Serial Monitor

How to write to and read from the serial port.

When you run a Go program on a desktop computer, you can use the fmt.Print(), fmt.Println(), and fmt.Printf() functions from the Go standard fmt package to print strings and numbers to the terminal program on the desktop computer. The Go language also supports the low-level print() and println() built-in functions to print to the terminal.

A TinyGo program running on a microcontroller can use those same functions to print strings and numbers to its serial monitor port and have them appear on the terminal program on the host computer. By default, the fmt functions and the print()/println() functions are configured to send to the machine.Serial object of the microcontroller.

On some microcontrollers, the machine.Serial object is configured to send to the UART chip, which is often wired to a USB-to-serial adapter chip on the dev board. The adapter chip converts the serial bits into USB packets to the host computer. On other microcontrollers, the USB controller is built directly into the microcontroller SoC. The machine.Serial object on these microcontrollers is configured to send to the USB bus directly, instead of going through a USB-to-serial adapter.

In the context of this tutorial, it does not matter whether the microcontroller uses a UART controller or a USB controller. In both cases, the microcontroller will appear as a serial device on the host computer which can communicate via applications that read from and write to the serial port on the host computer.

Serial Output

Using fmt.Print() and fmt.Println()

Here is a sample program that writes a line every second to the machine.Serial port:

package main

import (

func main() {
    count := 0
    for {
        fmt.Println(count, ": Hello, World")
        time.Sleep(time.Millisecond * 1000)

This can be flashed to the microcontroller using the tinygo flash command described in the Blinky tutorial.

Using print() and println()

One problem with the above program is that fmt is a large package that consumes substantial amount of flash memory on a microcontroller. The built-in functions print() and println() consume far less resources. The above program can be written like this:

package main

import (

func main() {
    count := 0
    for {
        println(count, ": Hello, World")
        time.Sleep(time.Millisecond * 1000)

An estimate of the flash memory consumption can be printed by the TinyGo compiler using the -size flag. Here is a table that shows the 2 versions of the program above for some microcontrollers that I have readily available:

| Board Type      | fmt.Println() | println() |
| Arduino Zero    | 43532         | 7328      |
| Seeeduino Xiao  | 43532         | 7388      |
| STM32 BluePill  | 41756         | 6296      |
| ESP8266 D1 Mini | 44961         | 3588      |
| ESP32           | 42410         | 3335      |

The fmt package increases flash memory consumption by 35 kB to 40 kB. On some microcontrollers with limited amount of flash memory, (e.g. the STM32 Blue Pill with 64 kB of flash, the Arduino Zero or Seeeduino Xiao both with 256 kB of flash), it may be worth avoiding the overhead of the fmt package by using the built-in print() and println() instead.

Serial Monitor on Host Computer

To see the output of the serial port from the microcontroller, we need to run a serial monitor application on the host computer. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest is probably the tinygo monitor subcommand which is built directly into the tinygo program itself.

monitor subcommand

After flashing the program above, run the tinygo monitor program to see the output every second from the microcontroller:

$ tinygo monitor
Connected to /dev/ttyACM0. Press Ctrl-C to exit.
4 : Hello, World
5 : Hello, World

In this example, the serial monitor missed the first 4 lines of “Hello, World” (0 to 3) because the program started to print those lines immediately after flashing, but before the serial monitor was connected.

-monitor flag

It is often useful to automatically start the monitor immediately after flashing your program to the microcontroller. The tinygo flash command takes an optional -monitor flag to accomplish this:

$ tinygo flash -target=xiao -monitor

On some microcontrollers, the -monitor flag fails with the following error message because the monitor starts too quickly:

$ tinygo flash -target=arduino-zero -monitor
Connected to /dev/ttyACM0. Press Ctrl-C to exit.
error: read error: Port has been closed

If this happens, you can chain the flash and monitor subcommands manually, with a 1 or 2-second delay between the two commands. On Linux or MacOS, the command invocation looks like this:

$ tinygo flash -target=arduino-zero && sleep 1 && tinygo monitor

(The && separator runs the next command only if the previous command completed without errors. This is safer than using the semicolon ; separator because the semicolon continues to execute commands even if the previous command returned an error code.)

Baud Rate

The default baud rate of the serial port for almost all microcontrollers supported by TinyGo is 115200. The exceptions are boards using the AVR processors (Arduino Nano, Arduino Mega 1280, Arduino Mega 2560). On these, the serial port is set to 9600, so you need to override the baud rate of tinygo monitor like this:

$ tinygo monitor -baudrate=9600

You can combine the flash subcommand, the -monitor flag, and the -baudrate flag into a single invocation like this:

$ tinygo flash -target arduino-nano -monitor -baudrate 9600

(Notice that the = after each flag has been replaced with a space. It’s an alternative syntax that some people prefer because a space is easier to type than an equal sign =.)

Serial Port on Host

The microcontroller will be assigned a serial port on the host computer. If you have only a single microcontroller attached, you will normally not need to worry about what these serial ports are called. The tinygo monitor will automatically figure out which serial port to use.

