F# meets the Raspberry Pi

by Pezi 2. March 2013 22:58

I got a Pi for my birthday! A great excuse to get back into electronics.

After unsuccessfully struggling to get the F# compiler to build under the stable version of mono for Debian Wheezy, I realised that F# programs work just fine if you build normally from a windows computer, throw in FSharp.Core.dll in the /bin/ and copy it over. So I have a setup now where I work with VS2012 / Sublime and sync the executable and libraries with WinScp (or indeed the Scp plugin for FAR Manager).

Next up is to get access to the hardware. I built this C library as a shared object, dumped it in with the other binaries of my project and it worked through P/Invoke with no hassle at all ! 

I've quite a bit of electronics experience, so after I did some basic tests that the various I/O pins could be set to output and switch from High to Low, I skipped the traditional "hello world" of hardware (blinking an LED) and figured I'd try something a little bit more ambitious. I have a little LCD screen laying around in my old gear, it's a standard LCD driven by the Hitachi HD4480 LCD Controller. You can use these in 8-bit or 4-bit mode, with the 8 bit mode needing 4 more I/O pins.  I'm using the 4 bit mode because I don't really have that many pins and it's pretty easy (although a little fiddly) to use it in 4-bit mode.  

I'm using a total of 7 I/O pins,  E (enable), RS (switch between command and character mode), RW (I'm not actually using this right now) , and then DB4 through DB7 which are the 4 input bits (they are the higher nibble of the full 8 bits). This is the circuit :

In this schematic the Pi pins relate to the actual physical pin numbers, however in the code a mapping is needed over to what the Pi internally calls its GPIO pins.  I created an enum for this purposes, only containing the pins I am using for now

type GPIOPins =
    | Pin_11 = 17u
    | Pin_12 = 18u
    | Pin_13 = 27u
    | Pin_15 = 22u
    | Pin_16 = 23u
    | Pin_18 = 24u
    | Pin_22 = 25u

For example the physical pin 11 maps to GPIO number 17.  Infact when I first hooked this circuit up and wrote all the code to perform the LCD initilization I couldn't get it to work. Thankfully I happen to have a 16 channel logic analyzer in my scope so I hooked up all the inputs, set it to a single sweep triggering on the rising edge of the Enable pin over 500ms and noticed that the RW pin was always high - strange (I neglected to take a picture of the waveforms for this post :( ).  Turns out that the Pi user manual is WRONG, I have got a slightly later revision of the board where pin 13 is mapped to 27, not 21!

The next bit of code imports a couple of the functions from the C library and creates a couple of mini functions around them

[<DllImportAttribute("libbcm2835.so", EntryPoint = "bcm2835_init")>]
extern bool bcm2835_init()

[<DllImport("libbcm2835.so", EntryPoint = "bcm2835_gpio_fsel")>]
extern void bcm2835_gpio_fsel(GPIOPins pin, bool mode_out);

[<DllImport("libbcm2835.so", EntryPoint = "bcm2835_gpio_write")>]
extern void bcm2835_gpio_write(GPIOPins pin, bool value);

let fsel pin value = bcm2835_gpio_fsel(pin,value)                        
let write pin value = bcm2835_gpio_write(pin,value)            
let wait (ms:int) = System.Threading.Thread.Sleep(ms)

To use the LCD you write some bits to the data pins, then bring the Enable pin high for a few us then pull it low again ("pulse"). The LCD then does something depending on the input bits. In order to prepare it for 4-bit use I first have to send it a few 0x03 (0011) packets as per the spec indicates. Then I can switch it into 4-bit mode (0x2). From this point on, I can use all the 8-bit commands from the spec. Because I'm running in 4 bit mode I have to send the high nibble first, pulse, then send the low nibble. I wrapped some of the LCD functionality up in a F# record type (note: all this code is just a first stab, everything with hardware is inherently to do with mutating state so I won't be using a lot of the real functional features of the language just yet, but I'll see what I can do about that later)

type LCDCommands =
    | AllLow =          0b00000000
    | Clear =           0b00000001
    | Home =            0b00000010   
    | FourBit =         0b00100000   
    | TwoLine =         0b00001100    
    | DisplayOn =       0b00001100
    | CursorOn =        0b00000001
    | AutoIncCursor =   0b00000110    
    | Line2 =           0xC0
type LCD = { E : GPIOPins; RW : GPIOPins; RS : GPIOPins; 
             DB4 : GPIOPins; DB5 : GPIOPins; DB6 : GPIOPins; DB7 : GPIOPins; }
    member lcd.Pulse() = // toggles enable 
        write lcd.E true; wait 1
        write lcd.E false; wait 1
    member lcd.WriteNibble(value) = // write the lower four bits to the data pins and pulses
        write lcd.DB7 (value >>> 3 &&& 0x1 = 0x1)
        write lcd.DB6 (value >>> 2 &&& 0x1 = 0x1)
        write lcd.DB5 (value >>> 1 &&& 0x1 = 0x1)
        write lcd.DB4 (value &&& 0x1 = 0x1)
        wait 1
    member lcd.WriteByte(value) =
        lcd.WriteNibble(value >>> 4) // write high nibble first
    member lcd.Command = int >> lcd.WriteByte

