TI FRAM kit unboxing

There’s one and only one thing about mondays that i like. Mr. Postman usually comes on mondays. It makes no rational or logical sense, but for some reason, goodies always arrive on mondays to me.

Anyways, a some time ago, Dangerous Prototypes posted a tip on a 50% off coupon for Texas Instruments’ FRAM Experimenter Boards, which brings them down from $29 to $15, shipping and customs covered, anywhere in the world. And they use FedEx for shipping. So, naturally, being curious about FRAM, i’ve finally ordered one last friday. It arrived today, so iiiiiit’s… GOODIE UNBOXING TIME!

So, what’s FRAM anyways? In short (if you were lazy to click the Wiki link), it’s a type of random access memory that uses polarization of a ferroelectric layer – hence the F in the name – to store bits, instead of using what are essentially charges in a capacitor (like in DRAM).

It isn’t volatile, as you might expect from the name, though. It’s major competitor is flash, not traditional RAM, and it’s got some serious advantages over it. First of all, it draws a few orders of magnitude less current than flash for write operations.

Second of all, it can endure a near infinite number of write cycles. Finally, it’s faster. Much faster. About 100 times faster. It might also be advantageous for HAB (High Altitude Baloon) enthusiasts, due to its higher resilience to ionizing radiation – since there are no charge carriers that could be flipped by, say, a high energy proton, it’s error rate should be drastically lower.

That’s, actually, one of the main reasons i was interested in it. I’ll try and tag it along on the next Team Synergy Moon HAB flight, if i get the chance (and if i’m allowed, of course). Anyways, what’s the catch with FRAM? Well, it’s hard to make. It’s pricey. And it has a much smaller density than flash memory.

So, what do we have here? It’s a board not unlike the TI LaunchPad, but with MSP430FR5739 on board, instead of the regular MSP430 variants usually found on those. MSP430FR5739 being the first MCU on the market that contains embedded FRAM. Here are the specs at a glance:

  • 16KB FRAM / 1KB SRAM
  • 16-Bit RISC Architecture up to 8-MHz
  • 2x Timer_A Blocks, 3x Timer_B Block
  • 1x USCI (UART/SPI/IrDA/I2C ) Blocks, 16Ch 10-Bit ADC12_B, 16Ch Comp_D, 32 I/Os

There’s other nifty stuff on board too, like a 3-axis accelerometer, thermistor, space for an LDR sensor (not included) and a 32.768 kHz crystal (included), two headers for TI CCxxxx series wireless daughter cards and one for hookup to the big MSP-EXP430F5438 experimenter’s board. Oh, and 8 LEDs you can do whatever you please with. Holy jumping aardvarks, Batman, thassalotta LEDs!

Haven’t found the time to play with it yet (the package got here only some 2.5 hours ago), but i intend to. Oh how i intend to! MUAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Edit: Fixed some horribly wrong claims regarding the way FRAM functions… i don’t know what i was thinking while writing this, must’ve been sleep deprivation.

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