Hi all, thanks for all the feedback. A micro processor sounds ideal...as we could potentially have dozens or hundreds of LEDs depending on the application.
However, although I am fairly hands on and practical...my electronics experience is fairly limited. What is involved? What components would I typically need? How do you programme a microprocessor? What's the language/syntax? Could one processor control all of the LEDs if each had a different sequence?
Thanks again for all the help!!!!
First step would be buying a micro-processor. To learn, you would need the μprocessor itself, some resistors, LEDs and transistors. Optionally, you can get a potentiometer/trim-pot or two or some buttons that you can use as an 'input' for your processor.
A micro-processor is programmed from you computer and can be done fairly easily. Some require a 'programmer' which is commonly a USB device that you connect between your computer and circuit/processor. Some bypass this, like many Arduino... they simply have a usb socket and you plug them right into the computer.
A common language is C, but there are derivative languages that follow the same general structure and change or add functions. This will vary depending on which processor you go with.
How many LEDs do you plan to control with your final project, and will the lighting sequences be pre-programmed, or will they be generated on the fly?
You have a couple options:
-Buy a processor with lots of inputs and outputs, and optionally buy components like 'io expanders'.
Two things will limit you here. Processor memory, and how often you will be updating the patterns. (Fading LEDs, or very fast flashes will not scale well... only if you want individual control of each LED. You can always control groups of LEDs at the same time, which will cut down on how many pins you need and the memory required)
-Buy multiple processors.
The main processor will act as a sort of concert conductor, and will tell each sub-processor which pattern to play. This has the benefit of finer control for larger amounts of LEDs you wish to connect, but making new patterns on-the-fly may be more difficult.
If you can provide a little more info we can suggest more info
Will the (or some) LEDs be grouped together and act in concert, or will each LED have a unique pattern?
Will each LED be capable of multiple patterns, or a single hard-coded pattern.
How many unique patterns are desired, and can you describe one or two of the patterns you would like?