Saturday, 25 September 2010

Inside blinky.c

A short post explaining some of the things in blinky.c. This can be read in conjunction with the reference guide RM0041 and the Hitex document "Intro to Cortex-M3 programming". There is a lot to take in, this isn't a little 16C84 Processor.

After this I will step back a little and provide some simpler tutorials and exercises, so don't worry if you find this a bit incomprehensible.

#include "stm32f10x.h"

I wanted the tutorials to be quite close to the metal. ST produce a library which abstracts a lot of the work. While this helps development, there are two disadvantages - one, the routines aren't particularly quick, but mainly if you are learning as I am you don't learn how the MCU works, just how the library works.

My personal POV is that if you know the hardware then understanding the library is easy as pie, but understanding the library gives you a much poorer handle on the hardware.

This file is a combination of two ST header files, type and map. It provides a set of 8, 16 and 32 bit types, along with References to the registers (which map to the register description in the documentation) - so for example "GPIOA->CRL" refers to register CRL in GPIOA

#define STACK_TOP 0x20002000   

The ARM has a stack which works its way down through memory. This constant is the top of RAM - so data works up, and the stack works down.  It is possible the two might meet in the middle, in which case .... all bets off.

unsigned int * myvectors[4] = { .. }   

This is actually wrong - this array is much bigger than this. It's an array of addresses used to set up the STM32 - in this case, the start address of the program, the initial value of the stack pointer, and the addresses of routines to handle Non Maskable Interrupts and Hardware Errors. There's actually many more of these vectors which we will see when we come to interrupts. Don't worry about this one for a while.

RCC->APB2ENR |= 0x10 | 0x04;                                    

This completely threw me when I couldn't get Blinky to work. Unlike most other MCUs, you actually need to turn on the peripherals you are using, they just play dead otherwise. This command sets (using logical OR) bit 4 and bit 2 of APB2ENR - which enables GPIOA (bit 2) and GPIOC (bit 4) respectively. The binary constant 0x10|0x04 is equivalent to 10100 in binary.

GPIOC->CRH = 0x11;                                           
GPIOA->CRL = 0x04;
 These two are very similar. The first sets pins 8 and 9 of GPIOC (the LEDs) to outputs, the second sets pin 0 of GPIOA (the button) to inputs.

Each GPIO port is 16 bits wide. CRH and CRL go together to make one big 64 bit control register for each port - each port having four control bits. Pins 0-7 are stored in CRL, Pins 8-15 in CRH.

In binary, what it is doing is setting Port8 and Port9 's control value to 0001 and Port0's to 0100 - these are the standard input and output values. There are all sorts of other things you can do - pull high, pull low, open collector circuitry, interrupt on change.

button = ((GPIOA->IDR & 0x1) == 0)

This reads the level on the button - GPIOA->IDR is the input register for GPIOA, and it is masked with 0000000000000001 binary to mask out the value on the button. The reason it is "checked equal to zero" is the button is normally logic '1' when not pressed - so this expression returns true when the button is pressed.

GPIOC->BSRR = 1<<8 ;
GPIOC->BSRR = 1<<24;    

The STM32 has some nice facilities for bit work. Bits can be addressed individually - normally to turn a bit on, you would or a value into the Output Register. The STM32 allows you to address bits individually with the BSRR.

Each BSRR is 32 bits wide. The bottom half (0-15) turn bits on, and the top half (16-31) turn them off.

So to set PC8 to 'on', all you have to do is to write 1<<8 (or 00000001 00000000) into BSRR and it does the work for you. Similarly, writing 1 << 24 - the same thing in the 'top half' turns the bit off.

The STM32 also allows you to write to individual bits in data memory in the same way.


The C compiler is quite smart. It is quite capable of looking at the delay() function and concluding that it actually doesn't do anything at all, and replacing it with a subroutine return. The asm("nop") assembles a no-operation in the middle of that, but at compile time the compiler doesn't know it's a nop - just that it is inline assembly - so it is unable to optimise away the delay loop because it might do something. (You can see this working if you remove this line, compile it and look at blinky.lst)

Of course, you shouldn't do delays this way - the STM32 has timers for this sort of thing.

Postscript : in other news, I've added a 5v -> 3.3v PSU to the veroboard (see earlier). This has the nice consequence that all the connections (5v, GND, PA10, PA9) are on the right side of the STM32 Discovery board which means the communications board can just be put over to the right - I'll usually wire things to the left side :)

This modification is optional, you can plug the serial chip into 3v3 directly - but it provides a little protection for the Serial Port circuit and allows you (for example) to put it in a box with a 9v battery if you so wish - reducing the connecting wires to PA9, PA10 and GND.


  1. Paul, thank you very much for your tutorial. It helped me a lot with the first steps with the discovery board. I just had to add missing definitions for the DAC subsystem to your hedaer file. Now I'm fighting with the linker script. With the one included in blinky I cannot link program bigger than the 8kB SRAM size (I need to include a sample file of several kBs long) and if I move .data part into flash rom space it links correctly but the programming crashes (I use openocd).

    However, I'm looking forward for the next parts of your tutorial, especially if it comes to timers usage.

  2. I agree with you on the "bare metal", but I needed a header file with more complete definitions. Here is something I cobbled together from eLua include files:

  3. This site and your tutorials have been a guiding hand to me in the first steps with the stm32vldiscovery board. I would like to confirm...are the stuffs about registers you're writing here found in the technical reference manual?

  4. I have to use STM32W108 for developing my project. Please tell me which toolkit will be better and plz also provide me initial guidelines.... Thnx in advance,,,,,

  5. I mean after I read it, I have to say this it the best down to earth, dummy tutorial I have ever seen. Love it!!!