On Linux machines, the serial port will have a USB prefix or an ACM prefix like this:

  • /dev/ttyUSB0
  • /dev/ttyACM0

On MacOS machines, the serial port will look like this:

  • /dev/cu.usbserial-1420
  • /dev/cu.usbmodem6D8733AC53571

On Windows machines, the serial port looks something like:

  • COM1
  • COM31

Multiple Microcontrollers

If you have more than one microcontroller attached to the host computer, the tinygo flash and tinygo monitor subcommands can sometimes figure out which port it is using, but they will sometimes print out an error message, like this:

$ tinygo flash -target arduino-nano
error: multiple serial ports available - use -port flag,
available ports are /dev/ttyACM0, /dev/ttyUSB0

You then need to supply the -port flag to identify the microcontroller that you want to flash and monitor:

$ tinygo flash -target=arduino-nano -port=/dev/ttyUSB0

$ tinygo monitor -port=/dev/ttyUSB0 -baudrate=9600

Sometimes it is possible to combine the two commands into a single command even in the presence of multiple microcontrollers:

$ tinygo flash -target xiao -monitor

But sometimes, combining flash and monitor into a single command does not work. In that case, you can issue the flash and monitor commands separately. But it is often easier to just pull out the extra microcontroller(s) so that only a single board is connected to the host computer.

$ tinygo flash -target=arduino-nano -monitor
error: multiple serial ports available - use -port flag,
available ports are /dev/ttyACM0, /dev/ttyUSB0

$ tinygo flash -target=arduino-nano -monitor -port=/dev/ttyUSB0 -baudrate=9600
avrdude: 4238 bytes of flash verified
avrdude done.  Thank you.
error: multiple serial ports available - use -port flag,
available ports are /dev/ttyACM0, /dev/ttyUSB0

Serial Input

Occasionally it is useful to send characters from the host computer to the microcontroller. The following program reads a single byte from the machine.Serial object and prints the character back to the host computer.

The caveat is that the Serial.ReadByte() feature is not currently implemented on every microcontroller supported by TinyGo. For example, the following program does not work on the ESP32 or the ESP8266.

package main

import (

func main() {
    time.Sleep(time.Millisecond * 2000)
    println("Reading from the serial port...")

    for {
        c, err := machine.Serial.ReadByte()
        if err == nil {
            if c < 32 {
                // Convert nonprintable control characters to
                // ^A, ^B, etc.
                machine.Serial.WriteByte(c + '@')
            } else if c >= 127 {
                // Anything equal or above ASCII 127, print ^?.
            } else {
                // Echo the printable character back to the
                // host computer.

        // This assumes that the input is coming from a keyboard
        // so checking 120 times per second is sufficient. But if
        // the data comes from another processor, the port can
        // theoretically receive as much as 11000 bytes/second
        // (115200 baud). This delay can be removed and the
        // Serial.Read() method can be used to retrieve
        // multiple bytes from the receive buffer for each
        // iteration.
        time.Sleep(time.Millisecond * 8)

You can flash this program to the microcontroller (in this example, a SAMD21 M0+ clone that emulates an Arduino Zero), and fire up the monitor like this:

$ tinygo flash -target=arduino-zero
$ tinygo monitor
Connected to /dev/ttyACM0. Press Ctrl-C to exit.
Reading from the serial port...

Type a few characters in the tinygo monitor, for example “abcdef”. You should see the characters echoed back by the microcontroller, as shown above. If you type a nonprintable control characters, these are echoed back as 2 characters: the caret character ^ and a letter representing the control character. For example, typing Control-P prints ^P.

Of the 32 possible control characters, some of them are intercepted by the tinygo monitor itself instead of being sent to the microcontroller:

  • Control-C: terminates the tinygo monitor
  • Control-Z: suspends the tinygo monitor and drops back into shell
  • Control-\: terminates the tinygo monitor with a stack trace
  • Control-S: flow control, suspends output to the console
  • Control-Q: flow control, resumes output to the console
  • Control-@: thrown away by tinygo monitor

Alternative Serial Monitors

There are many alternative serial monitor programs that can be used instead of tinygo monitor. The setup is slightly more complicated because you will need to supply the serial port and baud rate of the microcontroller as described in the Serial Port on Host and Baud Rate subsections above.

Arduino IDE

The Arduino IDE contains its own serial monitor. You may choose to use that instead. You need to set the serial port (something like /dev/ttyUSB0 on Linux, or /dev/cu.usbserial-1420 on MacOS), and set the baud rate to 115200 (or 9600 on AVR processors).


The pyserial is a Python library that comes with its own serial monitor. Setting up a python3 environment is a complex topic that is beyond the scope of this document. But if you are able to install python3 and pip3, you can install pyserial and use its built-in miniterm tool roughly like this:

$ python3 -m pip install --user pyserial
$ python3 -m /dev/ttyUSB0 115200

Another useful feature of pyserial is the list_ports command:

$ python3 -m
3 ports found

This is useful when you plug in a random microcontroller to the USB port, and you cannot remember which serial port it is mapped to.


The picocom terminal emulator can be installed on both Linux and MacOS. If you are using an Ubuntu flavored Linux, the installation is something like:

$ sudo apt install picocom

On MacOS, most people use Homebrew, and it can be installed like this:

$ brew install picocom

It can be invoked like this:

$ picocom -b 115200 /dev/ttyACM0
port is        : /dev/ttyACM0
picocom v3.1
Type [C-a] [C-h] to see available commands
Terminal ready