Freescale thinks arduino is DEAD...LOL!

I was googling for some arduino info, and noticed Freescale is paying for a text ad that reads “The arduino is dead.” and links to this site:

Not a bad looking system for $100.

What do you think? Discuss:

I admit it’s been years since I used CodeWarrior but when I did, it was truly a horrible experience. That was one of the buggiest development tools I’ve ever used.

I’m impressed with the processor (power consumption, features, voltage options, I/O lines).

The last project I built was about the size of two AA batteries. That would be a bit difficult with the TowerGeeks.

Looks like it nicely fills the gap between the Arduino and something like a Netburner.

There are certainly some cases where it would replace an Arduino, and do a better job. But the problem I see is that its use of a full-blown bus, and the lack of header connections, makes it hard for the typical hobbyist to do a lot of the things that Arduino is really good at. Specifically, those projects where you just add a few parts and wires to get some simple gadget working. I wonder if anyone is planning a “digital I/O expansion” board that would simplify attaching LEDs, servos, and such.

If I were doing a fairly-sophisticated web-based system, or maybe a wide-ranging robot that navigated by GPS, I’d definitely consider one. It might also be nice to use instead of a PC to “bridge” one or more Arduinos to the Internet: I’ve seen some examples of people using Processing to enable Arduinos to send/receive emails or IMs, or handle other tasks that really need a full-featured TCP/IP stack.

I guess maybe I should buy a lottery ticket this week ;D


it’s a pretty sweet system for $99, and the freescale coldfire is a nice contender for a hypothetical 32-bit arduino environment. (well supported by gnu, pretty mature, clean, and comprehensive architecture.)
I think that to hit that price point, the setup is partially “subsidized” by freescale; hard to say what they’d really cost if you needed 100 for teaching a class or something.

Glad to see a constructive discussion on the Freescale Tower System. When I saw the thread title, I thought it may be best to not touch this with a 10 foot pole, but what the hey I like my Tower System so I thought I would add to the topic. I do work for Freescale so I am some what biased, but I can give you the facts to help clarify your questions. I do think the ad is quite comical, but I guess it worked.

So the Tower System kit is definitely not subsidized. Using the x16 PCI express card edges on modules reduced the cost a lot over traditional berg connectors. If you want to buy 100 for a class go for it. I can put you in touch with the university program folks and maybe they can help get a lab setup.

Glad you like the ColdFire MCU with Ethernet; this is the first of many MCU/MPU modules for the Tower System. In the near future, you will see new plug-in modules that are suitable for other applications. Same goes for the peripherals, I think Ran says it best that there is a need for a “digital I/O expansion” module for rapid prototyping. This is definitely on it’s way and will have a protoboard area with access to the Tower System signals that are on the interconnect board aka “Elevator”. In the meantime, there are two expansion connectors on the Functional Elevator that give you debug ,probe or wiring access to all the signals.

Other pre-announced peripheral modules is an 802.11b WiFi module, TFT LCD module, and Memory module (CPLD, MRAM, SD, Compact Flash).

On CodeWarrior, I have heard the complaints before just like Coding Badly mentioned. The only thing I can say is give it a 2nd chance. I know there were tons of usability changes done in the past two years to clean up that user experience. If not, IAR and GNU are still options and both all support the debug hardware on the Tower System.

Ok, that’s enough from me. If you are looking for a new development system, check out the Tower System; it’s only $99 bucks.

Since this is a more of a professional product than the open source arduino, maybe you guys (freescale) come up with some professional-looking enclosures as well.

by enclosures you mean plastic casing for hw? I’ve heard this before. The challenge is finding a creative way to have open slots for the cables considering the modules can move between any of the four slots. thoughts?

The argument being presented here reminds me of a test done on the high seas (literaly 6-8 meter waves) of HP’s gold plated pcbs and heavy duty connectors versus Digital Equipment’s flimsy ribbon cables and pin connectors like used on the Arduino.

The HP hardware was very pleasing to the eye and prior to sea trials everyone expected HP to win hands down.

The end result was HP failed first due to connectors coming off.

The contract was awarded to the cheap hardware from Digital Equipment which provided years of reliable service.

Yeah, the plastic cases, preferably transparent (plexiglass). Maybe the lateral boards should be breakable (with holes along a line), so that one can choose a smaller volume if only 2 circuit boards are used. The cases could be chosen between 4 different heights (same footprint).
This is just speculation, some superficial ideas, since I know too little about this project. It looks good in the photo.

