Answering a common question

I just finished up writing a reply to what is a fairly common question.

I was wondering how well the propeller chip is going for you? I've just got started with the prop chip myself and was really kinda questioning the ability of the chip to handle all the power and complexity of a fairly advanced machine.

Truth be told, I ask myself this question frequently, so I thought I'd share the answer with anyone else who might be following along.

Q: So, how's that Propeller chip working for you?

A: I'm not one for short answers, even where they might be warranted...

Even though I really like the chip, in all honestly I think the Propeller will eventually fall short. It is a rather powerful chip, however it is really restricting to have to live within the hub and cog memory constraints.

Speed wise I have not had any issues and I'm pretty sure that the Propeller can easily handle the lamp matrix and switches. It is really easy to work with the 32 general purpose I/O. I have also enjoyed remembering that efficient programming is important even in this world of unlimited memory and CPU power.

What I am getting from the chip, is the ability to tinker with the machine using a simple prototyping board that cost under $25. Hard to beat that. I've been able to learn a lot about the pinball machine using this setup.

Finishing a complete playable game with just the Propeller is an interesting challenge. I need to decide if it is the challenge I want to tackle. I do think it can be done.

What it will come down to for me with the Propeller is: Do I want to spend a lot of my time writing page swapping code (to and from an SD card) and hand tuning asm code (to fit game play mechanics in 512 Longs), or would I rather get myself a nice embedded ARM board that frees me from restrictions and lets me actually make the pinball machine go. IE: is this about tinkering with the propeller, or making a pinball machine.

I spent a lot of time considering Technologic Systems SBC's and I think you could go a long way with one of these running linux: Technologic Systems TS-7260 [


Eventually I'll probably move to a board like that, possibly using a propeller or other MCU based I/O and power driver board.

I hope to get back to actual progress on the pinball next month. Hopefully we will get to see more of how the Propeller is working for me, rather than reading what I think about it.