When AVR microcontrollers were first introduced in 1995, In System Programming was simple, with one programming method (Serial Programming Interface or SPI) and a recommended 5 x 2 10-pin target interface. For 10-15 years, this stayed the same except for the addition of JTAG programming on some devices and a move towards a 3 x 2 6-pin target header. In the last few years, new interfaces have sprouted like weeds, including TPI, PDI and UPDI. What do this all mean and how does it affect you?
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.
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?
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!