Embedded C Programming with ARM Cortex-M Video Course

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As part of my New Year’s resolution for 2013, I just started to teach an Embedded C Programming Course with ARM Cortex-M on YouTube. The playlist for this course is available at: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLPW8O6W-1chwyTzI3BHwBLbGQoPFxPAPM .

The course is intended for beginners and is structured as a series of short, focused, hands-on lessons that teach you how to program ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers in C.

I’ve designed this course not just to be watched, but to follow it along on your own computer. In the “Getting Started” Lesson 0, I show you how to download and install the free evaluation version of IAR EWARM and how to order the Stellaris Launchpad ARM Cortex-M4 board (for just $12.99). The board is optional, as I show how to use the instruction set simulator.

My goal is not just to teach C–other courses do it already quite well. But there are virtually no courses that would step down to the machine level and show you exactly what happens inside the ARM processor.

Starting from Lesson 1 you actually see how the ARM Cortex-M processor executes your code, how it manipulates registers, and how it counts. You learn how binary numbers map to the hexadecimal system used in the debugger (and in C) and you learn about the two’s complement number representation of signed numbers.

In lesson 2, you learn about the flow of control and the ARM branch instructions. Actually, you witness a disection of the ARM B-instruction (branch). You also learn about the pipeline and pipeline stalls due to branching.

In lesson 3, you learn about variables and pointers. You learn how ARM accesses variables in memory through the load and store instructions (load-store architecture). You also learn how the fundamental concept of memory addresses maps to pointers in C, how to obtain an address of a variable and how to dereference a pointer.

I hope that this course will help you gain understanding of the ARM Cortex-M core, which will look really good on your resume.

This deeper understanding will allow you to use both the ARM processor and the C language more efficiently and with greater confidence. You will gain understanding not just what for your program does, but also how the C statements translate to machine instructions and how fast the processor can execute them.

I’d love to hear your comments about the course. Is there anything that you would like to see in the upcoming lessons? Do you see anything that you would teach differently? Or perhaps you have ideas for teaching specific subjects? Please share…


38 Responses

  1. Hi Miro,

    I’ve been going through your videos a bit and really enjoying them. While the concepts are familiar to me, you have a good way of explaining things and injecting a little fun at appropriate times (“this is what my hands look after 20 years of writing C” brought a smile to the office).

    However, I have two small remarks: Firstly, when you introduce 2’s complement, you might want to throw in the word “sign bit” and refresh the viewers’ understanding of the number encoding. Somebody who learns about this for the first time from your video might not realize that bit 31 flips when you go past 7FFFFFFF. The info is all there of course, but it could have been a little bit clearer. Likewise, in video 1 when you changed the memory view to show the instructions, I missed a short reference to byte ordering, because in 1x units view it’s obivously little-endian and the change when going to 2x units might be confusing. Maybe though most viewers wouldn’t even notice that…

    The other thing I found is that you made a small mistake when introducing loop unrolling in video 2 at around 8:40, the condition should be changed to “while(counter < 10)" instead of "while(counter < 20)".

    Apart from that, thanks for your work and dedication. Your blog posts always provides interesting and thought-provoking insight.


    1. Hi Andreas,

      Thanks a lot for the comments!

      I contemplated mentioning that the rollover from 0x7FFF,FFFF to 0x8000,0000 sets the most-significant (MS) bit, but this was actually written as an equation below the number (-2^31). Also, I really don’t like to think about the MS bit as a single “sign bit”, because in 2’s complement representation there are many “sign bits”, for example, -1 is all “sign bits”. That’s why you need to properly sign-extend signed numbers, as opposed to only setting the “sign bit”. But, I’m really watching my time, and such an explanation would take a few minutes, easily… But, I would greatly appreciate if you could put your suggestion in a YouTube comment under the specific video. Such discussion immediately after the video would benefit all the viewers, which might have been perplexed about the same thing.

      Regarding the condition “while(counter < 20)", I think I was actually correct in the video. Please note that the "counter" variable counts the number of increments, not the number of passes through the loop (which indeed should be only 10). But we don't need to debate this. Why don't you just run the code and see the final value in the "counter" after the loop? This course is really supposed to be "hands on"!

      Anyway, I hope we all have some fun here, especially when I get to functions, interrupts, "superloop" variants, state machines, etc.

      Stay tuned and add comments to YouTube as well!


      1. There you have it, I was obviously not quite awake while watching, you are of course right about the loop unrolling. Let’s call it “temporary operational blindness” 😉

        I need to make a YT account to comment, but it’s a good thing I didn’t embarass myself on there as well as here…

        Concerning the “sign bit” discussion, you are correct (again) about sign extension, I just felt that for a first-time viewer, it might not be completely obvious what is happening at the rollover point and the 2^n-representation could be confusing, but since you explained hex numbers *beforehand* (see what I did there? 😉 ) and showed base-2-representations as well, I figure I might just underestimate the potential viewers’ abilities.

