Course: Choosing a Microcontroller Architecture Topic: An Overview of the Microcontroller Marketplace Monday February 18, 2013 Presenter: Bill Giovino Question and Answer Log

fiercebunElectronics - Devices

Nov 2, 2013 (4 years and 8 months ago)


Choosing a Microcontroller Architecture

An O
w of the Microcontroller Marketplace

day February 18, 2013

Presenter: Bill Giovino

estion and Answer Log


Questions in italics

Bill Giovino responses in blue


A generic question. I havent seen a microcontroller so far with 2 usb modules. It woul
d be really good if i can
use a microcontroller as a usb device as well as a usb host at the same time. Is there any in the market now ??


STMicroelectronics, Microchip, and Atmel all offer microcontrollers with two or more USB ports.

Check them

With repspect to roadmaps, for a long time, Atmel only released road
maps to preferred customers. Maybe
this is still their policy as I've never seen one publically available. For me, rather than forcasting the future, I use
them to see how the manuf
acturer concieves of the relationships among their products and what the potential
upgrade paths are. Having the roadmap makes the system designer's life a LOT easier, even if you are a small


I agree. It is unfortunate that roadmaps fo
r future products are often kept confidential by many
microcontroller vendors. However, you can still judge the feasibility of a microcontroller product line by
looking at a roadmap of existing products.


Are there any 64
bit uC or do you forsee one in the near future?


bit architectures are really in the realm of the microprocessor. Very few microcontroller applications
would require that sort of number


Question: We're working with some educators advancing STEM in middle & high schools. Do you know of
vendors who share that emphasis and have development boards focused on that level of study?

Most vendors have
educational programs and
happy to supply schools with hardware at reduced cost.


Re: development boards... It appears one can tie up a lot of $$ buying several types of development boards.
Are used dev kits available? Will a vendor let you use a low level board for testing an application, then do a buy
back for a more advanced dev kit?

I haven't seen anyone
provide used development kits
One problem with a used kit is that you may not be
ble to determine if it is damaged.
You might try contacting your local representative to see if they will loan
you a board.

Key does offer development kits at very low cost.


Which vendor
as of now do u consider has the best/extensive code support or examples ?? for 8 bit

Any of the major 8
bit players

Microchip, Atmel, Renesas, ST

will want to provide

code support
and examples for 8
bit microcontrollers.

hese are the 8
bit companies that have done well during the 2008
2010 "recession" BECAUSE they were focused on 8
bit. That focus kept their 8
bit biz alive.


You didn't say much about those mix
signal devices that have both DSP and MCU cores


Right. These tend to be in a very specific niche of applications. As I mentioned, microcontroller people tend to
shy away from anything that says "DSP". But some of these hybrid cores, like the
Microchip dsPIC, are very
powerful devices for motor control and sensor processing.


We currently use Freescale for thier ColdFire product. We are currently looking on going to an ARM product
the near future. When we do this, we will look at other vendors ARMs as well to see what they offer. In
general we look for several things in a vendor

1) are they on our Preffered Parts Vendor list. 2) How well they
support their product (do they k
eep use tuned to new and better products coming down the pike) 3) Do they
good development tools. and 4) how much can they help us out when we get into trouble if we run into snaggs
during devlopment.


All excellent criteria. This keeps you out of t
rouble and teaches you a lot about the vendor.


Nice intro. It confirms that the support system is very important to the decision.

As far as choosing between different manufacturers for an app
lication, would you recommend asking that
manufacturer/vendor for "referrals" from other customers who might have done similar work?


Yes, it's always good to ask for referrals if they are new to you. You can tell a lot about a vendor that way.


I don't see C as "outmoded". It provides a good mix of low level bit and register access with higher level
libraries. Its generally a very good fit in the microcontroller application space.


I agree, I think the C language will outlast the planet!


Why change micros? There is no one reason usually. It's a weighing of all the factors and what you are looking

As alwa
ys the application dictates.


Excellent points!


I think the biggest thing for us in considering whether to switch vendors is weighing the power of the
development tools and the features
that are available against the cost of trying to switch and getting trained
on the new product as well as continuing support of existing controllers.


This is important feedback, thank you!


Are any other high
level languages in use? I can understand assembly (understand, not like!), but C is old and
from a software engineering point of view, very out
dated and outmoded.

Well, C is the most popular language for embedded developers. I th
ink it’s popularity will guarantee that it will
be around for a very long time. You will find some manufacturers also support C++ a nd a few even support


nice presentation. i try to sti
ck with microchip as i'm used to it.. but if for some reason, i do not get all the
hardware peripheral features i need (eg: usb, 2 mssp and 5 pwm all in a single package) i would try to switch to
a different vendor


o you would switch vendors bec
ause you need a combination of peripherals that your current vendor doesn’t
support. That is very interesting!


Question: We're working with some educators advancing STEM in middle & high schoo
ls. Do you know of
vendors who share that emphasis and have development boards focused on that level of study?


Most major vendor has some sort of educational program. I recommend that you contact the vendor’s Public
Relations department and ask abo
ut their programs and discounts for schools and university. Digi
Key also
may be able to help you.


Which uC is best for educating students in uC practice?


For educating students in mic
rocontrollers I would suggest a 16
bit microcontroller. It is register
based and
easier to understand than an accumulator
based 8
bit, a
nd is less complicated than a 32
bit. I would talk to
Renesas or Microchip about an educational board for their 16
bit m


out of all the vendors u listed, what do u consider has the best code support or extensive library support ?


I can’t say that there is a “best”

each vendor I list
provides excellent code and library support. They

are all


Can you expand on development boards and their key to MFR commitment?

Glad to!

As I had discussed, development boards are

key for you to evaluate whether or not a microcontroller
is the right fit for you. Manufacturers know this, but they also know that the planning, designing, and building
a development board’s hardware and software takes time and money. And it’s not easy t
o make the dev
board easy
for you to use! So the quality and ease
use of the development boards tell you a lot about a
microcontroller manufacturer’s commitment to a product line. Again, browse Digi
Key’s selection of
development boards and compare the


Bill, your lecture sounds like a high level marketing "guide to success" for a MC vendor...


Thanks for the compliment! More than one microcontroller vendor has taken pages fr
om my playbook.


One difficulty we have is that we have a history using a certain type of microcontroller, so there is a lot of
legacy code that is reused/leveraged in new products. I'd like t
o explore other vendors

do any of the
development tools help with porting code between various microprocessor vendors?

Most major vendors will be happy to

code in some way.
Some may even have in
tools to do some of the portin
g for you.
It depends upon your application and if you have written your code so
that the drivers are separate and easy to separately manage.


Does Intel make any 8051s anymore? It seems like e
veryone except Intel makes them these days.


Nope, Intel stopped making
the wonderful
8051s years ago.


Many still use assembly, but C is valuable for quicker development and also
if you work with multiple vendor


True, C makes it easier to port your code to another microcontroller as opposed to assembly.


Is C really the only or the most predominant

language in use? What other languages are popular?


C is really the dominant programming language for microcontrollers. Some micros can also be programmed in
C++. There are even a few Basic compilers out there.


Does intel provide microntroller? If yes, why it is not popular?



Intel abandoned the microcontroller market long ago in favor of the microprocessor market


nk you for your attention today. Tune in the rest of this week for more of this exciting Continuing
Education series.