PIC 16F88

Getting Started

© Brooke Clarke 2006

I/O pin count 
Special Feature Pin Assignment
Program Memory Size
    Packages & Programming
    Choosing the Language for writing PIC Code
    Printed Page Formatting
Tables (Computed Goto)
Precision Interrupt Timing
App Notes
In Circuit Debugging
Debugging without ICD 
LCD Interface
    Code Generators 
    Linkers & Loaders


It used to be that the 16F84 was an optimal unit for general hobby use.  But as of June 2006 the 16F88 looks to be a better choice for a number of reasons.

3 Feb 2007 - I'm starting to think the skinny (0.300") 28 pin PICs may be more useful than the 16F88.  There are a bunch of these.  The 16F876A or 16F916 (a nano watt 876A).  Note that these are SKINNY (0.3") so when they are on a proto board there are still 4 holes for each pin.  That's not the case with the more common 0.6" 28 pin ICs.

11 April 2007 - The 28 pin DIP package is 1/2" longer than the 18 pin 16F88 DIP package and that hurts when you're getting a PCB made, like those from ExpressPCB.  So the I still like the 16F88 or the 16F87x or 16F88x which have more memory, but keep the 18 pin count footprint.

There is another reason that 18 pins is optimal, it's the minimum number supported by ICD2, so the smaller pin count parts need an optional headder to work with ICD2.  That's too bad since the PIC Kit 2 is a great product.  Even though at one time I had a discount cupon for one I never got it. 

11 Apr 07 - But today I would recommend the PICkit 2 since the nanowatt type PICs have more useable pins (see below).  If you have zero experience it would be an economical way to get started.  The Microchip Getting Started with PIC® Microcontrollers web page has links to the PICkit2 Getting Started page.  There's now a PICkit™ 2 Debug Express to go with the PICkit2 (I'm going to look into this, may get them).  Note the PICket2 supports all the 8, 14 and 20 pin PICs (I think the 20 pin PICs are extensions on the 14 pin parts, and are not more powerful than the 18 pin parts) but not the more powerful 18 pin parts like the 16F84 or 16F88.

This web page is aimed at those who are not at zero.

Nano Watt Feature Set

This feature set includes an internal oscillator that does not use any I/O pins and typically the 2 pins that were for the oscillator are now I/O pins.  Also there's the ability to detect primary oscillator failure and switch to a secondary oscillator (very handy for my clocks).  This is very desirable both for the oscillator and more useable I/O pins.

The Product Slection Guide has pages "Pin Count Compatibility Chart" showing each PIC outline and under that a list of all the model numbers that match the outline.  In the 00148M.pdf file there are 50 model numbers listed for the 28 pin package.  Note the outline includes lables on all the pins so all the models listed are interchangable to some extent.

I/O pin count

Microchip doesn't really tell it like it is.  Many of the PICs let you use the /MCLR (say "not master clear" or "not" "M" "C" "L" "R") pin as an input only pin.  But then this pin is NOT an I/O (say "I" "O" or "Input Output") pin but rather just an I (Input) pin.  The data sheets typically count this pin as an I/O pin.  The Data Sheet (DS_30487c.pdf) for the 16F88 does not mention the number of I/O pins on page 3 but instead shows the pin out diagram where pin 4 is labeled as "RA5/MCLR/VPP", the implication is that you get a full I/O with RA5 but that's not the case.  An experienced (someone who has suffered and learned) PIC person knows this, but if you're a newbie you need to keep it in mind.  You can not use the 16F88  RA5 pin for Output!

The 18 pin 16F88 has 2 pins for the power and ground. leaving 16 pins that can be assigned many ways.  The maximum I/O count is 8 pins for Port B and 7 I/O pins for Port A and an Input only pin on RA5 for a total of 15.5 I/O pins.

But this is also dependent on how you program the chip. 

Special Feature Pin Assignment

At first glance at the data sheet you might think that a particular part number is what you want because it has all the special features you want.  BUT it may be that you can NOT have two that you need because they are assigned to the same I/O pin.  To illustrate this here's a table showing the pins on the 16F88.
RA2   AN2  CVref  Vref-

RA1    AN1
RA3  AN3  Vref+   C1Out

RA0    AN0
RA4   AN4   ToCkIn   C2Out

RA7   Osc1   ClkIn
RA5    /MCLR   Vpp

RA6   Osc2   ClkOut
5  Vss (ground)

RB0   INT   CCP1

RB7    AN6   PGD    T1OsIn

RB5  AN5  PGC  T1OsOut  T1CkI
RB2   SDO   Rx   Dt

RB5  /SS  Tx  Ck
RB3   PGM   CCP1


For example pin 8 can be used for RS-232 Rx -or- for Serial Data Out for I2C, but not both.  In this case you must choose between RS-232 and I2C.  But in some cases you can time share the pin.  For example pin 13 could be a digital I/O pin part of the time and be an analog input some of the time but neither of those if it's being used for the Timer 1 oscillator crystal or as an external oscillator input.  The Programming Data input can be shared if the proper constraints are met.

