
In the oscillator window, select RC
In the fuses windows, remove all the ticks. 
Click the "open file" icon on the left hand side of the screen. Find Expt1.hex and load it into the programmer. A tick will appear in the WDT window to indicate a file has been loaded. Remove the tick. 
Make sure the Multi Chip Programmer has been fitted to "Com1" via a serial cable and the red LED on the Multi Chip Programmer is active.
Click on the IC Icon with the "lightening" and a dialog box with "Do you really want the program the device?" will appear. Click "yes" and the orange and green LEDs will illuminate and the screen will indicate the chip has been programmed correctly.   
Remove the chip and fit it to the PIC LAB-1 project. Fit any necessary input devices and switch ON. The LEDs on the output will respond.   
If every thing has gone successfully, you will have "burnt" your first routine. 
Read the instructions for each experiment carefully and follow them to see exactly how the program is constructed and executed. 
As soon as you get to the stage of writing your own programs, send them in and we will add them to the Readers Experiments Section. 

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