I am still
It's been a while since I did a
newsletter - 4 months in fact. The reason is that I made myself go
back "on the tools" about 14 weeks ago. There was some
development/programming work that nobody in the engineering
department was getting around to. Like so many of our customers, we
find that work that will yield long-term benefits all too often gets
put off in favour of immediate needs and demands. Something had
to be done! So I vacated my desk and office, moved my laptop into
the lab, bought a 27" monitor :-) and got stuck in.
It has been fun, and challenging,
There have been a number of outcomes, one of which is desribed
below. Read on ...
Affordable, easy to program, colour touch
As touch screens become more and
more a part of everyday life, with smart 'phones, hand held
games consoles and the like, it is only to be expected that our
customers would like their products to also have the same glamour
and convenience. The challenge for us is that Apple sold more
iPhones on the first day than we would expect to sell controllers in
a year. The economies of scale are totally different. For us to be
able to offer something that slick, at an affordable price, would
require a miracle.
Has a miracle happened?
Well, maybe not quite, but we have
come up with a pretty nifty solution.
I have been dropping a few hints
in recent months about a new development project here at SPLat. We
have been developing a new controller family, called NG, for
Next Generation. This has a 32-bit, 72MHz ARM
processor, which is very fast, and loaded with memory and on-chip
peripherals. We are also developing SPLatBASIC a
special version of the BASIC language that is optimised for
deeply embedded static controls. SPLatBASIC is
inherently multi-tasking, avoids dynamic memory allocation
(eliminating a major source of failures (non-determinism) in
embedded controls) and contains a number of instructions aimed
squarely at our application space. SPLat
NG also has the power to support a tightly coupled graphics touch
We have teamed up with a company
called 4D Systems. They are an industry leader in OEM style touch
screen modules ranging in size from around 2" up to 3.2",
with larger ones on the way. Their
3.2", 320x240pixel, 64K colour module is just USD79. You will
be able to buy them from us, directly from 4D, or from any one of 4D
A good chunk of my last few
months has been invested writing a function library to
drive the 4D Systems display modules (initially the 3.2" unit)
off a SPLat NG controller. The library is designed to make it
extremely easy to implement the kinds of things you would want
in a dedicated embedded machine controller, things like menus, data
entry keypad, status displays, buttons, LEDs etc.
I have prepared a YouTube video
clip to show you what we can do. Please click here to see
The colour touch screens, along
with 32-bit Next Generation controller technology, are available
now for custom controls and will be available in COTS Rapid
Prototyping products in 4Q2010.