Monday, October 27, 2008

What is a Microcontroller??

Many of us hear word microprocessor or microcontroller. Its sounds really cool but most of us have no clue what it is. If you're one of them you better read this post.

A microcontroller is basically a small low cost computer on a chip and usually includes:

-A microprocessor (CPU-8/16 bit)
-A small amount of RAM
-Programmable ROM and/or flash memory
-Parallel and/or serial generators
-Timers and signal generators
-Analog to Digital (A/D) and /or Digital to Analog (D/A) Converter.

Now let me take an example of an ATMEGA8 microcontroller which i used for my mini project.

The microprocessor is a part of the microcontroller that does all the processing and calculations. For example: the Intel chip in you computer is a microprocessor. The ATMEGA8 has an 8-bit microprocessor doing all the processing in it.

The ATMEGA8 consists of a 1KB(1024 b) SRAM that is used while executing programs.

A very important part of a microcontroller is its memory. ATMEGA8 has a flash memory of 8KB, which is more that enough for our purpose.

A timer is a very essential part of a microcontroller that keeps track of the time. Its not a simple clock to check time but used as a reference to guide various programs.

A/D and D/A converters as they seem are just used to convert analog signals to digital and digital to analog respectively.

Below is a schematic diagram of a ATMEGA8 microcontroller.

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