Getting Started With The Msp430

This tutorial is an introductory tutorial on getting started with the MSP430 series of controllers by Texas Instruments. There are millions and trillions of ways to start using microcontrollers. Hobbyist or people who find hard to code normally prefers Arduino as their coding environment, while engineers might prefer using AVR/PIC. The MSP430 microcontroller is an extremely versatile platform which supports many applications. With its ability to consume ultra-low power it enables the designing engineer to meet the goals of many projects. It has, of course, its limitations. It is inclined mostly towards low energy and less intensive applications that operate with batteries, so processing capabilities and memory, among other things, are limited. However it’s still called a mixed-signal processor and is capable of doing some sort of speech processing. Before starting with some exposure to hardware and software part, I assume that you all have some sort of programming knowledge in embedded c. Even if you know java or c++, you will still be able to adapt to the tutorials easily as the logic will remain the same, only the code language changes.


The other difference which gives MSP430 an edge over other PIC/AVR that it’s is a 16-bit controller as compared to AVR/PIC which is an 8-Bit controller. By 16-bit controller, we mean that it has a 16bit data bus.

Now, let’s have a look at the software available to program the MSP430. For programming the MSP430, there are three major software available

  • IAR – A very commonly used compiler with a free version but rather expensive
  • Code Composer Essentials (CCE) – Developed by TI and also available with a free version but restricted memory
  • MSPGCC – Free Compiler with good capabilities based on GCC

Although IAR and CCE are not free but they do have a code limited version which is fully supported to program MSP430 without any restrictions. Regarding MSP430, although it’s free open-source but it might give some hardware hiccups every now and then.

For the purpose for the tutorial, I will be using Code Composer Studio, which can easily be downloaded from for free of cost. However you have to request a download request to them and it might take 2-3 days for the downlink to be made available but it’s worth waiting considering the fact that it’s provided free of cost.

For your information, the free version of IAR limits the code to 4KB of flash memory and CCS to 16kb of memory but majority of the MSP430 variants have lesser memory than 16kb, so using CCE you will not face a problem related to memory.

Both the CCE and IAR comes with built-in integrated debugging environment, however the msp430gcc users will have to use msp430dbg for debugging purpose. It’s really important to have some sort of debugging support from the software as it gives the user a chance to verify the system that whether it’s working in the way it should.

Since we have already talked about compilers, let’s talk about the programmers. The MSP430 series of microcontroller features a programmer which is named as Flash emulation tool which mainly provides ability to burn the code into the chip and also serve as a debugging tool. You can program the MSP430 both via JTAG or a 2 wire connection but hang on for a moment, you don’t need a separate tool or device to program the MSP430. The hardware we will be using provides an on-board programming capability that too via USB.

Next is the most important part, the hardware. For those who are eager to know the cost of the hardware which as an on-board programmer, it’s just 10$. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Initially it was launched at a whooping price of just 4.5$ and that’s really cheap as compared to AVR/PIC on functionality basis. The hardware is known as MSP430 launchpad and can easily be found out on our store.


Another advantage of using the Launchpad is, that the chip is removable and replaceable. So even if you burn out your chip due to wrong connections, no need to worry just get a new chip and replace it and you are ready to go. If you have a little extra money, you might buy some fancy boards that have an on-board peripheral such as LCD, matrix e.t.c.

For the purpose for the tutorial, I will be using MSP430 launchpad. Now before you buy, the Launchpad is available in different version and they vary only in the chip of MSp430. I suggest you to go with v1.5 but even if you have 1.4, it’s not at all a problem. You can replace the DIP msp430 chip with those in v1.5 and use it in v1.4.

The chip I will be using is MSP430g2553 which has capability to go up to 25MHZ, 16kb of flash memory and up to 512b of RAM and 24 GPIO pins. An interesting thing, that it also features an integrated analog temperature sensor.



Let’s move to a simple ready to burn program that we will use to check our working of Launchpad after configuring the software needs.

Assuming that you have downloaded and installed the software without any error.  Start the code composer studio from start menu or desktop and make sure that you have connected your Launchpad to the PC via the cable provided. In case you get a driver error while connecting the Launchpad, you may comment below so that I can assist you.

On first start of the software, you will get an option to where to decide your workspace folder. Choose where it’s feasible to you. I am going with my documents.



On the next screen select the code limited version if you are prompted with the license. The next step is to create a new project so go to FILE->NEW->CCS project. You will see following on screen


In this type any project name you wish to and in the variant name write MSP430G2553 OR YOU CAN SIMPLY SELECT FROM THE DROPDOWN MENU AS YOU WISH. Kindly note it’s important to select this controller, as we will be using this. However if you are using another variant of msp430 chip, you will have to change to that variant. In the project templates and examples at the bottom, select Blink the LED as we will be using that and click finish. As soon as you click finish, a new window will open with the code already written into it. Don’t try to think much about the code, as we will see it in the later stages.


One thing I forgot to mention is that the Launchpad features on-board two led’s and two push-button, one for reset and other as a peripheral. For now, go to PROJECT->build. Your code will get compiled now without an error and will be ready to be burn. Now move onto RUN->Debug. At this stage you might get a ULP advisor error, simply click proceed. After clicking debug and proceeding you will get a screen like given below


Just click the Play button, and your code will start executing. You might want to push the reset button the device.


Congrats you have successfully burned your first program into the device in a natural way.

That’s all for the getting started tutorial. The next tutorial will be out soon featuring some more features of the Launchpad and the MSP430.

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