Micropython on a cheap NRF51822 module

IMG_20200202_153744
It is possible to buy small NRF51822 modules like the black “daughter-board” in the picture above for about €2. The motherboard it connects to breaks all the pins out to various headers, provides an JTAG/SWD port and a USB/Serial interface. These motherboards cost around $6 on Aliexpress.
I was curious about micropython on this platform so I took the following steps:

First, I downloaded the Nordic Semiconductors command line tools from here
They were then installed as follows:

sudo dpkg -i nRF-Command-Line-Tools_10_6_0_Linux-amd64.deb

(I had to fiddle with my PATH environment variable to make the programs available to the script used later).

Next, the motherboard and JTAG interfaces were plugged in to a USB port.

Micropython was compiled and downloaded as follows (Note, I had an arm cross compiler already on my system.):

git clone https://github.com/micropython/micropython.git micropython
cd micropython
make -C mpy-cross
cd ports/nrf
./drivers/bluetooth/download_ble_stack.sh
make submodules
make BOARD=wt51822_s4at SD=110 sd

The last line targets a particular board that is compatible with the little cheap Aliexpress one, it also includes the Bluetooth soft-device and flashes the board.

All that seemed to work ok and I tried to connect to the board over a serial terminal: No success. After a bit of searching I discovered file called mpconfigboard.h in the micropython/ports/nrf/boards/wt51822_s4at directory. This needs to be edited as follows so that TX and RX for the micropython shell are routed properly.

/*
 * This file is part of the MicroPython project, http://micropython.org/
 *
 * The MIT License (MIT)
 *
 * Copyright (c) 2017 Ayke van Laethem
 *
 * Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
 * of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal
 * in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
 * to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
 * copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
 * furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:
 *
 * The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
 * all copies or substantial portions of the Software.
 *
 * THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
 * IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
 * FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
 * AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
 * LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
 * OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
 * THE SOFTWARE.
 */

// Datasheet for board:
// https://4tronix.co.uk/picobot2/WT51822-S4AT.pdf
#define MICROPY_HW_BOARD_NAME       "WT51822-S4AT"
#define MICROPY_HW_MCU_NAME         "NRF51822"
#define MICROPY_PY_SYS_PLATFORM     "nrf51"

#define MICROPY_PY_MACHINE_UART     (1)
#define MICROPY_PY_MACHINE_HW_SPI   (1)
#define MICROPY_PY_MACHINE_TIMER    (1)
#define MICROPY_PY_MACHINE_RTCOUNTER (1)
#define MICROPY_PY_MACHINE_I2C      (1)
#define MICROPY_PY_MACHINE_ADC      (1)
#define MICROPY_PY_MACHINE_TEMP     (1)
#define MICROPY_PY_RANDOM_HW_RNG    (1)

#define MICROPY_HW_HAS_LED          (0)

// UART config
#define MICROPY_HW_UART1_RX         (11)
#define MICROPY_HW_UART1_TX         (9)
#define MICROPY_HW_UART1_HWFC       (0)

// SPI0 config
#define MICROPY_HW_SPI0_NAME        "SPI0"
#define MICROPY_HW_SPI0_SCK         (1)
#define MICROPY_HW_SPI0_MOSI        (2)
#define MICROPY_HW_SPI0_MISO        (3)

Note the changes to MICROPY_HW_UART1_RX and MICROPY_HW_UART1_TX.

I repeated the last “make” command and hey presto : I was able to type python into a serial terminal!

nrf51822_python

There are a couple of little problems:
1) You can’t paste large amounts of python into the terminal as it overflows the serial buffer in the device
2) The range of pins available is restricted as this board is not quite the same as the wt51822_s4at

Anyway, it’s a start