I just received this recently, and I am very impressed. It is great to have a FORTH microcontroller board that has 'batteries included'. Many of the FORTH boards and firmware can run FORTH but this product has all of the words included to use all of the features that the board has to offer out of the box. I like the form factor as well as it does not force you to use a breadboard, and not having live pins exposed and the ability to mount the board in your application is something that most others do not offer. Having the LEDs driven by an I2C port expander is great since it does not use up the higher speed GPIOs from the microcontroller. Just starting to work with it, but it is by far one of the best all round solutions for experimenting with FORTH that I have seen.
I have been experimenting with PICs and Arduino for a number of years now (on and off, certainly no expert) and got this board recommended to me from a friend. Even just reading through John's website (www.udamonic.com) before receiving the Scamp board I got the feeling that Forth "just makes sense".
Having received the board I can say it is a quality product and has been fun to use and learn another way to interface with microcontrollers. As other reviewers have mentioned it is a bit of a leaning curve (as with most new things) but even after working through some of the examples on the website I can see great potential.
And given its terminal PC interface I have used it to progress my C# learning through making a simple IDE. Shipping was fast, too.
I am impressed by the power and the ease of programming available with this little device. FORTH had been created with small-footprint, low-resource applications in mind, and this is a very good implementation. The device is responsive, I haven't managed to find a problem with the implementation of FORTH (well, and even if one of the words I remember or need is absent, FORTH does let you define it yourself). The availability of the source code is yet another huge plus of course, as is the ability to build a "turnkey" system. Somewhere on the Udamonic Web site I managed to find, only once, and I have not been able to find it again, a mention of an even smaller FORTH "engine" for more dedicated applications (something easier to incorporate on a PCB). Maybe he will be kind enough to point me to the specific URL again? On more mundane matters: the devices were carefully packaged, one could almost imagine by loving hands... All in all, a great investment, especially if you are a nostalgic ex-user of FORTH.
I looked at Forth briefly in 1982. I read the first half of Leo Brodie's classic book, to see what the fuss was about, but did not pursue it. 38 years later, having used Fortran, Pascal, and C on mainframes and PCs, and C and Circuit Python on microcontrollers, I became motivated to learn Forth and discovered the Scamp. Why was I motivated? When using microcontrollers, I would like to avoid the hassle of writing code, cross-compiling it on a host, fixing compile time errors, uploading the compiled code to the target and then fixing run time errors. A lot of time is spent compiling, uploading and debugging. The Arduino environment reduces but does not eliminate the hassles. Circuit Python eliminates cross-compilation and facilitates debugging, but runs slowly on low end microprocessors, and does not support interrupts. Forth eliminates cross-compilation, supports all of the hardware capabilities of a microcontroller, is very compact, and provides excellent run-time performance.
The Scamp hits a sweet spot by using flashForth on a 16-bit PIC24 microcontroller that runs at 32 MHz and provides a comprehensive set of peripherals. The design of the board is well thought out and the quality is decent. Scamp provides an excellent platform for learning Forth. However, a fair amount of work is required to get going. The Scamp documentation provides some getting-started information and a link to the flashForth website, which provides links to tutorials written by Peter Jacobs of the University of Queensland. Someone with no previous background in Forth would need additional background and help. I re-read Leo Brodie's classic introduction, which is available online, and was then accessed other resources. After a while, I grasped the big picture and can implement non-trivial applications. I have the zeal of a new convert, and can understand why Charles H. Moore and other pioneers have persisted so enthusiastically with Forth for the past 50 years.
As a historical note: one of the earliest (1974) 8-bit microprocessors was the Simple Cost-Effective Micro Processor (SC/MP) made by National Semiconductor. It was often referred to as the Scamp. It had an integer Basic in 4K of ROM, addressed RAM in 4K blocks, and could communicate with a dumb terminal through a UART. The SC/MP was used in a kit, the MK14, sold by Science of Cambridge, a company run by Clive Sinclair. I built one, and used it for a few weeks until the low-quality tactile hex keyboard expired. I then moved on to 6502 and Z80 class microcomputers that had proper keyboards and used a TV as a display ...