New to Micros, Is the 8051 a good platform to start on?

Thread Starter


Joined Oct 29, 2007
I would like to start programming microcontrollers, and have a text book on the 8051, but I've seen that Intel isn't making it anymore. are there are 2nd sources for the chips and programming tools available, like an assembly compiler, and tools for C? Is this chip dying out, and if so, what is a better up and coming replacment with Very good tutorial for a beginner? Thanks for replying,, C. :confused:


Joined Jan 28, 2005
I would recommend you consider the choice of AVR or PIC as the microcontrollers to begin your microcontroller programming career. These devices should be around for some time. They also have taken advantage of lessons learned from the very successful 8051 experience.

Many of the software development tools for each are free and very powerful. I know that a free C-compiler and a free Assembly Code compiler for the AVR can be downloaded from the Web. I am pretty sure this is true of the PIC.

Some very useful hardware/software development tools are available for around $100. For the AVR look for the STK500 development kit. I will let a PIC programmer recommend the best PIC development kit.



Joined Aug 15, 2007
There are second sources for the 8051: Dallas, Phillips (NxP), etc. These include "super 8051s" -- Based on the 8051, but with more features, including FLASH memory.

The nice thing about the 8051 micros from my viewpoint is the EA (External Access) pin: if it is pulled active, all ROM accesses are from external memory. You lose 2 I/O ports, but gain re-programmable memory.

I first learned Z-80 assembler, then 6809, 8085, 8051, COP-8, PIC, and others. Once you know one micro's assembler, the others are pretty easy, although they are not identical.



Joined Jan 28, 2005
The downside of the 8051 is that you will pay dearly for the software development tools.

Again, the AVR and PIC have free software development tools that rival anything that is available for the 8051.

You can go right now without any hardware in hand and download and start familiarizing yourself with the programming tools. It will cost you nothing. I know for a fact that AVRSTUDIO4 has simulation that allows you to single step through your program and watch the effect of the various program instructions on simulated registers.

Give it at try,


Joined Jun 30, 2006
AVR, PIC and PICAXE seem to be the winners. You can take a look at the Arduino the little cousin to the Wiring board.
I've just gotten 16 LEDs individually controlled with mine using 4 ports and plan on expanding that.


Joined Jan 28, 2005
Allright, i'll try the atmel AVR.
That is the neat thing about AVRSTUDIO4. You can test drive the software for free and then decide if you want to go further and spend any additional money for the hardware.

I warn you, you will quickly become hooked on the AVR. I know I did.



Joined Jul 22, 2007
I'd also suggest search in the web (google), and check out some project and tutorial sites. Download a datasheet or two for the chips you see most frequently used, or used in project you might be interested in. What languge are you most comfortable programming in? If a high level, like 'C' or BASIC, either AVR or PIC should be just as good. I know a little assembly (from 6502 days past...), so that is what I went with. I chose AVR over PIC for a few reasons, but mostly I liked the 32 registers and around 130 instructions, opposed to the PIC's 1 register and 32 instructions. Also, they came out with a USB programmer, that would program most of their chips (AVR Dragon $49 USD).

On the web, there are a lot more PIC sites and resources. Avr has plenty though, and growing quickly.

I've yet to destroy an AVR chip, or lock it up. Read several dead PIC stories. I take a lot of short-cuts, and tend to abuse parts in the process. The AVR Tiny series has held up well.

Both PIC and AVR will work just as well for the beginner/hobbiest, both are good to start with. Just depends on what you will eventually use them for, and what kind of programming you want to do.

For Assembly, some people say PIC is easier, with only 32 instructions to learn, but doesn't take into account having to use more instructions to accomplish the task. Guess it just depends on your preference.

Anyway, it's worth doing some research before you start buying stuff. The AVR Dragon is a good programmer, but should share my experience... About a year ago, I decided I was going to get into microcontrollers. Hadn't programmed in years, never learned 'C' or anything, so decided on assembly. As suggest PIC and AVR were the most suggested, looked a few others as well. I wanted an affordable USB programmer and a rich instruction set, similar to what I used before. Most of the USB programmers were out of my range, but saw the Dragon ad for $49, my choice was made. Was a little dissapointed when I opened the box though. The board is a little bare, you have to add a couple of header pin strips, and a ZIF socket. Also need to make/buy jumpers to configure it. No cables for ISP or JTAG programming, no docs included. It took a little while chasing down these items, ordering parts, building cables... but it was well worth it. The docs come with AVR Studio, free download from Atmel.