Looks good but there are sevral tower systems ranging in price from £43 to £149. Not too sure what the differences are:-;jsessionid=V2FUA3M5BEBJICQLCIPJKBQ?N=0&Ntk=gensearch_001&Ntt=freescale+tower+system&Ntx=&suggestions=false&searchTerm=freescale+tower+system&_requestid=151315


I really like the breakaway idea for lateral boards (Elevators). Someone at a tradeshow also only wanted 2 slots and I said to him that nothing really prevented you from taking a dremel to it and making it the right size and # of slots for your needs.


Let me clear up the different Tower modules you see for sale.
TWR-MCF51CN-KIT = complete kit with 2 Elevators, 1 MCF51CN MCU module, 1 Serial module, plus quick start guide, labs, etc.

All the components sold in the KIT can be purchased separately and that is the other 3 options you see that are less expensive. You have:

TWR-ELEV = lateral Elevator modules that interconnect the modules
TWR-SER = serial module that includes Ethernet, USB, CAN, and RS232/485 circuitry
TWR-MCF51CN = MCU module with basic components for standalone operation, programmer and MCF51CN ColdFire V1 microcontroller.

Another good reference for the Tower System is

No, I haven’t seen the Freescale commercial.

I’m working on a robotics project and looked at Freescale before deciding on Arduino. This was before the Tower system was announced ( or before I knew about it.) I liked the MC13213 and wanted to develop on it but CodeWarrier has a steeper learning curve and their kits were not modular.

My simple project works well with 8 bits and I like the Arduino environment. My project is coming along very well.

32-bit with webserver? Maybe for the next project or maybe the MC13213 MCU on the tower system would be nice to try.

my $0.02 worth

PS - if you want to play a dirty trick on someone, tell them to find something on the Cypress website!!

Well, my tower system arrived on friday, and I expect to play with it. It doesn’t look like it (or at any rate the OSBDM hi-touch interface, and the compiler) has much support for linux, and even less for MacOS, where I do most of my playing. That’s a shame. Perhaps my initial contribution can be an ethernet or serial bootloader and instructions for using gcc on mac to develop code for it.

The chip used only contains half of the ethernet required (it has a MAC, you need to use an external PHY chip to get full communications.) This is somewhat annoying, since PHY chips seem to come in packages even more nasty to deal with than the QFP80/0.65 package that the cpu comes in. No USB on this one either. There are some other coldfire chips with ethernet and usb and V2 cores, but it looks like the current consumption goes up to less reasonably levels (300mA+ vs about 75mA for the CPU used on the tower…)


The MC13213 is a cool part. I agree you want wireless RF for a robotics project. A robotics group just started up at One of the members just announced that he is developing a dual motor module and ZigBee module for the Tower System. This way you can use any Freescale Tower MCU module with these two modules to develop a robot. I know for a fact that some 8-bit S08 modules are coming too.


Did you check out linux os support for TWR-MCF51CN-KIT from CodeSourcery G++ tools?

Also, coming soon is TWR-MCF5225X-KIT; there you will gain USB host/device/otg and CAN on top of Ethernet.

Did you check out linux os support for TWR-MCF51CN-KIT from CodeSourcery G++ tools?

It doesn’t appear to do my Mac any good. (time for linux via parallels or bootcamp? Maybe.)

This is somewhat annoying, since PHY chips seem to come in packages even more nasty to deal with than the QFP80/0.65 package that the cpu comes in.

Check ebay and surplus places for old Ethernet interfaces: back in the days when there was still heavy competition between 10BaseT and 10Base2, there were cards with 15-pin D-sub interfaces to an external PHY (although I think they were called something different).


Nah, you’re thinking of a Transceiver, that was yet another intermediate interface. Old ethernet interfaces had a Mac chip, a phy chip to the DB15 connector, and then a tranceiver chip off in a box that would talk to other things. I don’t think that the MII interface used between the MAC and PHY can be coerced into a transceiver interface, can it (10base2) ? That’d be sorta neat; I still have some 10baseT transceivers lying around.

With the way the Shields stack on with the Arduino, wouldn’t that constitute as a tower?

Wikipedia says that MII is a “MAC-to-PHY” interface, but it may be that the Tower board isn’t designed to that standard.

It’s worth checking into, though.


Yes; the tower cpu (mcf51cn128clk) does use the MII interface to connect to a phy. This uses 18 pins (!)
For 10baseT, it’s apparently capable of using a simpler 7-pin interface, but the only PHY chip I can find that supports this has 80 pins and draws 100mA or so…

Oh yeah, here’s a spreadsheet I put together showing the pins/signals that are used/available: