Category Archives: Microcontrollers

Which PIC Microcontroller to Choose?

The Microchip PIC microcontroller range looks really daunting at first, with lots of 8, 16 and 32 bit devices to choose from. This article will look at 8-bit PICs as they are adequate for most purposes and far more suited to beginners.

There are different series of 8-bit PIC microcontrollers- PIC10F, PIC12F, PIC16F and PIC18F, all with different features and price bands. The PIC10F and PIC12F are the cheapest and generally have less memory, smaller pin counts and less peripherals.

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AVRStudio Explored

AVRStudio is the development software for AVR microcontrollers supplied by Atmel to allow users to easily develop code for their devices. It includes project management, code editors, assembler and C compilers, simulator and programmer and emulator support. It has been developed over the years and has reached AtmelStudio v7.2 but older versions are available, so which version is the best for you?

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Using the AVR Xmega Microcontroller Family

Atmel have added the Xmega series to their AVR range and we are seeing more interest in these microcontrollers as time goes by, but who should be looking at using them?

Well for a start, it is not a chip for complete beginners and people wanting to learn microcontrollers from scratch would be better off starting with standard AVR ATmega microcontroller kits or PIC Microcontroller Kits.

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Using USART or UART on a Microcontroller

First, what is the difference between these terms, UART and USART? UART stands for Universal Asynchronous Receiver and Transmitter, and USART means Universal Synchronous and Asynchronous Receiver and Transmitter. Most microcontrollers today, like PIC and AVR, have USART, but the Synchronous function is not often used as they have other synchronous devices like I2C and SPI. So this post will concentrate on asynchronous transmission, which is the same on both devices.

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Firmware Updates in the Field

All microcontroller based applications include the microcontroller code called firmware but it is surprising how many people forget that they may need to update it when their products are scattered at customer locations. This may be because (heaven forbid) that they discover a bug in the system that needs to be corrected or, more commonly, that the product needs new features in response to customer feedback or competitor’s actions. So how do we simplify firmware updates?

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What is AVR microcontroller?

An AVR microcontroller is a type of device manufactured by Atmel, which has particular benefits over other common chips, but first what is a microcontroller?

The easiest way of thinking about it is to compare a microcontroller with your PC, which has a motherboard in it. On that motherboard is a microprocessor (Intel, AMD chips) that provides the intelligence, RAM and EEPROM memories and interfaces to rest of system, like serial ports (mostly USB ports now), disk drives and display interfaces.

A microcontroller has all or most of these features built-in to a single chip, so it doesn’t need a motherboard and many components, LEDs for example, can be connected directly to the AVR. If you tried this with a microprocessor, bang!

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