Product support and downloads

This page provides answers to questions about our older products and their operation. Current products are supported on their pages of the website. Select a product or topic from the list below:

Software Upgrades

The current PIC-MDS Programs and Subroutine Libraries disk is version 1.2. You may download a .ZIP file of the contents of this disk (85kB). To use the new files, simply unzip the contents to a blank floppy disk, or to the directory on your hard disk that contains your PIC-MDS software files.

The current PMDS2 Programs and Subroutine Library disk is version v2.0b. You may download a .ZIP file of the contents of this disk (817kB) which includes both PIC16F84 and PIC16F876 code for the PMDS2 development system.

The current version of the EPIC downloading software, as well as upgrade information on PICBASIC is available directly from microEngineering Labs .

Software upgrades are also available by Mail. Send your old disk, along with $5.00 for shipping and handling, to Sirius microSystems and we will gladly send you the new EPIC or PIC-MDS software.

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PIC-MDS Training Manual Updates

The PIC-MDS Training Manual, 2nd edition is now out of print. All owners of the first printing (1997 or earlier copyright date) are entitled to a free update. Please contact us by mail or e-mail, and include your name, shipping address (not a Box number), and original invoice number, so that we can send you a new PIC-MDS Training Manual as soon as we can. You will receive a 2nd edition manual on CD.

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PIC-MDS Frequenly Asked Questions

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Q. Who is the intended user of the PIC-MDS?

A. The PIC-MDS is designed as both a microcontroller training system and as a development system for the mid-range PICmicro family of microcontrollers.

When used as a microcontroller training system, the intended user of the PIC-MDS is someone that wants to learn firsthand about what microcontrollers are and how they work. You don't need to have any electronics experience to benefit from the PIC-MDS, but you should have working knowledge of the binary and hexadecimal number systems. The PIC-MDS is an ideal training system for late high school, college or early university microcontroller/microcomputer courses.

When used as a microcontroller development system for the PICmicro family, the intended user of the PIC-MDS is someone who wants to learn more about the PICmicro family, or someone creating PICmicro-based hardware. You only need limited PICmicro experience to benefit from the PIC-MDS. The built-in hardware of the PIC-MDS provides the opportunity to test and evaluate programs, subroutines and user interface design before embarking on hardware design. Plus, you're backed up with complete software examples and descriptions of how to interface the PICmicro to many I/O devices.

Q. What is the difference between the PIC-MDS Professional Pack and the PIC-MDS Hobbyist Pack?

A. The PIC-MDS Professional Pack and PIC-MDS Hobbyist pack include the same PIC-MDS development board, the same EPIC-MDS programmer, the same training manual, and all cables and software. The difference is that the PIC-MDS Hobbyist Pack comes in kit form (requiring soldering and assembly), does not include an 18-pin ZIF socket for the PIC-MDS, and includes only the PIC16F84 microcontroller.

Q. So, what's the advantage of the PIC-MDS Professional?

A. The PIC-MDS Professional is assembled and tested, has a ZIF socket on board and includes the PIC16C711 microcontroller in addition to the PIC16F84.

Q. What is the difference between the PIC16F84 and the PIC16C711 PICmicros?

A. The PIC16F84 is FLASH-based and can be electrically erased and reprogrammed. It also includes 64 bytes of non-volatile memory useful for storing machine states or passwords while power is off. The PIC16C711 requires a UV eraser and has built-in A-D (analog to digital) conversion on four input pins.

Q. Do I use the keypad and LCD to program the PICmicro?

A. No. While some older microprocessor trainers, like those for the Intel 80xx or Motorola's 6800 families let you program the microprocessor from a Hexadecimal keypad, the PICmicro doesn't work that way.

Q. Okay, how do I program a PICmicro?

A. To program a PICmicro, you write your program in assembly language in a word processor or text editor. When finished, you save the file and use an assembler program to create a machine code object file. You then use a PICmicro programmer, such as the EPIC-MDS, to download the object file into the PICmicro microcontroller, which runs your program.

Q. Isn't that a complicated way to program a microcontroller?

A. No. Writing your programs on a computer really simplifies programming. Since the PIC-MDS and EPIC-MDS connect together, and also to your computer, you can program, debug, and re-program PICmicros very efficiently from in front of your computer. You can also include our pre-written subroutines, or downloaded PIC code from other web sites, in your programs.

Q. What are the keypad and LCD on the PIC-MDS board for, if not for programming?

A. Simple. They are I/O devices for you to practice with as you learn to program the PICmicro. The keypad is just a whole bunch of switches, and the LCD is a lot more fun than LEDs.

Q. What type of computer and operating system are required to use the PIC-MDS?

A. The EPIC software is the most critical, since it controls programming. The EPIC-MDS (included with the PIC-MDS) assembler software is an MS-DOS program. The EPIC-MDS downloading software includes an MS-DOS/Win 3.1 version as well as a Windows95/WindowsNT version. A Parallel port connection is used to connect the EPIC-MDS to the computer.

We have tested and confirmed the operation of the DOS version of the EPIC downloading software on 386's, 486's, and Pentium computers running DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and OS/2 Warp. We have tested and run the Windows version of the EPIC downloading software on 486, Pentium, and Pentium II computers running Windows 95.

Q. Can I use the PIC-MDS to develop programs for other PICmicros?

A. Yes. The PIC-MDS is designed to get you familiar with the mid-range PICmicro family in general. To program a specific chip, check the data sheets at Microchip Technology to make sure that the PICmicro is pin-compatible with the PIC16F84 or PIC16C711. Then, just drop it into the ZIF socket on the PIC-MDS.

