How to make your own ESP-01-based development board with USB-Serial, buttons, indicators and more.
The ESP-01 is a common first step on the way to ESP8266 wisdom: it's cheap, easy to connect to jumpers (or to a breadboard, with a simple pin adapter). Despite having only a small number of exposed pins, it's based on a fully capable ESP8266 chip, being able to run special firmwares (like NodeMCU) and doing whatever can be done using the available pins.
But setting up the environment for each new learning project gets tiresome quickly, and that's why Mikronauts found another way: rolling your own ESP8266 development board, using an ESP-01 and some simple components and modules.
It's not a full-on development environment like the ESP-12 based NodeLHC we saw last week: it doesn't include voltage regulation or an I2C connector, for example.
Mikronaut's developer board brings, however, lots of reasons for a tinkerer to start building his own variation: it is easy to draw power from a breadboard, has an easy connector for a FTDI-based USB serial adapter, breaks out all pins, has buttons for RESET and FLASH functions (and a third USER button, available for programming), and has led indicators for both GPIO pins, power, TX and RX, and for the RESET mode.
In the article, Mikronauts explain its purpose, describes the whole rig, presents a large enough schematic and very visible photos, and explains how to interact with the board, both using interactive AT commands (through a serial terminal) or programatically (using the Arduino IDE).
I already have my own ESP-01-compatible development board, but probably will make another one using Mikronaut's schematic – it should be useful and fun. I think I'll use a smaller board and try to change the way it interfaces with the underlying breadboard, though. Sideways, maybe.
Read all about what Mikronauts did: ESP8266 ESP-01 module experiments.