Im just getting started with Microchip. After looking over their web site, I quickly became overwhelmed! I would appreciate any suggestions on how I should get started to learn, and the minimum items I need to download or purchase.
The only thing you have to buy is a PICkit2, with it's assembled and tested daughter board, for about $50.00.
Everything else, including MPLAB, data sheets, application notes, and product samples, are free from Microchip.
Start with the 16F Mid-Range products.
One of the most robust 16F series chips is the 16F887. You can order samples from this web site.
The Microchips 16F series of microcontrollers have extensive application notes.
The 16F data sheets include sample code for every on-board module.
99.5% of the mid-range data-sheets, and application notes, include code written in assembly language.
Not a big deal since there are only 32 16F assembly language instructions. And, you really should be comfortable with assembly language before moving on to C. C is much more efficient with the higher end PICs.
If you must get a compiler, consider the PicBasicPro from Micro Engineering Labs. In comparison tests, it compiled tighter and faster code than it's Basic, and C, competition. A fully working demo with sample programs is available from their web site.
The high-end PICs have more memory, more instructions [many are C-friendly instructions], some specialized modules, and no register banking,.
But, there are some problems. Microchip assumes you know what your are doing. So, the high-end PICs tend to have skimpy documentation. Many of the code samples are in C. Again, your really should have a working knowledge of assembly language first.
A bigger problem is the chip packaging. Many high-end PICs do not come in DIP packages. For many, that makes prototyping very difficult, if not impossible.
hope this information helps.