Microcontrollers are in everything nowadays from simple items like dimmer switches to complex systems such as your mobile phone. Learning microcontroller programming allows you to create a huge range of embedded projects only limited by your imagination.
The PIC16F877A (and earlier PIC16F877) are microntrollers supplied by Microchip. It is just one device among many PIC microcontrollers and it is a veteran chip compared with many others. There are lots of articles, projects and circuit diagrams available on the web that use the PIC16F877A so it seems to make sense to use it but should you still use this chip?
Arduino is officially an open source electronic prototyping system, which is sold with the slogan “So easy, my granny can use it”. It is not quite as simple as that but it is pretty easy to buy a successful project and implement it quickly. So if your idea has already been done, Arduino makes it straightforward to carry it out.
If you have been using Arduino to develop your code but want to move on to develop your own AVR based circuit or want to program your Arduino board with an external programmer to give more code space, you will need to understand how to use an AVR ISP or In System Programmer. This post covers the information you need
You can use a normal AVR ISP programmer to upload Arduino sketches to an Arduino board or to an AVR microcontroller in your own circuit, such as ATmega328P, ATmega8 or ATmega2561, but first you need to know how to find the hex files that the programmer needs. The Arduino IDE makes this as hard as possible for some reason. This post shows you how to find them and also how to make Arduino put them in an easier place to find in future.
Kanda have been supplying PIC, serial EEPROM, ST7, COP8 and AVR portable programmers for many years and are always extending the range. They vary from simple units in a keyfob case to larger hand held units with storage for one or more programs up to a portable programmer with LCD and keypad that will store 32 programs.
AVRDude is free open source software for programming AVR devices. It is command line based but can be run from a batch or make file. It is the main programming utility used by Arduino software when the target board does not have a bootloader.
Kanda have been making the STK200 starter kit for 15 years and it is still proving to be very popular. It was originally designed for Atmel and was the first low cost microcontroller training kit on the market and helped launch the AVR as a popular microcontroller.
Atmel have since moved on to STK500 and STK600 as the AVR portfolio has expanded but the original kit has many advantages, especially for beginners. Arduino has also entered the market but this serves a different purpose and won’t actually teach you much about microcontrollers.
Windows 8.1 is here and more and more people will be forced to use it as they purchase new computers. I do not like it myself as I find it slow and clunky and even more of the system is hidden from you but it is here to stay. A pity, because Microsoft got it pretty damn right with Windows 7.
I am an occasional user of MPLAB because we mainly use AVR microcontrollers in our products but recently we have done a lot with PIC microcontrollers. This gave the opportunity to compare MPLAB 8.70 and MPLAB X to decide which to use in the future, so we thought we would share our findings with you.