Basic Stamp Computer Tutorial
Created by Chip Randall, TJHSST
Rev 1, March 1999

Table of Contents

Purpose of Tutorial

Part One-Using the Editor

Part Two-Controlling Pins With BASIC Commands, Binary System

Part Three-Addresses. Variables. Variable Commands

Part Four-Execution Order Commands

Part Five-Reading High/Low Pin Conditions And Variable Resistances

Command Index with Syntax

Purpose Of this tutorial

The Basic Stamp computer is a product of Parallax Incorporated. The Stamp manual provided by Parallax is often confusing and advanced for the person with no programming experience. This tutorial attempts to give the beginning programmer a little more detailed information about the function and use of the most common P-Basic commands used with the Stamp.

The Stamp is a microcontroller used to control electronic devices. It sends output signals to these devices and "listens" to the input information they provide. It is necessary to have some knowledge of the how basic electronic components operate and how they should be hooked into a circuit. This tutorial will give example programs which use the following components:

The applications described in this tutorial are very basic electronic circuits. They were selected primarily to provide the beginner with programming experience. There are countless other applications which engineers and electronic experimenters are glad to share with the public. A wealth of information can be found at Parallax's web site, This web site also give information on joining the company sponsored chat line and additionally provides interesting links to related web sites.

Part 1: Using the Editor

The editor is a kind of word processor program which is supplied on a disk from the manufacturer. We download this program from the disk to the STAMP directory in our PC. We use the editor to type our lines of programming. The editor also has a section which talks and listens to the Stamp using special commands. The PBASIC commands are run line by line. That is, the computer does what the commands tell it to do one line after another and only one command at a time. The commands tell the stamp which operations to perform and which of the 8 I/O (input/output) pins are to be involved.

To enter the editor from the c:> prompt, type:

cd\stamp [Enter]
"STAMP" [Enter]

Once in the editor, programs can be saved and loaded. To save a file, hold down Alt and press S. Then type a file name using 8 characters or less. To load a file, hold down Alt and type L, then enter the name of the saved file. To exit the program, hold down alt and type Q.

Editor Function Keys

F1 Editor command help

Alt L List programs available

Alt R Run program

Enter Enter information

Shift (hold) arrows highlights text with arrow direction

Escape Key Cancel highlighted text

Delete Key Delete highlighted text

Alt X Cut highlighted text and place in clipboard

Alt C Copy highlighted text to clipboard

Alt V Paste clipboard into document

Alt P Get Scale of Potentiometer

NOTE: More detailed editor commands are in Stamp manual supplied by Parallax.

Comments may be added to program lines. Begin comments with an apostrophe. (') The computer will not read anything after an apostrophe until the next line begins. For example:

pause 100 'pause for 0.1 second

Part 2 - Controlling Pins and Time

 Topics covered:


The Basic Stamp has 8 I/O (input/output) pins which can be connected to various electrical and electronic components. These pins can be programmed to receive electrical information or send out electrical information in various forms. When the pins are in the output mode, they can be either high (positive) or low (negative).

Command Function

Output 0 or Dir0=1 makes pin 0 an output pin

Input 7 or Dir7=0 makes pin 7 an input pin

Dirs=%00001010 or Dirs=10 Sets all pins marked 0 to input and all pins marked 1 to output.

Low 3 or Pin3=0 Makes pin 3 low or negative.

High 4 or Pin4=1 Makes pin 4 high or positive.

Pins=%11001001 (binary) Makes all pins marked 1(high) and makes all pins marked 0(low). In this example, pins 0,3,6,& 7 are high. pins 1,2,4,& 5 are low

NOTE: The % signs means the number system in use is BINARY. Pins are numbered from right to left 7,6,5,4,3,2,1,0.

The Conversion of Binary into Decimal

A decimal number can be used to control the pins the same as a binary number. Each pin has a decimal value as shown below.

pin 0=1 pin 4=16
pin 1=2 pin 5=32
pin 2=4 pin 6=64
pin 3=8 pin 7=128

To convert a binary number to a decimal number, determine which pins are to be made high, add decimal value of each pin to be made high and the total is the decimal conversion value.

Above, the command PINS=%11001001 was used. This could also have been written PINS=201 (1+8+64+128=201).


Reverse 6 (Reverses Input/Output state of Pin 6.)


Toggle 0 (Reverses the high/low state of pin 0 .)


