Starting with Microcontroller, which to choose?

Thread Starter


Joined Apr 26, 2008
Hello I'm new with microcontroller. Help me to choose which brand should I start with, atmel or microchip pic and why should I start with that? Please also consider isp or icsp, because I don't want to buy a programmer.
Reference links will be great.


Joined May 26, 2009
So you want to buy a microcontroller...why? Do you want to start in the basics of programming? Why don't you give a little more detailed information as to why you need it.

Thread Starter


Joined Apr 26, 2008
The first reason is learning about uc. And how it can be program. I want to built some remote control devices like rc car, wireless surveillance system, projects using pc keyboard or joystick as controller etc.

Yeah, I want to start basics of uc programming with C. I have intermediate level of proficiency with this language. I can create .hex files, but almost no practical knowledge how to upload it to uc. I have read from books and different web resource about programming uc, but most of them are so confusing and uses a programmer. I know that they can be programmed without those programmers but don't know how.

I want to know which one I should start with, arm or pic model? And straight forward way to program uc via pc's usb(preffered), serial or parallel port.


Joined May 11, 2009
I guess the naming convention can be somewhat confusing for a beginner. The hex file you are referring to can be compered to a exe file. A program ready to run. But it is not much of use as long as it reside on your hard disk. You have to download it to the uc internal memory. And for that you need a hardware device called "programmer" You can not program a uc without using some sort of programmer. All uc manufacturer sell this device in a cheap variant with some sort of free software you can download. Or you can pick up cheaper variants (clones) from 3. part vendors


Joined Oct 13, 2009
The basic microcontrollers like 8051 will help you to understand the basics of programming.But it will not help you more to do the projects like you interested. For the deep programming you can move to PIC16f or PIC18f series. The main advantage of these controllers is its wide range of registers and memmory.But some times u will face problem with memory at the time u writing big programs.But for a beginner PIC16f877a will be the good one.
you have to download programmer for writing progarams.microchip is giving MPLAB.but you can write only in assembly language.if you want write program in embedded C you have to install PIC c also.


Joined Jan 28, 2005
If you have a tight budget, I would suggest you consider AVR from ATMEL.

You can download a fanstasic Assembler FREE from ATMEL's website. It is called AVRSTUDIO4. You can also download a FREE C-compiler from called WINAVR that works together with AVRSTUDIO4.

My suggestion is AVR..
The ISP programmer is simpler than of PIC ICSP programmer.
There are free c compilers for AVR but not for PIC...
Nice support and tutorials from


Joined Sep 7, 2009
Microchip also offers free development software including a C compiler.

One of the great things about Microchip is they value the little guy and the hobbyist very well (where as many other of the big players are only concerned with larger companies).

There are a ton of development boards they offer for everything under the sun that you may be interested in and they usually come with free code to get you started.

They also offer very low cost (~$100) 1 day in house classes throughout the US on a variety of different subjects - getting started with micros, programming micros in C, and more advanced - USB / Ethernet - once you get to that level. You can usually get discounted tools at these classes.

There's a good support base with active user forums.

Atmel is good too but I prefer Microchip. There are a bunch of hobbyist type chips out there too like the Basic Stamp but they kind of limit your growth. If you use chips from one of the major players like Microchip or Atmel you can go from hobbyist type projects to full blown production quality designs with many advanced features without having to get familiar with a whole new family of chips or company.

For a beginner project I'd suggest anything from the PIC18F family though in the end it really doesn't matter much.