On the latest data sheets starting about page 4 under the pin out diagrams there are tables showing the features for each pin separately so that you can easily see whether the features you want can be used at the same time.  The grouping shown above for the PIC 16F88 is not the same as the grouping on other parts.

Program Memory Size

The mid range PIC uCs come with program memory sizes that range from less than a page (< 2k instructions) to 4 pages (8 k instructions).  But the data bus is only 8 bits wide and this causes problems.  Note that the common computer uses what's called Von Neumann architecture where there's only one RAM that holds both program code and data.  It has an address buss and a data buss.  But this causes a bottle neck since the CPU needs to first fetch an instruction then depending on the instruction, fetch or store data.  The PICs all use the Harvard architecture where the program is stored separately from the data and there are two seperate busses.  This allows simultaneous access to instructions and data making the operation much faster.

One area the 8 bit data buss causes a problem is when a lookup table is being used.  Here a byte is added to the Program Counter like
    addwf   PCL,F
and the result is stored into the PCL.  This causes the code located at the new PC to be run.  But the W register is only 8 bits and so this would only work if the complete table was located somewhere in the 0000 to 00FF program memory area.  The fix is to put a label just prior to the first table entry like Lbl_ayz and then proceed the add with two lines like this:
    movwf   temp
    movlw   HIGH Lbl_ayz
    movwf   PCLATH      ; set the high order bits for the table (Program Counter Latch Hi)
    movf    temp,W
    addwf   PCL,F
As you can see anything that has to do with PCL (Program Counter Latch Lo) has only a 8 bit range.

The larger problem is that the 14 bit instructions are not large enough to contain addresses that point to more than a 2k instruction block of code called a "page".  Reset and interrupts push the complete address onto the stack, but "goto" and "call" can not jump outside the 2k block that they are in unless PCLATH is first modified.  So if at all possible keep the program size below 2k instructions to avoid the extra hassle.

The Precision Clock needs more than 2k instructions (more like 4 or 8 k inst).  One why to minimize all the extra paging code is to place all the timekeeping and LCD code in one page, the startup and interrupt code in another page.  This way there are very few between page calls or goto commands.

Packages & Programming

While the Dual Inline Plastic (DIP) package is still widely used there are a number of Surface Mount Technology (SMT) packages available.  These are typically much smaller (use less board area) than the through hole technology DIP package.  But they also typically cost more for the chip.  Also you can not put a Surface Mount Device (SMD) into the ZIF socket of the Picstart Plus programmer.  They need to be programmed using ICSP (In Circuit Serial Programming) or the ICD and if the high voltage (14 volts) version of ICSP is used then you don't lose an I/O pin.  But there are restrictions on the circuit topology in order for either LV or HV ICSP to work.  There are no topology restrictions when the Picstart Plus is used becasue the chip is programmed out of the circuit.

Choosing the Language for writing PIC Code

The language choice is the subject of endless religious flame wars on programming related list servers.  I personally like using the free Microchip MPLAB package and the straight assembler that's part of it.  If you already are a good "C" programmer then "C" may be an option for you, but I think you need to buy the Microchip "C" add-on or get a third party "C" add-on.

It is possible to start with a .hex file and get it into what looks like a source (.asm) file, but it takes some work.  The advantage of doing this is that you can customize the code to suit your needs and can fix errors in the code.  I find it a great learning tool.  But it's not something a newbie should attempt.

There is an issue about the style of how you write code.  Most simple hobbyist projects only require a single assembly source file.  The problem comes about when you want to write larger programs where it's possible to reuse modules of code.  This can still be done using the single file approach and that's the method I use.  But a better way is to use the the Linker capability of MPLAB.  This allows working with modules of code in a way that makes it much easier than the manual approach.  But the price you pay is adding another step on the learning curve.  It's also possible to use the Linker features even though you have only a single source code file.  This has advantages in helping prevent errors.  I opened a support case with Microchip asking for a tutorial on how to use their Linker, and after many months the ticket was canceled.

