Forth language for ARM Cortex-M and TI MSP430: free Lite Compilers

May 20, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
Microprocessor Engineering (MPE) is a promoter of the Forth language, and contends that Forth offers faster coding and testing. Acknowledging that most work with forth in recent years has been in niche applications, MPE sees it as gaining traction and in its support, is now offering free versions of the Compiler for established DevKits to enable engineers to try it out.

Forth is available for ARM Cortex-M and TI MSP430 cores. The new, free, Lite compilers are targeted at standard Development Kits, providing developers of high integrity embedded systems with a fast route to prototyping.

The Forth programming language is suitable for applications where interactive programming, fast time to prototypes and incremental code generation are needed. High integrity system requirements are increasing in Medical, Rail, Automotive and Robot applications, where the most resilient and robust development processes are called for. Forth is well suited for such applications, MPE asserts.

The Lite compilers provide a complete integrated set of tools (unlike other languages). They include conventional cross-compilation as well as a complete Forth system resident on the target microcontroller. The Lite compiler's IDE and terminal emulator run on a PC, making remote servicing easier. Code generated is directly compiled into the microcontroller’s Flash memory. A USB connection, or even an RS232, is sufficient for in-the-field changes; software can be adapted and code changed, without using any additional tools, making the compiler ideal for testing set-ups and for field service.

Despite being called a Lite compiler, it provides plenty of capability. Lite versions are just limited in code size compared to the full Forth compilers, sufficient for small to medium size applications. And if the limit of code size has been reached, there is the cost effective path to the full Forth Compiler version.

With the Lite compiler, MPE has lowered the entry cost to Forth to zero, making it easier for programmers with C or other language skills to evaluate the benefits of Forth or of a combined C and Forth approach. As a first step it targets the widely used STM32F072B Discovery Board and MSP430G2553 Launchpad. Many of these boards are in designer’s hands now, ready for them to just download the new software and try it out. Support for other boards will soon be added to the MPE website.

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