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Programming in assembler for starters

Assembler or other languages, that is the question. Why should I learn another language, if I already learned other programming languages? The best argument: while you live in France you are able to get through by speaking english, but you will never feel at home then, and life remains complicated. You can get through with this, but it is rather inappropriate. If things need a hurry, you should use the country's language.

Short and easy

Assembler commands translate one by one to executed machine commands. The processor needs only to execute what you want it to do and what is necessary to perform the task. No extra loops and unnecessary features blow up the generated code. If your program storage is short and limited and you have to optimize your program to fit into memory, assembler is choice 1. Shorter programs are easier to debug, every step makes sense.

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Fast and quick

Because only necessary code steps are executed assembly programs are as fast as possible. The duration of every step is known. Time critical applications, like time measurements without a hardware timer, that should perform excellent, must be written in assembler. If you have more time and don't mind if your chip remains 99% in a wait state type of operation you can choose any language you want.

Assembler is easy to learn

It is not true that assmbly language is more complicated or not as easy to understand than other languages. Learning assembly language for whatever hardware type brings you to understand the basic concepts of any assembly language. Adding other dialects later is easy. The first assembly code does not look very attractive, with every 100 additional lines programmed it looks better. Perfect programs require some thousand lines of code of exercise and optimization requires lots of work. As some features are hardware-dependant optimal code requires some familiarity with the hardware concept and the dialect. The first steps are hard in any language. After some weeks of programming you will laugh if you go through your first code. Some assembler commands need some monthes of experience.

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AT90Sxxxx are ideal for learning assembler

Assembler programs are a little bit silly: the chip executes anything you tell it to do and does not ask you if you are sure overwriting this and that. All protections must be programmed by you, the chip does anything like it is told. No window warns you, unless you programmed it before. Basic design errors are as complicated to debug like in any other computer language. But: testing programs on ATMEL chips is very easy. If it does not do what you expect it to do you can easily add some diagnostic lines to the code, reprogram the chip and test it. Bye, bye to you EPROM programmers, to the UV lamps used to erase your test program, to you pins that don't fit into the socket after having them removed some douzend times. Changes are now programmed fast, compiled in no time, and either simulated in the studio or checked in-circuit. No pin is removed, and no UV lamp gives up just in the moment when you had your excellent idea about that bug.

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Test it!

Be patient doing your first steps! If you are familiar with another language: forget it for the first time. Behind every assembler language there is a certain hardware concept. Most of the special features of other computer languages don't make any sense in assembler. The first five commands are not easy to learn, then your learning speed rises fast. After you had your first lines: grab the instruction set list and lay back in the bathtub, wondering what all the other commands are like. Don't try to program a mega- machine to start with. This does not make sense in any computer language, and just produces frustration. Comment your subroutines and store them in a special directory, if debugged: you will need them again in a short time. Have success!

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