New to microcontrollers - looking for advice.

Discussion in 'Embedded Systems and Microcontrollers' started by Calab, Mar 21, 2012.

  1. Calab

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 21, 2012

    I have several projects in mind that are well suited for microcontrollers. I'm a total n00b so I want to get some experts advice before I start.

    A few of my "criteria":
    - All the projects that I am considering will be portable, so they will be running from a battery.
    - I will be wanting to interface some combination of USB, bluetooth, infrared, several buttons and eventually an LCD screen and possibly even a touch screen.
    - I'll be developing on a Windows 7 based PC.
    - I have done a fair amount of programming in 6502, z80 and 6809 assembly language. I don't know much about C++.
    - I have not worked with microcontrollers, so have no preference to brand/type. I also do not have any equipment to program them as of yet.

    With the above criteria in mind, is there any specific type/brand of microcontroller that I should be considering?

    Is there any kind of learning kit that I might want to look into?

    Any advice at all is welcome and appreciated!

  2. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
    You state some interesting and important criteria which I will tackle one at a time:

    While this is a crucial one, most brands have special low power MCUs.
    We all do. But considering that you "have several projects in mind" I would set this aside and take one step at a time. Do not choose one MCU for all projects. You should be considering choosing different MCU from other brands. Get the right MCU for the specific application.
    This is not a restrictive requirement. Most IDE software have Windows versions.
    This is an important statement. It means that you will learn very quickly. If you are developing for professional or commercial reasons, you will choose to write in C. Knowing ASM is a very important asset to any MCU programmer.

    6809 - Now, there was a properly designed 8-bit microprocessor!

    Yes, you have worked with microcontrollers, but in a different way. Technically speaking, the processors you have worked with are called micro processors. All microcontrollers (MCU) have a microprocessor at the core. So you already know about 80-95% of MCU.

    Since you already know many microprocessors, I would choose to be flexible and choose the MCU that fits the task. Be prepared to switch brands as needed. With your 6502, 6809 background, I would recommend starting off with Freescale HC08 and HC12 families.

    Eventually, I would get a starter kit from each of the major contenders, Atmel, Freescale and Microchip. Most kits are under $100.

    From Freescale, the dev kit for the MC9S08QG8 sells for around $50.

    Start off with small 16, 18, 20 or 28-pin thru-hole DIP components that you can easily develop on a breadboard. For volume productions you can switch to compact SMT chips.

    By the time you get up to steam, you will be looking at some ARM chips or even the Raspberry Pi for your touch screen LCD applications.

    The world of MCU is extremely fascinating and rewarding. Knowing how a uP system is put together, ROM, RAM, peripherals, I/O buses, etc., is extremely important for an embedded systems developer, in the same way that knowing ASM is important to a C programmer. In a single chip MCU, all the system integration is done for you. You can create some amazing solutions that are compact, low cost, low power, and all on a single chip.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012