John Catsoulis' Upgraded Scamp Family Offers a Platform for Embedded Forth Experimentation

Built around a Microchip PIC24, the new Scamp development board range offers plenty of features for those looking to work with FlashForth.

Gareth Halfacree
28 days ago β€’ HW101

Embedded hardware and software designer John Catsoulis has designed a family of stick-format embedded systems as educational and experimentation platforms for the Forth programming language: the Scamp range, now including the top-end Scamp3e and low-cost Scamp2e.

"Scamp is a turnkey Forth computer, with lots of I/O [Input/Output] and a built-in API [Application Programming Interface]," Catsoulis explains of his creations. "It's easy to interface, and easy and quick to program using Forth, the world's best embedded programming language. Scamp has a USB console, ADC [Analog to Digital Converter], I2C, SPI, lots of I/O, temperature sensor, and lots of functionality with inbuilt software support that you don't get with an Arduino."

The refreshed Scamp development board family aims to make it easy to work with FlashForth. (πŸ“Ή: Udamonic)

The original Udamonic Scamp launched back in 2020, using the Microchip PIC24 as its base. The Scamp3 expands on the original design with 64kB of flash memory, 8kB of RAM, and a 17-strong one-dimensional array of LEDs β€” one amber, 16 red β€” which can be used to indicate a program's operation without needing external hardware. For those who need more, the Scamp3e adds 2MB of flash storage for data and an RS485 interface β€” sitting alongside the four UARTs and USB 2.0 connection of the standard Scamp3.

The Scamp2e, meanwhile, is designed as a cost-reduced option for those who would like the RS485 connectivity of the Scamp3e but who don't need the status LEDs β€” dropping down a single amber LED β€” and who can live with the choice of two UARTs or one UART and the RS485 bus active at any one time.

All models run FlashForth, an embedded-focused implementation of a programming language first developed by Chuck Moore in 1970. "Forth's unique approach to programming is rooted in its simplicity. It's a stack-based, postfix notation language, which may sound unconventional at first, but it's precisely this simplicity that makes it exceptionally powerful for embedded systems," Catsoulis explains of his love for the language.

"In the world of constrained resources, every byte of memory and every CPU cycle count. Forth's minimalistic syntax and small runtime footprint ensure that you can do more with less."

More information on the Scamp range is available on the Udamonic website, while the boards themselves can be purchased ready-assembled from the Udamonic Tindie store at $22.95 for the Scamp2e, $29.95 for the Scamp3, and $37.95 for the Scamp3e.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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