24 Jan 2007 - Not only can the PIC code make use of modules but also the schematic diagram.  For example a module might be an RS-232 interface using the MAX232A.  Instead of redrawing that part of the schematic just cut and paste the module as a page in ExpressPCB.  Instead of running wires to the PIC use wire labels on the module and just attach the appropriate wire labels to the PIC in the new schematic.

I have a Blink LED program (Brooke-16F88_LED.asm) for the 16F88 that does not require any external crystals, just the bypass caps, one or more LEDs and a resistor for each LED. Each pin is blinking at a different rate between a frequency of 5 kHz and a peroid of 6 seconds.  Since I'm using ICD 2 for programming today pin 4 is not an LED pin.  Although this is a short program (less than a printed page) I have commented it for a new user bringing the total to about 7 pages and converted the .asm file into a Brooke-16F88_LED.pdf  file.  This allows someone who does not have MPLAB installed and operational to see the full color .asm file. 

Printed Page Formatting

As a matter of good programming style all routines should fit on one side of a single sheet of paper.  This is something I figured out many many years ago, and also shows up in the Microsoft books on programming (Writing Solid Code & Code Complete ).  The idea is that you insert page breaks into the source code that seperate each routine.  That way when you are looking at the code for a routine that's what you are seeing, no more no less.  I can not over emphasize how important this is.  This applies to the main program as well as to all the routines.  Note that the span of a loop is thus limited to one page.  It's poor practice to have a loop that covers many pages.  Limiting the span of control to one page makes it much easier to understand what's going on.

At about version 5 of MPLAB Microsoft has had a bug in the "page" assembler directive so even though you have inserted "page" commands in the source code, when you print either the assembly source code or the listing the "page" commands are ignored.  I can't understand why this has not been fixed for years!  In 2006 I learned that in MPLAB 7.3 the assembler does correctly insert the page breaks into the listing, it's just that MPLAB still has the bug that does not output the Form Feed command when it's needed.  The work around is to use Word Pad to open a xxx.lst listing using right click OPEN.  Then in the next dialog window select Word Pad, then check "always use this application".  Now when you double click on a listing file word pad will open it.  It also seems you can set the printer margins to their narrowest values and Word Pad will remember those as well.  The Word Pad Print Preview lets you see how the page breaks are working so you can tweak your source code before killing a tree.

Tab & Space

In the source file only use:
The reason for the above is to have a nice looking and compact listing.  The size of the tab gets expanded in the listing so you want everything tight in the source.  In my case anything to the right of coul 66 in the source gets line wrapped in the listing.  Although you can set the listing to truncate instead of wrapping, then you loose that information.  For me it's better to know where the wrap is and break of the comments so that they will all print.

Tables (Computed Goto)

By using:
  addwf    PCL,F    ; Jump into table
you can add W to the Program Counter Low causing the next program line to jump into a table.  The table entry might be:
retlw    .31    ;    Jan -- in this case the table would be in a subroutine and the retlw is the return
goto January --- where the table is part of the normal in line code.
You can also have the table entries more than a single line if "W" is multiplied by some number.  Since multiplying by 2 is the same as a left shift, if you clear STATSU,C then left shift each table entry point is separated by two, multiply by 4 (shift twice) for 4 lines separation, etc.

But since PCL is only 8 bits the table would need to be in RAM between 00 and FF.  To fix that you can set the Program Counter Latch High as follows:
  movlw HIGH Disp_Mo1
  movwf PCLATH

But if the table crosses a 00-FF page boundary there will be a problem, so you can test it as shown below.  Disp_Mo1 is a label just prior to the first table entry and Disp_Mo1_End is a label just after the last table entry (probably could be just prior to the last entry, but this is safe).  Now you need to pay careful attention to the Output\Build window to see if there's a warning.  I'm writing this after not paying attention and seeing my program doing strange things.  Then when I clicked on Output\Build saw the Warning.

    if (  (Disp_Mo1 & 0xFF00) != (Disp_Mo1_End & 0xFF00) )
    MESSG "Warning: Table Disp_Month crosses Page Boundry in Computed Jump"

Microchip App Note 556 is about using Tables.


Some PICs have an internal RC oscillator and to go with it each individual unit has an oscillator calibration value burned into the very top of program memory.  In the beginning you needed to read that value and write it on the part so that it could be put back after the first programming cycle erased it.  Newer Microchip programmers read and remember the OSCCAL value and put in back in for you.  BUT, if you change programmers, like replacing your PicStart+ or like changing between ICD2 and PicStart+, then you will loose the OSCCAL value.

