Microcontrollers are, basically, a computer in a single chip. It contains memory, processor, I/O ports (I/O = Input/Output) and other periphericals. Can you believe a single chip does contain RAM, ROM, CPU, I/O Ports, timers and other gadgets? It only needs a keyboard and display to be a working computer…
…I almost forgot; It also needs Software.
Microcontrollers are expensive ccompared with CMOS or TTLs chips, but using it on any electronic project allows to save parts and money. Here is an example of the same project using Microcontroller and without microcontrollers:
A simple 8-pin chip replaces diodes, ICs, resistors, capacitors and transistors. Why? Because the 12F629 chip is a MICROCONTROLLER and replaces all those parts with the SOFTWARE. The software, also known as “code”, “program” or “instructions”. The software looks like this:
No idea what is this about? Don’t worry. You will be able to find the HEX files that contains the software for the microcontroller. After some time, you will be able to undestand and make your own programs. Meanwhile, let’s learn what we need to start to build some projects with Microcontrollers.
I do use MICROCHIP microcontrollers, also known as Microchip PIC or just PIC. There are some reason why I only use PICs:
1. Inexpensive – Some PICs cost less than $2.00 USD.
2. Documentation available – All technical specifications and datasheets are available at the Microchip website.
3. Lots of projects available – The web shows thousands of projects using Microchip Microcontrollers. Plenty of projects.
4. Low cost development – With less than $10.00 USD, I can make my own programmer and start making projects!