Lesson 2 Notes



Lesson Outline


Intro to the MSP430

What's the family of MCUs we'll be using this semester?

The family of microcontrollers we'll be working with for the remainder of the semester is TI's MSP430. [Show Launchpad kit]

The MSP430 is an industry leader in low-cost, low-power consumption embedded applications - and it uses a RISC architecture with just 27 instructions.

Products in the Wild Using MSP430

Suffice to say, this chip is used by engineers to create real-world products that you've probably interacted with before. Cool!

The other cool thing - they're cheap! The MSP430 Launchpad development kit costs around $10 including shipping, so you can definitely get your own if you want to experiment with this beyond the semester. We can also get replacement chips cheaply for when you inevitably burn them out.

Issue Launchpad Kits

For the rest of the semester, you'll be using these kits along with CodeComposer to learn about the MSP430 and build things with it.


Ok, back to the dirty details about computer architecture.

What's an ISA?

The Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) is the programmer's API into the CPU.

Any architecture will consist of:

[Ask questions about each of these]

MSP430 Architecture

I'll give a brief, top-level overview of the MSP430's ISA - we'll go a lot more in depth in these areas in the next few lessons.

What type of architecture is the MSP430?

[Spend some time here]

This is equivalent to RAM on your PC in terms of access - the CPU can directly access any of it. Your hard drive isn't directly accessible by the CPU.

[Show the memory map on screen]

MSP430 Memory Map

[Briefly discuss what each section is used for, etc.]

Talk about the different variants of the MSP430 and why these sections aren't consistent across devices.

We'll be working with the msp430g2553 variant.

[Draw sections of memory in on memory map]

512b of RAM - 0x200-0x400
16kb of ROM - 0xc000-0xffdf

0x1100-0xc000 is empty! There is no memory backing it up! If you attempt to write to this area of memory, you'll trigger what's essentially a segmentation fault because that memory doesn't exist. It will cause the chip to do a Power-up Clear (PUC), resetting the state of your processor. This is a tough error to debug.

For instance, if I executed the instruction MOV.W #0xdfec, &0x0200, how would that word be stored in memory? Remember, each location (cubby hole) in memory stores one byte.

[Draw picture of memory here to contrast the two]

Often, the debugger will show memory like this: 0x0200: 0xec 0xdf 0xxx 0xxx, which can make it tough to read in little endian format.

Assembly and Machine Languages

Assembly Language

Now that we're familiar with our API, how do we interact with it? How do we talk to the computer?

Can a computer read assembly language? NO! What does a computer read? 1's and 0's.

For the first half of this course, we'll be writing in assembly. We use an assembler to convert from assembly to machine code.

Assembly Process

Let's write our first MSP430 program.

What's the first program we write when we're learning a language? Hello, world! But we don't have a screen on our dev board. So we use the only thing we've got - turn on the LEDs.

[Cat this program to the screen, walk through what each instruction is doing]

; This program sets all pins on Port 1 to output and high.  Since LEDs 1 and 2 are connected to P1.0 and P1.6 respectively, they will light up.

.include 'header.S'

    mov.w   #WDTPW, r15
    xor.w   #WDTHOLD, r15
    mov.w   r15, &WDTCTL
    bis.b   #0xFF, &P1DIR
    bis.b   #0xFF, &P1OUT
    jmp loop

.section ".vectors", "a"
    .org    0x1e
    .word   main

For the machine to be able to execute our code, we have to convert it to machine code. That's where the assembler comes in.

Here's the first step of our assembly process: Assembly Language Program --> Assembler --> Relocatable Object Code

Since the code we'll be writing isn't for the machine we're running on, we'll be using a cross-assembler. All this means is the assembler is creating machine code for an architecture different than what it's running on.

Don't worry about the individual instructions I'm running and the way I assemble. The IDE you'll use (CodeComposer) is a modern, GUI-based IDE that hides all of this from you. I'm just using these utilities to illustrate everything that goes on behind the scenes.

The output is a file called lightLED.o - a file containing relocatable object code. Here's what the machine code looks like:

Notice the addresses - the code starts at 0x0.

Hex dump of section '.text':
  0x00000000 3f40005a 3fe08000 824f2001 f2d32200 
  0x00000010 f2d32100 b0120000 ff3f

Are we good to go? Can we just load this on our MCU? No!

Think back to our memory map - can we write this region of memory? No, that's where our special function registers and memory-mapped peripherals are.

This file is formatted this way so that its code is relocatable. In the future, we may want to combine this with code from other files (from libraries, etc.) to create a single executable. So we need something that can potentially combine multiple object code files. We also need to place their code at the correct memory location depending on the MCU. The tool we use for this job is called a linker.

Assembly Language Program --> Assembler --> Relocatable Object Code --> Linker --> Executable Binary

[Show memory.x file for msp430g2553] - this is how the linker knows memory map for our particular chip.

Here's what the machine code looks like now:

Hex dump of section '.text':
  0x0000c000 3f40005a 3fe08000 824f2001 f2d32200
  0x0000c010 f2d32100 b0121ac0 ff3fc243 21003041

It's located at c000, the start of our flash ROM block! Great! Now we can use it to program the chip.

[DEMO: show the program on the computer, program the MSP430, show the result - Both LEDs light up]

Let's get a round of applause for our first program!

Let's disassemble the program. This will take our executable and attempt to convert it back to assembly. It gives us a good idea of which hex bytes correspond to which instructions.

Disassembly of section .text:

0000c000 <__ctors_end>:
    c000:    3f 40 00 5a     mov    #23040,    r15    ;#0x5a00
    c004:    3f e0 80 00     xor    #128,    r15    ;#0x0080
    c008:    82 4f 20 01     mov    r15,    &0x0120    
    c00c:    f2 d3 22 00     bis.b    #-1,    &0x0022    ;r3 As==11
    c010:    f2 d3 21 00     bis.b    #-1,    &0x0021    ;r3 As==11

0000c014 <loop>:
    c014:    ff 3f           jmp    $+0          ;abs 0xc014

From this disassembly, how can we tell if this is big-endian or little-endian?

We'll walk through how this program executes in the next lesson.

In years past, we've spent the entire semester working directly with assembly. A lot of people complained that it's irrelevant - could not be farther from the truth. Every single program that runs on your computer followed this process. It doesn't matter what language you start in. Every single program becomes assembly code. They all then are converted to machine code.