Parallax, Inc. (company)
||A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. (October 2012)|
|Founded||1987 Rocklin, California|
|Key people||Ken Gracey, President|
|Products||Basic Stamp, Parallax SX, Parallax Propeller, Javelin|
Parallax Inc. is a privately held company in Rocklin, California. Parallax Inc. designs, manufactures, and sells BASIC Stamp microcontrollers, Propeller microcontrollers, microcontroller accessories (such as LCDs, sensors, RF modules, etc.), educational robot kits, and educational curriculum.
Parallax is headquartered in Rocklin. The Rocklin office employs forty-two people in research and development, sales, manufacturing, education, marketing, and technical support. Parallax Inc. has over seventy distributors around the world, including Radio Shack, Jameco Electronics, and Fry's Electronics.
Parallax gained popularity and recognition initially for its significant success in the hobby and education markets, offering user-friendly and high-quality robotic and educational kits. Recently, however, Parallax's success in commercial markets has increased due to the 2006 release of the Propeller.
- 1 History
- 2 Popular chips and robots
- 3 Robotics education
- 4 Featured in magazines
- 5 Unofficial Propeller Expo
- 6 The Parallax forum
- 7 Products sold
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Originally established in 1987, in Rocklin, CA, Parallax, Inc. manufactured products such as the ISEPIC, TopRAM, and the first third-party Microchip PIC Programmer. In 1992, the BASIC Stamp 1 microcontroller module was released. In 1995, the BASIC Stamp 2 module was added to the product lineup. The user base has become diverse, including everyone from scientists and hobbyists to engineers and entrepreneurs, and students from grade school to college. By 2002, there were over three million BASIC Stamp microcontrollers in use around the world.
In 1997, the Stamps in Class program was created to provide educational resources that addressed the needs of electronic students ages 14 and up. The Boe-Bot is one of the company’s most popular products and the anchor of the Stamps in Class educational program.
In 1998, Parallax, Inc. formed a partnership with Ubicom (formerly Scenix Semiconductor) to develop tools and BASIC Stamps using their new SX microcontrollers. Company founder Chip Gracey designed the SX-Key Programming Tool to make programming Ubicom’s SX chips affordable. And in 2005, Parallax, Inc. and Ubicom formed an agreement in which Parallax, Inc. is the exclusive supplier of the SX microcontroller.
In 2006, after eight years of development time, Parallax launched their Parallax Propeller microcontroller.
The Propeller 2 multicore processor is under development and doesn't have a release date yet. The Propeller 2 processor includes features commonly requested by customers such as code protect, additional RAM and more I/O pins.
Popular chips and robots
The Propeller chip
A multicore system that can do real-time simultaneous multiprocessing. It uses eight 32-bit cores called cogs controlled by a bus controller called the Hub. It can be programmed in assembly, or in the interpreted Spin programming language. It comes with a software library of objects for a various sets of I/O devices, such as UARTs and a video display controller emulated fully in software. The Propeller is also supported by a third-party compiler developers who have developed platforms in C and BASIC. The Parallax Propeller is also recognized as being easy to program. 
One of Parallax, Inc.'s all time best-selling robots. The Boe-Bot is a programmable and reprogrammable wheeled robot that is used by educators and hobbyists.
The BASIC Stamp and BASIC Stamp 2
The BASIC Stamp was so named because it was about the size of a postage stamp. Programmed in PBASIC, the BASIC Stamp found an audience in electronic hobbyists with powerful I/O commands that made it easy to connect to other electronic components. Released in 1995, the BASIC Stamp 2 is one of Parallax's most well-known and best-selling products.
Parallax manufactures sensors to measure color, humidity, temperature, pressure, RPMs, heat, and altitude. These sensors are either surface-mounted components on a printed circuit board or in packages that are readily acceptable for breadboard-style mounting. Each sensor is supported with educational curriculum and documentation.
Stamps in Class
Stamps In Class curriculum was designed to introduce students and educators to BASIC Stamp microcontrollers using software basics and simple hardware, integrating the two without a tremendous financial investment. One popular tutorial in the Stamps in Class series is the Boe-Bot robot, a simple yet versatile rolling robot that has a BASIC Stamp brain.
Propeller education labs
The Propeller Education was developed to teach how to operate the Propeller chip, which is very different than the BASIC Stamp microcontrollers. The Propeller features eight 32-bit processors. The Propeller education program demonstrates how to program the microcontroller for use in process control, measurement and signal generation and robotics. The program is designed for engineering students who have product design requirements in their curriculum.
Featured in magazines
Filling a niche in the technology market by offering robotics for hobbyists, enthusiasts, and students, Parallax has been extensively featured in magazines including: Make Magazine, SERVO Magazine, Robot Magazine, and Nuts and Volts.
Parallax has been featured in Make Magazine, which features do-it-yourself projects regularly, because Parallax products can be programmed for a variety of projects ranging from personal inventions to commercial products.
Nuts and Volts
Unofficial Propeller Expo
The original UPE, the Unofficial Propeller Expo North East (UPENE) is hosted by a long time Parallax Forum member, "Oldbitcollector." He labeled it "Unofficial" so hobbyists could meet and exchange projects, ideas, and advice about Parallax robotics without getting permission to have or not have an "Official Propeller Expo." However, Parallax came on board and now many Parallax employees can be found at each expo, talking with hobbyists, students, and inventors.
Unofficial Propeller Expo North East (UPENE)
The UPENE is an annual event located in Norwalk, Ohio, at the Norwalk Community Center. The expo consists of educators, engineers, hobbyists and students setting up tables and sharing their experiments, demonstrations, and products based on or inspired by microcontrollers such as the Parallax Propeller. The UPENE was the first of the three existing UPE's. As Parallax unofficially sponsors the expo, the company was joined by a second sponsor: the company Gadget Gangster.
Unofficial Propeller Expo Chicago (UPEC)
Unofficial Propeller Expo West (UPEW)
The UPEW, also annual, is the only one of the three UPE's to be located at Parallax's offices in Rocklin, California. This UPE also offers a special educator's course hosted by Parallax's engineer and author Andy Lindsay.
The Parallax forum
Before 2004, the Parallax product user support forum was hosted in Yahoo! Discussion Groups. In 2004, this discussion group was moved from Yahoo! to Parallax Forums, located through Parallax's website. With more than 20,000 registered members on the forum, members frequently discuss and trade software, information, and products designed around the BASIC Stamp and Propeller Chip. Also, students learning the Boe-Bot can use the forums as a place to ask questions and receive direction to solve homework and projects.
- Propeller Quadrover Robot
- Stingray Robot
- The Scribber 2
Discontinued robots and products
- The Scribbler
- The Penguin Robot
- HexCrawler -Parallax had teamed up with Crust Crawler Robotics to create the HexCrawler.
- The Toddler
- Parallax SX
- Javelin Stamp
- Spin Stamp
- Propeller 2