It seems a better way would be for the MPLAB project to remember this value and also allow changing part serial numbers, like when you have a number of PICs being used for a single project, each holding different version of the assembly code.

Precision Interrupt Timing

There's a potential problem when using interrupts when you need precision timing.  For example if the main program was performing a normal one cycle instruction when the interrupt occurs then the ISR will start on the next instruction clock.   But if the main program was performing a branch or other instruction that takes more than one instruction cycle AND it was in the first half of that instruction when the interrupt occurs there will be a one instruction cycle delay in the main program before getting to the ISR.  If you set the timer to some fixed value inside the ISR then the actual timer value can have a one instruction cycle error that depends on what's going on in the main routine.

A simple way around this is to use only instructions that always execute in one instruction cycle in the main routine.  If you look at Section 29 "Instruction Set" of the 16F88 data sheet  table 29-1 lists the instructions showing the number of cycles for each one.  The CALL, GOTO, RETLW and RETURN instructions take 2 cycles (the RETFIE also takes 2 cycles but would not be in the main program).  So if you don't use these in your main program then there will be no jitter in the interrupt latency.  This works for simple programs.

But if the main program does use 2 cycle instructions then to get precision interrupt timing you need to allow for and correct the jitter. 

One way is to not set the timer to some fixed value but instead add a constant to the timer.  This is similar to Bresham's algorithm in that over a long time the jitter is canceled, but I don't like it in that the jitter is still there, just averaged out.

A better way, in my opinion, is to test the least significant bit of the timer right after you have saved PCLATH, STATUS and W.  Let's say for example that the test is in an even number of instruction cycles from the start of the ISR.  If the main program was performing a one cycle instruction when an interrupt occurs the ISR will start on the next instruction cycle.  In this case the the result of the test is a zero bit (even) and so a to jump to the instruction just after the test using two instruction cycles to get there.

But if the main program was performing a two cycle instruction and was in the first half of that when an interrupt occurs then there will be a delay of one instruction cycle before the ISR starts.  Now when the timer LSB is tested it will be one (odd) and the jump will not be taken, and the next instruction will be run on the next instruction cycle thus correcting the one instruction cycle latency.  Now any timing operations done after then will not have the jitter.

If you test the lowest order timer  bit inside the ISR where the test is an even number of instruction cycles from the start of the ISR then in this case the LSB of the timer will be zero (an even number).    Now when you get to the LSB bit test the result will return "one", an odd number.  When this happens you do a branch to the next instruction after the compare.

App Notes

While the Microchip App Notes are a good guide to what can be done, I have found that they also can be riddled with errors and with poor programming style.  So keep that in mind.  There is no errata system for App Notes, once they are written they are cast in concrete, errors and all, and never changed.

In Circuit Debugging (ICD 2)

PIC chips with 14 or less pins need a special header (an adapter board) in order to use ICD2.  It takes a minimum of 18 pins for a chip with ICD 2 capability to work without the header.  Some chips with more pins still need a header.  The 16F88 supports ICD2 without a header.

The ICD2 can be used in one of  two ways when connected to a 16F88 with 5 wires.


When selected as the programmer you can leave the modular cable connected to  the 16F88.  The sequence is then:
Work on the source code, Build All, (it is not necessary to:Programmer\Erase Part, since erase is part of programming), Programmer\Program then Programmer\Release from Reset.  This allows programming without touching the power supply or unplugging/pluging the modular cable, or touching hte uC, just using the computer.

Note in the Programmer menu you can toggle between Release from Reset and Hold in Reset so a hardware reset button is not needed.

Sometimes the operation of the uC is different when the power supply is cycled, maybe has to do with LCD initialization.


The problem was with the Debugger menu item "Clear Memory" this refers to the IDE environment, not to the target device.  You do NOT want to clear memory, just use "Program" in the debugger menu.

The 16F88 is one of the uC chips that has internal debug hardware and commands.  When it's programmed using the Debugger menu (not the Programmer menu) extra code is inserted for debugging.  A breakpoint can be set and when it's reached you can examine all the registers and variable values. 

Debugging without ICD


By setting or clearing a port bit the LEd is turned on or off.  This means that the program got to the command or did not get to the command.  Typically there should be both a bsf and a bcf command so that the LED will be both turned on and turned off.  For example a routine that calculates leap year turns on the LED when it's a leap year and off for other years.

