Review: Needhams Device Programmers
I've used two programmers from Needham's Electronics, and I've been happy with both.
I personally own a PB-10 made in 1988, which I picked up second-hand for just a few bucks -- it's still going strong, and Needham's is still releasing software updates for it. It only does EPROMS, EEPROMs, and a few microcontrollers, but it programs them quickly and reliably. The PB-10 is a card that plugs into a PC ISA bus slot; a cable with a small PCB and ZIF socket sticks out the back of the computer. This arrangement can be a bit awkward at times, but it does work.
At work we have a EMP-20, which is a programmer that connects to the PC via the parallel port. It uses a clever scheme of "family modules" to handle different families of devices. The family module is a small PCB that plugs into a 30-pin SIMM socket on the programmer. They are reasonably priced ($25 each, or 3 for $50) and each one supports a fairly wide range of devices (for example, one module handles most standard EPROMS and EEPROMs; another does standard PALs and GALs). The EMP-20 handles a wide range of devices, including EPROMs, EEPROMs, FLASH, PLDs, microcontrollers, etc. We've had excellent results with all types of devices. Programming seems to be a bit faster than on the PB-10.
The programming software runs in DOS text-mode, accomodates both 25-line and 50-line video modes, and supports a mouse. It is easy to learn and use, but somewhat quirky (for example, F10 is used to bring up online help). The program can read all major programmer file formats (i.e. Intel hex, Motorola S-records, binary, etc.), and includes a hex editor. Macros can be set up to program often-used devices and configurations, but macros can't be recorded and saved -- you have to write down your keystrokes and manually enter them into an INI file, which is a bit of a pain. Both the PB-10 and SA-20 (and, I assume, the rest of their programmers) use the same programming software.
I haven't required a great deal of support, but when I have, it's been professional and helpful. The only blank mark is that they refuse to do e-mail tech support, which is incredibly annoying. Still, the programmers have supported nearly all the devices I've needed, and software updates are regular and free!
Bottom Line: Highly Recommended!