knock yourselves out, guys …

I’m not quite sure why anyone would want to use the sort-of Arduino-compatible HamStack — billed as a microcontroller platform especially for amateur radio operators —in preference to developing amateur radio applications for Arduino, but chacun à son thingy. The PIC-based [I’d link to the PIC info page, but Microchip is giving me an internal server error] platform may have a few more IO pins than the stock Arduino, but:

  • development tools are expensive
  • there’s no cross-platform support
  • no direct USB support, either.

Some folks may already have gone to the expense of a PIC-based toolchain, but for beginners, it could be prohibitive. Maybe better to develop and improve radio applications for Arduino.


  1. If you know you want an arduino, you should use an arduino. If you are open to alternatives, the HamStack microcontroller boards have a lot to offer… Just to clarify a few points, at a very basic level, its just like an arduino but with a PIC vs an Atmel. At that level they are about the same. If you look closer, you will also notice the following for the HamStack…
    1. The development tools are FREE. Standard ANSI C compiler, Basic compiler, assembler.
    2. Compared to an Arduino Uno, its faster, has more IO, and more memory.
    3. There are tons of robotics examples for ardunio, but not much for ham radio. More ham stuff for the PIC.
    4. You can prototype with HamStack and then port it to your own embedded application for a few bucks.
    5. Better expandability vs arduino. More solder pads, connectors going up AND down from the CPU board if you choose.
    6. Several expansion boards and applications code tailored to ham radio projects.
    7. If you want to use USB HID directly, you can choose the PIC processors with USB.
    This is not a competition as to which is better, just different. Depending on your needs one or the other may be better.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, George. Perhaps my tone was a little harsh, but I do agree with you that as long as the µcontroller you have has enough IO, speed and program space for the problem in hand, use it! Sorry I missed your “Microcontrollers for Ham Radio Projects” session at Dayton.

    I’m not aware of any free, unlimited, cross-platform compilers for PIC. Most seem to be Windows-based and very limited in binary size in their free version. avr-gcc, the back-end to Arduino, will happily compile to any AVR destination.

    PIC has been around for ages; AVR less so, and Arduino’s really only been a thing for about five years. It’s no surprise that there are more ham applications for PIC than AVR. What does surprise me (in a good way, perhaps) is that HamStack has some Arduino pin compatibility — what Arduino shields could be of value to hams?

    Incidentally, you can prototype for Arduino and then port to your own embedded application, too, for the same few $ as PIC. ArduinoISP is one way of doing it, and I’ve also used it to program the neat little ATTiny85 chips, using the method described here: Programming an ATtiny w/ Arduino.

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