        Looking forward to seeing the next part of the series (and I promise I’m going to check any “errors” first in the simulator before commenting next time)


        1. I appreciate the comments and please keep checking me for “errors and omissions”! Comments add depth and breadth to the presentation.

          For example, I left it as a “homework”, but I didn’t really get to discussing the unsigned number representation and the rollover from 0xFFFF,FFFF to 0. Very interestingly, even though the actual binary representation of unsigned numbers above 0x7FFF,FFFF is identical as the signed representation, they represent a completely different values. A YouTube comment about this could start an interesting discussion, I think.

          Who would think that a mundane subject, like integer “counting”, could be so deep?

          Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing your comments on YouTube as well!


  2. Hello,

    Thank you for all your efforts and dedication for the work you have done for the people like me.

    I am a 8051 user since long, and now seriously thinking to migrate to CortexMo-M4. Your course posted on youtube would definately help me in the intended process.

    However, I live in Pakistan and here we can not open youtube as our so-called government prohibits watching youtube.

    Is there any way I could watch the course video ?

    I would appreciate your help.


      1. Hello Miro,

        Thank you for your quick reply, and I am really sorry for not replying you earlier.
        I tried to click on the link you shown in your earlier post but there I could not find any video to be downloadable.

        Have you posted the video at that link?



  3. It would be amazing if you could do advanced lessons (maybe on RTOS, or advanced C) . I feel like there are many newbie resources on the Internet on all topics but there is a lack of advanced tutorials.

    1. I plan to keep adding new lessons to the video course and I hope to get to the more advanced subjects. For example, even in a course for beginners I plan to talk about interrupts, which includes obviously context switch, which in turn is fundamental to understanding preemption in an RTOS. I also plan to talk about object-oriented techniques in C, such as emulating classes and single inheritance. As usual, I will step down to the disassembly view and explain the overheads and benefits.

      But I would generally disagree with the assessment that there are many newbie resources for embedded programming out there. Sure, you can find a lot of stuff, but I would challenge you to point out a single resource that would truly explain what the C compiler does to your code and how the processor executes the resulting instructions. I believe that you cannot be an effective embedded programmer without such knowledge, because you will not know what is and isn’t efficient, and how fast the CPU can execute your code.

  4. That is the best embedded video tutorial I’ve ever seen so far. Thanks a lot for the effort!

    Even though the title is about C programming but I wish, maybe at the end of this video series, you could have an advanced section. You explain what is going on in the startup.s file before the the program enters main, just like what you did in Building bare metal ARM with GNU.

  5. Hello Miro,

    thank you for your great video lectures! Please go on I can’t wait to see the next lectures. Do you know when you will post the next episodes of your fantastic course?

    Greatings from Austria!

  6. Dear Miro Samek,

    I started Programming ARM just after watching your videos, and i think you are one of the best teachers i have learnt from. But, the thing is that i am looking for more videos from you. I mean I am looking for video tutorials on how to use Microcontroller inside modules, like SPI, i2C, PWM, Compare, Capture, Timers, Interrupts, ADC and DAC, USB Interfacing and Ethernet. I mean advanced programming tutorials. I am from Pakistan as well, but somehow through proxy bypassing i am able to see your videos on youtube as well.

    Note: I am using STM32 VL Discovery kit to do the programming(STM32F100 [Cortex M3]) , and the syntax to address the ports and individual bits of ports is very different here. i am finding trouble in coping with STM32, since in case of TI Stellaris it is much easier as can be seen through your videos. Anyhow, the tutorials are just brilliant, but i would like you to add more and more.

    Secondly, i am interested in event driven programming as well, i will be going through the introduction and getting started with QP and all the video stuff you posted, but can you please tell me if we are to have a particular hardware platform or i can use my STM32F100 microcontroller based STM32VL Discovery kit as well.

    I am going to be in constant touch with you, i hope i learn things from you quickly and join you one day in work because i am crazzy about embedded systems. I have done fair bit of programming PIC Microcontrollers at 8 bit level, but ARM is something exciting and advanced and i am already feeling it. I have used one of it`s timer and interrupt feature.

    Hope you are not bored with my long reply. Hope to have your reply soon.

    M. Junaid Aslam

  7. Wonderful video series!
    I am eagerly waiting for new videos on advanced topics such as interrupts, timers, rtos etc.

    Thanks a lot

  8. You are Legent Miro Samek !!!!!

    My dream is to learn embedded systems and I have read a lot of books about embedded system but your online course is the best source. I think your are the best teacher I have ever seen in the world.

    I creazy like your course , I watch your online course at least 20 times.

