The microcontrollers played revolutionary role in embedded industry after the invention of Intel 8051. The steady and progressive research in this field gave the industry more efficient, high-performance and low-power consumption microcontrollers. The AVR, PIC and ARM are the prime examples. The new age microcontrollers are getting smarter and richer by including latest communication protocols like USB, I2C, SPI, Ethernet, CAN etc.
The PIC microcontroller was developed by General Instruments in 1975. PIC was developed when Microelectronics Division of General Instruments was testing its 16-bit CPU CP1600. Although the CP1600 was a good CPU but it had low I/O performance. The PIC controller was used to offload the I/O the tasks from CPU to improve the overall performance of the system.
In 1985, General Instruments converted their Microelectronics Division to Microchip Technology. PIC stands for Peripheral Interface Controller. The General Instruments used the acronyms Programmable Interface Controller and Programmable Intelligent Computer for the initial PICs (PIC1640 and PIC1650).
In 1993, Microchip Technology launched the 8-bit PIC16C84 with EEPROM which could be programmed using serial programming method. The improved version of PIC16C84 with flash memory (PIC18F84 and PIC18F84A) hit the market in 1998.
Since 1998, Microchip Technology continuously developed new high performance microcontrollers with new complex architecture and enhanced in-built peripherals. PIC microcontroller is based on Harvard architecture. At present PIC microcontrollers are widely used for industrial purpose due to its high performance ability at low power consumption. It is also very famous among hobbyists due to moderate cost and easy availability of its supporting software and hardware tools like compilers, simulators, debuggers etc. The 8-bit PIC microcontroller is divided into following four categories on the basis of internal architecture:
1. Base Line PIC
2. Mid-Range PIC
3. Enhanced Mid-Range PIC
Base Line PIC
Base Line PICs are the least complex PIC microcontrollers. These microcontrollers work on 12-bit instruction architecture which means that the word size of instruction sets are of 12 bits for these controllers. These are smallest and cheapest PICs, available with 6 to 40 pin packaging. The small size and low cost of Base Line PIC replaced the traditional ICs like 555, logic gates etc. in industries.
2. Mid-Range PIC
Mid-Range PICs are based on 14-bit instruction architecture and are able to work up to 20 MHz speed. These controllers are available with 8 to 64 pin packaging. These microcontrollers are available with different peripherals like ADC, PWM, Op-Amps and different communication protocols like USART, SPI, I2C (TWI), etc. which make them widely usable microcontrollers not only for industry but for hobbyists as well.