Pause 100 (Pauses the program for 100 milliseconds or 0.1 second (100 x 0.001 seconds = .1 second) before moving on to the next command line. Pause can be set from 1 to 65535 milliseconds.)


Nap, period Nap enters a "Sleep" mode for a short period of time. Period can be any number from 0 to 7, each interval representing about 18ms.


Nap 7

This reduces the computers power to 20 micro-amps for 2304ms, or 2.304 seconds.


Sleep seconds Sleep mode is similar to NAP, just longer. Seconds is a number from 1 to 65535. This is from 1 second to a little more than 18 hours.


Sleep 120 This tells the stamp to reduce power to 20 micro-amps for 2 minutes


High 6
Pause 10
Low 6
Sleep 3600 'Go to sleep for 1 hour (60 secs x 60 =1 hr)


End (End stops the line by line execution of the program. The reset switch will have to be activated, or the program reloaded, or power taken off and then applied in order for the program to run again.)

Sound,(tone,duration,...tone, duration)

Sound 0,(50,100) Sends a tone (50) for a duration of 100 out of pin 0. The best tone range to use with small speakers is 30 to 120. Speakers The duration can be from 0 to 255. Multiple tones may be programmed into one command set.

Sound 0,(70,100,0,100,120,100) Note that the first and third sound sets produce a tone of 70 for a duration of 100 and 120 for a duration of 100 while the second set produces silence for a duration of 100. Using a tone of 0 produces no sound or a pause in sound between the first and third sound sets.

The following is an approximate music scale:

C 35, C# 40, D 44, D# 49, E 53, F 58, F #60, G 65, G# 68, A 72, A #75, B 78, C 81

Multiple commands can be put on the same line separated with a colon.


Sound 0,(90,120): High 3: Pause 100

Part 3 - Branching And Looping

 Topics Coverd:


Address An ADDRESS is a label for a portion of a program. It is useful when you wish to execute different portions of the program out of line-by-line sequence. To go to an address.


Goto address (To go to an address, use the command GOTO.)

The following is a sample program with an address and the GOTO command:

Start: The colon tells the Stamp that this is an address. Don't use P-basic command words as address titles.
High 6 Makes pin 6 positive 5 volts
Pause 120 Pauses the program for 120 milliseconds.
Low 6 Makes pin 6 negative
Pause 20 Pauses the program for 20 milliseconds.
Goto start Loops back up to the Start: and begins the program again


Gosub address

Return (sends program back to latest Gosub.

The following program uses the Gosub/Return pair command. Gosub directs the program to go to another address and then return to where it left.

High 4
Pause 200
Low 4
Pause 200
Gosub TOOT
Goto begin

Sound 0,(100,200)


A variable is a location in the computer's memory where numbers can be stored. There are three different types of variables - bits, bytes, and words. There are 8 bits in each byte and 2 bytes in each word.

High or low values, 0 or 1, can be stored in bits.

Values up to 255 can be stored in bytes.

Very large values up to 65,535 can be stored as words.

Bytes are used with most commands. To store a number in a byte, state the name of the variable, and set it equal to that number. For example, to store the number 0 in a bit, you would type bit2=0. To store the number 55 in a byte, type b3=55. To store the number 1233 in a word, type w4=1233. Only bits 0 through 15 can be addressed. There are 14 bytes (b0 through b13) and 7 words (w0 to w6).

W0 is composed of b0 and b1, w1 is composed of b2 and b3 and so on to w6 which is composed of b12 and b13.

B0 is composed of bit0 to bit 7 and b1 is composed of bit8 to bit 15.

Caution should be taken not to try to store data in variable already being used.

For more detailed information about variables, see the stamp manual.


Random wordvariable

Debug variable

This will generate a random number from 1 to 65535 and store it in a word (two byte) variable specified in the command line. In the example which follows, the random number will be stored in word W1 which is made up of byte 2 (b2) byte 3 (b3). The program then uses the lower byte (b2) of w1 as part of the Sound command.


ANNOY: Address
Random w1
Debug W1 'displays the value of w1 on editor screen
Debug B2 'B2 is lower byte of W1 (0 to 256)
Sound 0, (b2, 100)


Syntax: If, condition, Then, address

If the "condition" is true than the program will goto the address. Otherwise, it will simply proceed down to the next program line.

Condition can be any logical statement, such as b2 < 3, or pins=255. Operators allowed are:

The "address" part must be an address in the program.

In this program example we use the Annoy program from the RANDOM introduction and eliminate any sounds below 30 or above 120.