I have captured some of the LCD commands in another enum - some of these have to be OR'd together as per the spec. I've just encoded the ones I'm going to use. The there's the pulse which toggles enable with a tiny delay. Because I'm in 4 bit mode I'll always be writing nibbles with a pulse at the end - the WriteByte function simply writes the high nibble first then the low nibble as the spec indicates. The last function is just a wrapper so I can directly use the LCDCommand enum.

member lcd.Initialize() = // I am only using the (annoyingly fiddly) 4 bit mode
        // assume 1000ms or so has passed since program start up
        // make sure pins are set to output
        fsel lcd.E   true; fsel lcd.RW  true
        fsel lcd.RS  true; fsel lcd.DB4 true
        fsel lcd.DB5 true; fsel lcd.DB6 true
        fsel lcd.DB7 true
        // zero them all out
        lcd.Command LCDCommands.AllLow
        // to start with we are only writing special wakeup nibbles
        lcd.WriteNibble(0x3); wait 5 // as per spec, first call has a 5ms wait
        lcd.WriteNibble(0x3); wait 1
        lcd.WriteNibble(0x3); wait 1
        // now set into 4 bit mode and send 8 bits in 2 nibbles from now on
        lcd.Command(LCDCommands.FourBit ||| LCDCommands.TwoLine)     // set 5x8 mode 2 lines
        lcd.Command(LCDCommands.DisplayOn ||| LCDCommands.CursorOn)  // switch it on

This is the startup sequence - set all the pins to Output, zero them all out, and then follow the startup sequence as per the spec. initially I have to just use nibbles, until the wake-up sequence is complete, then I can set it to 4-bit mode and use full byte commands. Once the display is in 4-bit mode I switch it to 5x8 mode with 2 lines and switch the screen on with a flashing cursor and so on.

member lcd.WriteText(text:string,clear) = 
        if clear then lcd.Command(LCDCommands.Clear)
        write lcd.RS true; wait 1
        Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(text) |> Seq.iter(int >> lcd.WriteByte)
        write lcd.RS false; wait 1

Lastly a function to output some text. To do this you have to set the LCD into character output mode by pulling RS high; then you can send ASCII codes and the LCD will print them.

Pulling this all together I wrote that classic silly number-guessing game you write when learning to program, with the output on the LCD:

let main argv = 
        match bcm2835_init() with
        | true ->
            let lcd = { E = GPIOPins.Pin_11; RW = GPIOPins.Pin_12; RS = GPIOPins.Pin_13; 
                        DB4 = GPIOPins.Pin_15; DB5 = GPIOPins.Pin_16; DB6 = GPIOPins.Pin_18; DB7 = GPIOPins.Pin_22 }
            wait 1000
            let rec loop number attempts =                
                    let guess = Console.ReadLine() |> Int32.Parse
                    if guess = number then                     
                        lcd.WriteText("YOU WIN!",false)
                    elif attempts + 1 > 5 then
                        lcd.WriteText("YOU LOSE!!",false)
                        lcd.WriteText("WRONG!! ",true)
                        lcd.WriteText((if number < guess then "< " else "> ") + guess.ToString(),false)
                        lcd.WriteByte(0xC0); wait 2
                        lcd.WriteText("GUESS AGAIN!",false)
                        loop number (attempts + 1 )
                 | _ -> printfn "Number not reconigsed. Try again"
                        loop number attempts
            lcd.WriteText("Guess a number",true)
            lcd.WriteByte(0xC0); wait 2
            lcd.WriteText("0 <---> 50",false)
            loop (System.Random(DateTime.Now.Millisecond).Next(51)) 0

        | false -> printfn "failed to init"
    | ex -> printfn "exception thrown : %s" <| ex.ToString()

Here's a pic of it working ..

Cool! This was just a silly project to test everything is working properly - I can take over the world now. 

Comments (2) -

Art Scott
Art Scott
3/11/2013 6:05:52 AM #

Hi. Thanks. GR8 blog, just what I've been looking for.
What is your setup? A or B? SD? What is that plugboard? Favorite vendors?
I'd appreciate more info on your configuration.
I'm about to purchase RPi for my nephew to get up on the learning curve.

3/11/2013 1:27:01 PM #

Hey! Thanks for your comment. I'm using a B Pi.  I have a bunch of old electronics / robotics gear lying around primarily from http://www.parallax.com/, who I hugely recommend both in terms of education and sensors etc (they have little to do with the Pi though). The protoboard is a rather expensive one aimed more at BS2 & SX circuit development, but it has a great deal of awesome common things on it to save a lot of messing about. I've had it a long long time, this is it http://bit.ly/VZhe0u  Cheers!

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