Michael Dunn @ edn.com writes:
Whether engineer, hobbyist, or maker, we’ve happily watched as chipmakers and third parties alike have come to their senses in recent years and cooked up a smorgasbord (smorgasboard?) of low-cost microcontroller devboards – in some cases, very low cost, like TI’s $4.30 MSP430 board. More recently, we’ve seen ARM Cortex kits for $10-$50, the flowering of the whole Arduino ecosystem, and of course, the Raspberry Pi, starting at $25. It’s microcontroller heaven.
Those of us wanting a cheap “in” to the FPGA world have been less lucky. But the times, they are a changin’. Many FPGA devkits, from both chipmakers and third parties, have broken – or downright shattered – the $100 barrier, opening the door to low-cost FPGA prototyping, education, hobby projects, and so on.
Follow me as I explore this brave new world of affordable FPGA learning and design. I’ve acquired a representative selection of bargain-priced boards, and will be reviewing each, not just on paper, but by actually creating projects with it.
FPGA boards under $100: Introduction – [Link]
By Jon Gabay @ digikey.com:
Copper-based connectivity has served us well for a long time and will continue to do so in applications where it is effective from a performance and cost perspective. For very-high speed and/or long-distance signaling, however, the material cost and physical signal limitations of using metallic conductors has driven eyes to other transport mechanisms.
Fiber optics is not new, and the telecom industry has pushed development and deployment of fiber-optic transceivers and links so that they now span the globe. Very few of our designs have had the need to traverse long distances at such high speeds. Even fewer of us have had deep enough pockets to set up vast high-speed networks. On the other hand, engineers now are finding that local requirements are pushing the limits of metallic interconnects.
Microcontrollers and Fiber Optics – [Link]
An SMPS application using PIC16F785 from Microchip. [via]
In this application note, we will examine a typical buck topology intelligent SMPS design using the PIC16F785.
The design presented here shows an alternative single-chip approach to adding intelligence to SMPS designs. The basic design is really unchanged. There are current and voltage feedback loops, a counter-based PWM is used to generate the reference voltage to the voltage loop, and the microcontroller uses the reference voltage to modify the operation of the system in response to conditions sensed through the ADC.
App note: Switching power supply design with the PIC16F785 – [Link]
Arthur Guy made this mini LCD backpack for the smaller display screens:
This is an LCD backpack but it is for the smaller displays with the double row of pins rather than the single line.
I made this adapter as I was working with some small displays and needed a simple way of connecting it to a microcontroller. There are plenty of adapters for the standard single row displays but I couldn’t find any for the smaller dual row displays
This adapter works with existing libraries built around the PCF8754 shift register
Mini LCD Adapter Backpack – [Link]
By Jon Gabay:
To do something useful, a microcontroller (MCU) must be connected to other devices. This connection is made through input/output (I/O) pins. More times than not, these days pins are multifunctional and can connect to A/Ds, D/As, linear functions (such as op amps and comparators), voltage references, and more. So for the design engineer, protecting these I/Os against potentially damaging static charges and other similar threats is of high importance.
In establishing proper protection for an MCU, engineers are finding that characteristics they have depended on for years have suddenly become less effective and they are forced to revisit problems of the past. Why? Principally, as a result of market pressure to reduce the cost of their products, semiconductor manufacturers have combined a higher level of integration with continued shrinking of process geometry, making die sizes smaller. As a result, implementing the necessary transient immunity protection to prevent malfunction due to transients on power and signal lines has become increasingly difficult.
Protecting MCU I/O Lines from ESD and Other Transients – [Link]
by Benabadji Noureddine:
This Design Idea demonstrates a new method of driving six LEDs with only two I/O lines from a microcontroller, and so is particularly suitable for any pin-limited chip. It uses a pair of I/O lines combined with a pair of complementary bipolar transistors. More than one LED can appear to be lit by multiplexing.
Two PIC pins drive six LEDs – [Link]
This is a little Tetris game. It is built with a Nokia 5110 cellphone LCD and a Texas Instruments MSP430G2553 microcontroller. The system without the backlight uses less than 1mA. It is written in C with the TI Code Composer Studio.
µTetris with MSP430 – [Link]
The xPico WiFi Shield supports simultaneous wireless LAN client connectivity and access point (AP) functionality. This makes it easy to securely connect to an Arduino microcomputer using web-based tools and interactive applications on smartphones or tablets. Its built-in controller ensures that there is no need for a wireless LAN driver on the Arduino microcontroller to configure wireless connectivity.
The xPico Wi-Fi Shield includes connection management software and a web-based configuration interface to manage connectivity complexity on behalf of the application developer. This significantly cuts down the development overheads for engineers, designers, students and hobbyists who need to quickly add smart Wi-Fi solutions to their Arduino designs.
Lantronix Arduino WiFi Shield – [Link]
This is a dual MCU programmer which supports both AVR and PIC mcu and there is a switch to select between them.
It’s easy to manufacture and have only through hole parts.
Serial AVR and PIC programmer – [Link]
Electronic scales are widely used in kitchens and bathrooms because they can quickly make accurate weight measurements.
A load sensor called a load cell is used for weight measurement. Because the output voltage of this sensor is very small, it is amplified by an operational amplifier (op-amp) and input to an A/D converter. A microcontroller (MCU) converts the signal to weight based on the conversion results of the A/D converter and displays it.
Renesas offers a lineup of microcontroller products for meeting their customers’ needs, such as the RL78/L1x, 78K0/Lx3, and R8C/Lx series with built in LCD driver for designing small and inexpensive models. For highly precise measuring, they offer the 78K0/Lx3, the H8/38086R group, the RX21A group, and other with built-in high precision ΔΣ (delta-sigma) A/D converter.
Renesas MCU for Electronic Scales – [Link]