Random w1
Debug W1 'displays the value of w1 on editor screen
Debug B2 'B2 is lower byte of W1 (0 t0 256)
If b2<30 or b2>120 Then ANNOY
Sound (b2, 100)


For variable = start To end Step increment

The For-Next command provides a method of repeating commands for a specified number of times. The following program will blink an LED attached to pin 1, 6 times:

For b2= 0 to 5 (Note that the 0 counts for one time.)
high 1
pause 100
low 1
pause 100
next b2

The following program will blink the LED 4 times.

For b2 = 2 to 8 step 2
High 1
Pause 100
Low 1
Pause 100
Next b2

Note that the program increments through in steps of 2. Unless the step is written, the program will increment through plus one step or one number at a time.

The following program will blink the seven LED's in sequence.

For b2 = 1 to 7 'step 1
high b2
pause 100
low b2
pause 100
next b2
For b2 = 8 to 2 step -2 'increments in steps of -2
high b2
pause 100
low b2
pause 100
next b2

Note that this program used the For...Next to count the number of times the program looped through. And, it also used the value of b2 to determine which pin would be made high.


Branch offset variable

This command allows us to send the program operation to an address selected from a list of several addresses.


For b2= 0 to 2
Branch b2, (Noise, Blink, Flash) b2 is called the OFFSET

next b2

Sound 0,(50,100,70,120)
Goto Proceed

For b3=0 to 8 step 2
high b3
pause 100
low b3
next b3
Goto Proceed

Pins =255
pause 200
Goto Proceed

When the value of b2 is 0, the program will branch and run the NOISE subroutine. When the value of b2 is 1, it will branch to and run the BLINK subroutine. etc

PART 4-Execution Order Commands


The let command allows the programmer to assign numerical values to variables.


Let b4=120 Assigns the value of 120 to the variable b2

Let b6=3 + 7 Assigns the value of 10 to variable b6

Below is a list of the math operator symbols:


let b2= 10/5 b2 is now equal to 2

let b2= b2*3 b2 is now equal to 2 x 3 or 6

let b2= b2//4 b2 is now equal to 2 or the remainder of 6 divided by 4.

The Stamp performs mathematical operations strictly from left to right. 4+2*10 would normally equal 24 as most calculators would give the multiplier first priority and then add the 4. However, the Stamp returns a result of 60.

Remember that values up to 255 may be stored as BYTES but higher values up to 655,35 must be stored as words ie, w0 to w6


This command asks the program to lookup a value specified by an offset value stored in a variable. Once it has "looked up" the value, that value is then stored as another variable.


Lookup b2, (50,100,87,94,60),b3

If the value of b2 (offset value) is 2, then 87 will be stored in b3. If b2 is 0 then 50 will be stored in b3, ect.


for b2= 0 to 5 'loops b2 six times
lookup b2,(103,104,105,106,107,101), b3 'Assigns one of the six values to b3, depending on b2's value.
sound 0, (b3,100) 'makes a different sound pitch, based on the value of b2
pause 10
next b2

It is important to remember that the first value is zero, not 1, therefore the loop starts at 0, not 1.


Lookdown variable, (value0, value1, value2, ...), variable

Like the Lookup command, the Lookdown command checks the variable, and gives it a specified value. If variable matches one of the values, than the position value is assigned to another variable.


lookdown b2 (10, 9, 8 , 7),b3

If b2 were equal to 8, then it store the value of 2 in b3. If b2 were 7 then it would assign the value of 3 to b3. If the offset value of b2 were 25 then nothing would be stored in b3 because there is no 25 in the list of values. The program would just proceed to the next command line. Once again, remember that the position value numbers start with zero, not one.

Part 5- Reading High/Low Pin Conditions And Variable Resistances

The Stamp can check one or all the pins to see if there is a positive (high) voltage or negative (low) voltage applied to one or all of the pins. The following is a sample program to perform a check for voltage conditions on pin 1.

If pin1=0 then CHECK:

Sound 0,(100,100,0,100,120,100)
If pin1=1 then ALERT
low 0
Goto check


Pot pin, scale, variable

The POT command allows the stamp to check for changes in resistance attached to a particular pin. A pin is connected to a variable resistance then to a capacitor and the other side of the capacitor is connected to the negative buss bar.

POT 2, 75, b2 This checks the resistance connected to pin 2 and saves the result in variable b2.