If a LED is placed on all the control lines going to an LCD and the program is stopped, the data on the lines can be read by eye.  Instead of using a spin type loop to stop the program it could be done by using a button press allowing steping to the code for the next button press.  In this case the LEd series resistor should be high enough so that the control line voltage is allowed to stay in spec.


One way to do debugging without the ICD2 is to write a small routine that displays some variable on an LCD.  But you need to keep changing what variable is being displayed.  But when a breakpoint is inserted using the debugger the program stops at the breakpoint and you get to look at all the contents of all the file registers at that point.  Much MUCH more information.

LCD Interface

16F88 to 2-Wire LCD Some comments on the photo: The PIC is being programmed while on the solderless breadboard by using the 6 Position 6 Contact RJ11 modular jack (Jameco 124038 or 124039: 1=wht=Vpp, 2=blk=+5, 3=Red=Gnd, 4=Grn=PGD, 5=Yel=PGC, 6=Blu=nc) by means of the Microchip ICD 2.  This particular jack comes with wires already attached so you just plug them into the board and away you go.  I made up an adapter from a machined 16 pin DIP socket (note that machined pin sockets will plug into solderless breadboards, but the cheaper ones have short skinny legs and do not work) by soldering a 2x8 pin 0.1" header to the socket using short wires and hot melt glue.  This allows easy connection to a ribbon cable IDC attached to any of a number of LCD modules.  I still have not found a good way to connect a ribbon cable to the 1x16 LCD module, the 2x7 or 2x8 LCD module connection is perfect for a ribbon cable.  For debugging I put an LED (+ 470 Ohm resistor) on each of the shift register inputs and outputs.  By using the LED blinking program above to drive the clock line at about 1 pulse per second and manually plugging the data line into +5 or ground it was easy to check it out and get it going. Note that you can not manually plug the clock line into +5 or ground and get only one transition, because of bounce you get a large number of clocks.

Most character LCD modules use a controller chip that's compatible with the no longer made HD44780.  It uses a data bus of either 8 or 4 bits and in addition a control bus with Register Select (RS), Enable strobe to start an action and a R/W pin to allow reading back the Busy Flag (BF) or address or data from the module.  So you need 11 (8 bit mode) or 7 (4 bit mode) wires (I/O pins)  to talk directly to the module and use all it's features, or one less if you only want to talk to it.  But for a micro controller that always seems to be short I/O pins (see above) this is way too many pins. 

You can buy new surplus LCD modules for between $1 and $5.  The ones with LED backlights are the easiest to activate.  EL and CCFL back lights require HV AC supplies.

Photo above shows a working 2-wire interface based on Myke's design.  This uses a total of 2 I/O pins to talk only to the LCD module which is running in 4 bit mode.

There are a number of alternative ways to control a character LCD module using a small number of pins. 
Direct Parallel control of the lines with a PC can also be done.
jaLCDs - not able to download
LCDHype -
LCD Studio - only for graphic LCDs
LCD Info     - only for graphic LCDs
Winamp OpenSource LCD Plugin for various LCD & VFD modules - Winamp >= 2.4, Winamp 3 is not supported!
Solomon-systech - Graphic display driver chips
LCD based PIC Register Monitor - uses 18F2520 to drive standard LCD


Code Generators

Multiply or Divide -
Time Delay -


Microchip - PICmicro - Integrated Development Environment - Support -
PIClist list server - PIC Delay Code Generator -
WinPicProg PIC Tutorial - based on 16F628 which is similar to the 16F88
Eric's PIC Page -
Scott's Technical Stuff - PICs and Math
30 Pic Projects and counting...
The PIC 16F88: Why the PIC 16F84 is now Really obsolete.
Welcome to Ronald's electronic project site - PIC & Nixie stuff & Pong + Inductor Test Bench in the Flyback Converters for dummies page
How to generate video signals in software using PIC - Color with SX28 -
Read Modify Write - writing to I/O ports or counter/timer registers can have problems when the actual state changes
Interrupt Service Routine Register State Maintenance  - The first thing you need to do inside the ISR is save the registers, and the last thing is to restore them
Timer tutorial (incl prescalers)  - one way around the jitter problem is given here by Bob Ammerman and that's to not set the timer but to add a constant to it.

Linkers & Loaders

PIC Elmer 160 - includes good overview of the Linker
Linkers and Loaders Book -

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time this page created 20 Jan 2000.