    Please go on I can’t wait to see the next lectures and show us more examples about the subjects.
    Best Regards

    1. I am trying to cram a lot of information into every sentence, to value the time of the viewer and make every minute of the course count. Twenty times is perhaps excessive, but I also think that the videos are worth viewing more than once, to pick up the details that you might miss the first time through.

      1. Dear Miro
        I am new user on the TI Stellaris ARM M4.
        I live in Turkey and my english is not enough for picking up the all details while listening and watching the lessons so sometimes it could be diffucult to catch the details. Thats why I watch the lessons a lot of times and at the same time I read the manual to understand the memory programming.

        Again thank you very much for your great Embedded Lessons, please go on ,

        Best Regards,


  9. The course is easy to understand and the many of my doubts like why clock need to be enabled and how to specify address, how professionally look for information in data manuals, really your way of teaching is excellent. I wrote the led blinking in keil earlier and now I can see the difference of your methods and thanks.

  10. hello

    it was one of the best courses a saw on the embbded programming ! ,i look for a long time for such a course , it was very comprehensive and useful !!!

    my question : where are the rest of the lessons (i found only 11 ) ?

    thank you

  11. Hi,

    Very nice and informative lecture series, I enjoyed watching it all.
    Desperately waiting for next in series.


  12. Hi,

    Very nice and informative lecture series, I enjoyed watching it all.Desperately waiting for next in series.
    And i would like to ask few questions ,
    1. Is this possible to use code viser debugger for debugging the code, for this board ?.
    2.If possible please show me how to debug by using this debugger?.

    Thanks & Regards
    Srinidhi MS

    1. Hi Srinidhi,
      The next lesson about C structs and their applications for accessing embedded hardware will be released this week (hopefully).

      Regarding “Code Viser”, I understand from searching online that this is just a JTAG debugger for ARM cores. You don’t need it for the Stellaris/Tiva LauchPad board used in this course, because these boards come with built-in JTAG debugger. I suppose that the experience with CodeViser or any other similar hardware debugger (such as J-Link, ST-Link, etc.) is very similar to what you get with the Stellaris/Tiva LauchPad boards.


  13. Hi Miro,
    It looks like there is no longer a size limited free version of IARWorkbench, only a 30 day trial version. Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks!

  14. hi,

    I’m studying Electrical Engineering and I’m involved with an Arm based robotic project, just wanted to say that what you’ve presented here is a fantastic and marvelous job.Thank you very much for what you’ve been doing. I, myself have learned a lot from your course, keep going on!!!!!:))))

  15. Hello Miro,
    As Many have suggested on your comments, the video series is really very helpful.
    But what kept me with the lessons is your comprehensible way of teaching in a very short period. We don’t get this kind of analysis and look outs in embedded field.
    Also no doubt you are a great teacher. I hope I’ll find your other videos soon, n definitely they’ll be helpful for me.

    I’m deeply indebted to you for giving me the courage that I can also program.
    Thanks a lot.

  16. This course glued me to my chair for each and every lesson. I preferred to perform all the steps with TI’s Code Composer Studio 6 and took notes about the differences with your output in IAR’s. Your 32-bit vs. 16-bit Stellaris vs. MSP430 show was hugely on spot and nailed the mixed types warning in my head harder than even K&R could have done….

    Your last explanation in lesson 15 about using the __stackless keyword (which I haven’t been able to find even as an equivalent in the TI ARM compiler) is beautifully clear and classy and sums up the entire course in one single shot.

    Fantastic teaching density and amazing examples, right to the point each and every time.

    Humbled to be a student of Professor Samek and hoping for more to come!

    Thank you!

    Rome, Italy

  17. hello .
    I’m azadi and i live in iran . I want start work with micro arm but i dont know . please help me .
    In here is very book. but all book is translated and i ‘m involved.
    thanks a lot .

  18. Your work show who you are. We are lucky to see your videos, I have confided that I can lean Embedded system after seeing your videos. I am basically mechanical engineer working in software. Hope I will get more videos thank you for your humanity.

  19. Hi Miro,

    I have been going through your videos thoroughly, I am really learning from it. I appreciate your teaching skills.

    Looking forward to threads, RTOS tutorial. Also, what about porting minimal Linux on Stellaris? (It would be real fun)

    Thanks again!

    Gaurav Minocha

  20. Hi Miro,

    Thanks a lot for the whole course. i really appreiciate your work. Im working as an emb.edded SW engineer and i learned so much in a short time about Cortem m and embedded programming.
    Would you pls produce more videos about RTOS as mentioned in the post before? You cant stop now !


  21. Hi Miro,
    i was just wondering about what is your future plans regarding this YouTube video course the viewers really liked it and are addicted to it 🙂
    i am From 2018 😀 5 years since you started this course and there is only 22 videos 🙁

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