To use the POT statement, it is first necessary to find the scale value. Press ALT/P and select and enter the pin number. Vary the resistance full range and record the lowest number shown in the SCALE window. This is the number to use in the POT command. Press the space bar and note the READING window is now highlighted. Vary the resistance through the full range and record the highest and lowest numbers. These are the numbers which will be stored in the variable specified in the POT command. The resistances may be a thermistor, photo resistor, potentiometer, etc.

In the following program, the SCALE value and READING value will not be the same as yours.


Pot 1, 100, b2
If b2>130 then START
For b3= 1 to 10
Sound 0,(90,100)
Next b3
Low 0


Pulsin pin, state, variable

This command measures an input pulse in 10 second units. Pin states at which pin the pulse is measured (0-7). State specifies which state, high or low (0 or 1), must occur before beginning to measure. Variable is the variable where the result of the measurement (1 to 65536) is to be stored. If a byte variable is used, then if the result is greater than 0.65536 seconds, then the result will be 0.


Pulsin 4,0 measures an input pulse on pin 4 and starts measuring when a high-to-low transition occurs. Measurement stops when the next low-to-high transition is sensed.


Pulsout pin, duration

This command sends a pulse in 10 second units to a specified pin. The Stamp actually inverts the voltage output of the pin for this pulse duration. Duration can be any number from 0 to 65535. Thus, PULSOUT 0, 1000 produces a pulse for 10 milliseconds on pin 0.

This command is especially useful for driving servo motors.

Pulseout 100 moves the servo to a zero degree position. Pulsout 200 moves the servo to a ninety degree position. Numbers in between move the servo proportional degrees. CAUTION! Do not use values that are lower than 100 or higher than 200.

In the following program FOR/NEXT loops and PAUSES are used because the servo needs to be pulsed and paused several times to allow enough time for the servo motor to move.

For b2= 1 to 20 Repeats following commands 20 times
Pulsout 3, 100 Sends a pulse to the servo at pin 3 for 100 milleseconds.
Pause 10
Next b2
Pause 100
For b3= 1 to 20
Pulsout 3, 200 Sends a pulse to the servo at pin 3 for 200 milleseconds.
Pause 10
Next b3

Pulse Width Modulation


This command is used to produce a pulse, with a user defined modulation for a given amount of cycles, then returning the pin to its original state. This command is used to produce analog levels using a capacitor. When using PWM, the capacitor is placed in parallel with the output device, going to ground. A resistor should be placed before the parallel portion.

PWM pin, duty, cycles Pin is the pin you want to use. Duty (0-255) specifies the analog level desired (0-5 volts). Cycles (0-255) is the number of 5ms cycles given to charge the capacitor. Larger capacitors will require more cycles.

Command Index

Branch- Part 4
Debug- Part 3
Dirs- Part 2
End- Part 4
For-Next- Part 3
Gosub- Part 3
Goto- Part 2
High- Part 2
If-Then Part 4
Input- Part 2
Let- Part 4
Lookdown- Part 4
Lookup- Part 4
Low- Part 2
Nap- Part 2
Output- Part 2
Pause- Part 2
Pins- Part 2
Pot- Part 5
Pulsout- Part 5
PWM- Part 5
Random- Part 4
Return- Part 3
Reverse- Part 2
Sleep- Part 2
Sound- Part 3
Toggle- Part 2

Command Syntax

Branch offset,(address0,address1,.....addressN)

Debug 'sends variable contents to PC for viewing.

End 'puts stamp to sleep until reset or repowered.

For...Next FOR variable = start TO end STEP increment

Gosub address 'Use with RETURN

Goto address

High pin

If....Then IF variable {math operator} value THEN address

Input pin

Let variable = value LET variable = value {math operator}value

Lookdown target value,(value0,value1,.....valueN) variable '0toN

Lookup offset,(value0,value1,......valueN) variable 'value

Low pin

Nap period 'Period is 0 to 7 (18 ms to 2.3 seconds)

Output pin

Pause milliseconds '1 to 65535

Pot pin,scale,variable

Pulsin pin,state,variable

Pulsout pin,#*10 micro-seconds '# = 1 to 65,535

PWM pin,duty,cycles

Random wordvariable

Read location, variable

Return 'Moves program execution back to most recent GOSUB

Reverse pin

Sleep seconds '1 sec to 18 hours

Sound pin,(note, duration,note,duration,.......)

Toggle pin

NOTE: Not all commands are listed. See The Basic Stamp manual for more.