Why You Should Learn Microcontroller Programming

Atmel AVR and PIC microcontrollers

In this article, we will go over a few reasons why you should learn microcontroller programming.

Microcontroller programming is programming in order to control microcontrollers, to pretty much tell microcontrollers what to do.

This way, we can get microcontrollers to do for us what we want them to, whether that is to light an LED when it gets dark, turn on a fan when the temperature in the room reaches a certain level, turn on a motor when the circuit senses a certain level of infrared heat, etc.

This microcontroller can be any of the types available on the market such as AVR microcontrollers manufactured by Atmel, PIC microcontrollers manufactured by Microchip, etc.

Microcontrollers are absolutely ubiquitous. They are used in all types of devices from cell phones to microwaves to ovens to washing machines to ipads, you name it. If it's even a slightly complex electronic device, the odds are that it contains a microcontroller.

The reason microcontrollers are used is because they simplify circuits and allow for extreme adaptability in circuits through software, which is much easier to change than hardware. Microcontrollers can allow for changes in circuit behavior through modifying a single line of code. Without a microcontroller, many circuits wouldn't be physically impossible because the only way to obtain modification would be to swap out components in a circuit. Thus, microcontrollers make life much easier. It's easier to adjust software than hardware, for the most part. It's just simpler. Users can adjust levels through a keypad and this can be stored in the microcontroller's flash memory. When the microcontroller's program is run, it can then use this newly updated value. It's very dynamic and user friendly.

What Microcontrollers to Program

Atmel and Microchiop are two of the biggest chip makers of microcontrollers in the industry.

They produce some of the most popular chips.

Atmel creates a line of micrcontrollers named AVRs that includes chips such as the Atmega168 and Atmega328, which are used in arduino boards.

Microchip creates a line of microcontrollers called PICs.

Both of these chips are very popular and have extensive support from the manufacturing companies. Atmel creates a software IDE called Atmel Studio for their chips which allows a user to write code, compile it, to send it to the chip to be run. Microchip creates a software IDE called MPLABX which allows a user to write code, compile it, to send to the chip to be run. Both are excellent softwares with a wide range of support in order to effectively run programs on the target chips.

It's really up in the air which chip you would like to start with. Both are very useful and similar, being that they are both microcontrollers. And they both will let you learn about microcontroller architecture, programming, and circuitbuilding.

Related Resources

How to Build a Blinking LED Circuit with an AVR

How to Build a Potentiometer Circuit with an AVR

How to Build a Night Light Circuit with an AVR

How to Build a Night Light Circuit with Adjustable Light Level Control with an AVR

How to Build a Liquid Level Sensor Circuit with an AVR

How to Build a Pushbutton Switch Circuit with an AVR

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