If you want to program a larger PICmicro and still use some of the components on the PIC-MDS, buy or build a prototyping board for the larger chip, and connect wires back to the PICBUS expansion header on the PIC-MDS. Chapter 4 of the PIC-MDS Training Manual has the details of the PICBUS header pinouts.

PIC-MDS Support Information

Q. Why do I get a "Programmer not found" error when the EPIC-MDS is connected to both the computer and the PIC-MDS?

A. When the EPIC downloading software starts, it checks the parallel port for the EPIC-MDS programmer. If the PIC-MDS is connected to the EPIC-MDS, and the PIC is running a program, the EPIC-MDS may not respond properly and the EPIC software will not recognize that the EPIC-MDS programmer is there. This is especially true if the PORTB.6 and PORTB.7 pins of the PICmicro have been made into outputs.

Fortunately, there is usually a simple solution. Press and hold the reset button on the PIC-MDS as you start the EPIC software. Doing this allows the EPIC-MDS to respond to the EPIC software correctly. If that doesn't work, start the EPIC software with only the EPIC-MDS plugged into the computer. Once the EPIC software is running, connect the PIC-MDS to the EPIC-MDS.

Q. Why can't I program a PICmicro in the PIC-MDS?

A. You should be able to. Follow these steps for in-circuit programming. Make sure that you have a PIC16F84 and oscillator crystal installed in the PIC-MDS before you begin.

Start by checking that the jumpers on the PIC-MDS board are in their default positions, especially the JU3 and JU6 jumpers. JU3 should be set to RUN, and JU6 should have a jumper on RA2 only. Remove the jumper from JU5. Now try programming.

If the PIC-MDS jumpers are properly set, and in-circuit programming still does not work, confirm that the in-circuit cable is plugged in properly. Holding the PIC-MDS and EPIC-MDS so that the writing is right side up, pin 1 of the in-circuit programming header is at the left. Make sure that the pin 1 stripe on the in-circuit ribbon cable also faces left. Try programming now.

If the jumpers are set properly, the in-circuit cable is connected properly, and in-circuit programming still does not work, check the programming voltage on the EPIC-MDS with a voltmeter. Connect one voltmeter probe to the tab of each voltage regulator (U5 is ground, U4 is Vpp) and adjust the VR1 potentiometer until the voltage reads 13.6V. Then try programming.

Verify that the Vpp LED on the programmer illuminates as you try to program the PICmicro. If in-circuit programming still does not work, contact us.

Please contact Sirius microSystems if you have any other problems with the PIC-MDS. We'll be glad to help.

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EPIC-MDS Frequently Asked Questions

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Q. Does the EPIC-MDS included with the PIC-MDS come with or without ZIF sockets?

A. The EPIC-MDS shipped as part of the PIC-MDS Professional Package does not have a ZIF socket, just an 18-pin DIP socket. Since the EPIC-MDS and PIC-MDS support in-circuit programming, the 18-pin ZIF socket on the PIC-MDS gets a lot of use, but few people actually use the socket on the EPIC-MDS. If you decide to purchase a PIC-MDS Professional Pack and you would like to upgrade your EPIC-MDS with one or two ZIF sockets, we would be happy to do that for you. Contact us for prices.

Q. Does the EPIC-MDS support the 16C5x PICmicros?

A. No. The EPIC-MDS only supports PICmicros with serial programming capability. This includes the newer PIC16C55x series, the 8-pin PIC12Cxxx family, and the DIP mid range PICmicros. EPIC-MDS does not support the high-end PIC17Cxx family.

Q. Are adapters available for surface mount and small outline PICmicros?

A. Yes. The EPIC-MDS is fully compatible with the EPIC from microEngineering Labs. They make a full line of programming adapters for various styles of PICmicros, including a socket for the PIC14000. If you live in the US, contact microEngineergin Labs directly, otherwise, contact us for pricing.

Q. What is the purpose of the battery connectors on the EPIC-MDS?

A. Using a laptop and batteries allows you to program PICmicros virtually anywhere—on a boat, in the desert, on a transmission tower, anywhere.

Q. Is the EPIC-MDS upgradeable for future PICmicros?

A. Yes. Simply download the new programming software and you're ready to program new parts. See the Upgrades section for details.

Q. What type of computer and operating system are required to use the EPIC-MDS?

A. The EPIC-MDS assembler software is an MS-DOS program that works under MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows95/98 and Windows NT. The EPIC-MDS downloading software includes an MS-DOS/Win 3.1 version as well as a Windows95/98/WindowsNT version. A Parallel port connection is used to connect the EPIC-MDS to the computer.

We have tested and confirmed the operation of the DOS version of the EPIC downloading software on '386's, '486's, and Pentium computers running DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and OS/2 Warp. We have tested and run the Windows version of the EPIC downloading software on 486, Pentium, and Pentium II computers running Windows 95, 98, & ME. So, now you may just have a use for that old '386.

EPIC-MDS Support Information

Q. How do I program other PICmicros?

A. When you write a program, remember to target the proper PICmicro in the MACLIB include directive. After you start the EPIC software, select the appropriate PICmicro device and confirm the memory and clock oscillator flag settings. Then insert your PICmicro into the appropriate programming socket of the EPIC-MDS. If you are using an 8-pin or 18-pin chip, insert it into the 18-pin socket with pin 1 at the far left (closest to the locking lever on the ZIF socket, if your EPIC-MDS has the ZIF socket). 28-pin and 40-pin PICmicros go into the 40-pin socket the same way, with pin 1 at the far left.

Q. What is the meaning of the error messages when I try to assemble a program?

A. If you purchased the PIC-MDS system, Appendix C describes some of the assembler errors. If you have just the EPIC-MDS programmer, check the PM.TXT file in your EPIC directory.

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