Microcontroller: Microcontroller can be termed as a single on chip computer which includes number of peripherals like RAM, EEPROM, Timers etc., required to perform some predefined task.
Does this mean that the microcontroller is another name for a computer…? The answer is NO! The computer on one hand is designed to perform all the general purpose tasks on a single machine like you can use a computer to run a software to perform calculations or you can use a computer to store some multimedia file or to access internet through the browser, whereas the microcontrollers are meant to perform only the specific tasks, for e.g., switching the AC off automatically when room temperature drops to a certain defined limit and again turning it ON when temperature rises above the defined limit.
There are number of popular families of microcontrollers which are used in different applications as per their capability and feasibility to perform the desired task, most common of these are 8051, AVR and PIC microcontrollers. In this article we will introduce you with AVR family of microcontrollers.
History of AVR
AVR was developed in the year 1996 by Atmel Corporation. The architecture of AVR was developed by Alf-Egil Bogen and Vegard Wollan. AVR derives its name from its developers and stands for Alf-Egil Bogen Vegard Wollan RISC microcontroller, also known as Advanced Virtual RISC. The AT90S8515 was the first microcontroller which was based on AVR architecture however the first microcontroller to hit the commercial market was AT90S1200 in the year 1997.
AVR microcontrollers are available in three categories:
1. TinyAVR – Less memory, small size, suitable only for simpler applications
2. MegaAVR – These are the most popular ones having good amount of memory (upto 256 KB), higher number of inbuilt peripherals and suitable for moderate to complex applications.
3. XmegaAVR – Used commercially for complex applications, which require large program memory and high speed.
The following table compares the above mentioned AVR series of microcontrollers:
Small in size
DMA , Event System included