Are you a young school student looking for study data to learn microcontrollers?
Are you a high school / college student looking for information to design your microcontroller based project?
Are you an old man planning to convert your old digital technology based design to a compact microcontroller based design?
Are you working in an organization and want to upgrade your skills for microcontroller and embedded system design?
You all are from variety of age, expertise and skill levels. But your need is same. Your basic question is same. Your objective is same. That’s to “Learn Microcontroller based design.”
You are on right track as you have decided to go along with microcontrollers for your all electronics projects. There is no other good method than using a microcontroller in product design.
Here are the steps and information for you to get started:
1. Your knowledge and ability:
Every human is unique in the knowledge he has acquired and the abilities he has.
Knowledge indicates the “experience” and ability indicate “time required to solve a design problem”
e.g. I know C language very well but I can’t solve a “Array Sorting program easily.”
This indicates having knowledge of C programming is not enough but one should have good ability to “Analyze and solve the problem statement”.
And this is the key and most important feature required while working with any microcontroller based embedded design system.
In other word this ability to solve problems is called as “Logic of creating solutions”.
2. Hardware & Software
Microcontroller based embedded system designing is combination of hardware and software.
Microcontroller is a small Integrated Chip (IC) and is the hardware part of the system. This small chip called microcontroller has facility to store a “Program” inside it. This is called as software.
You as a product designer, must have both expertise. Lets understand this by one example:
“You have been assigned a simple task to design and develop a product to display room temperature”
This project will need following components:
1. The temperature sensor (e.g. LM35)
2. A Microcontroller (e.g. ATmega8 AVR) to read the data from temperature sensor.
3. A 16 chars by 2 lines (16×2) LCD display
4. DC Voltage regulator 5V (7805 based)
Once you have this set ready, then its time to create a circuit / schematics for this.
Here is the point where you start learning about internals of microcontroller ATmega8.
Learn the hardware aspect of this microcontroller and then the software. The software writing is using Assembly or C Language.
3. Tools and equipments
A PC / Laptop, installed with IDE (development environment), ISP Programmer hardware, Starter kit / target board and some books or reference manuals or a Computer based Tutorial.
In above example we have selected ATmega8 microcontroller. This is made by ATMEL and is from AVR family of controllers. This is 8 bit controller.
WInAVR/ AVRstudio is used as IDE for writing program.
There are many ISP programmers (hardware) available in the market.
Starter kit helps you to experiment and test your program by downloading (flashing) the developed source code into the ATmega8 microcontroller.
Books, reference manuals and Computer based tutorial will help you to get started with the new and exciting world of microcontrollers.
There are several other microcontrollers available like PIC, 8051, ARM, etc.
Every family has some unique features to offer and you have to decide which feature you need the most.
Cost of the microcontroller is also an important factor in selecting. Other factors but important are availability of tools like compilers, IDEs, starter kits, programmers, books and reference material.