Electronic – Beginner 8051 microcontroller kit recommendation


I'm reposting this from stackoverflow, as the question is better suited here.

I'm a first year Computer Science student looking to get started with development for micro-controllers. I'd like to use the 8051, as it's common as dirt, and is used frequently in the real world.

During my junior or senior year, I'll be taking a PIC micro-controller based embedded design class, so I'd rather not do PIC now; otherwise, I'll be fairly bored during that course.

Most commercial kits I see are for the AVR or PIC series of microprocessors. I'm just looking for something with decent development tools, documentation, and enough add-ons to keep my novice self occupied for the summer.

Any recommendations for an 8051 family kit? Thanks!

I should have added, that I'd like to keep the price at $150 or less ideally. I'm pretty much just looking to learn — not do anything too serious. I'm looking for more of a projects based kit.


I ended up going with a SiLabs MCUNIVERSITY Kit, on recommendation from svec on stackoverflow. The tools and documentation look superb; there are also a set of exercises and labs. Plus, for less than $50, it's an excellent price. Thanks everyone.

Best Answer

I realize that you're looking for an 8051, but I think that's an antiquated choice. For an old, trusty tool, 8051's are great, but I'd strongly recommend against starting there. They're widely used in industry because they're incumbent, not because they're the best.

The easiest way to start is the Arduino-- it's cheap and easy to program. You can program it with a subset of C/C++, at least to start with.

If that seems not hardcore enough, and PICs are ruled out, I'd start with an MSP430 from Texas Instruments. Digikey has an eval board with two different MSP430s for $100. You also need a JTAG programmer. You can get the TI FET, but I've had success with the cheaper Softbaugh programmer.

(But if you really are dying for an 8051, I'd start with an Atmel chip and the Keil tools.)