The mother boards

Microcontrollers

A microcontroller, is a small computer with a processor, memory and most importantly input/output channels. Microcontrollers are self-contained systems, that contains general purpose Input/Output pins that can be programmed as either Inputs or Outputs. They also contain an ADC (Analogue to Digital Converter) unit, and sometimes a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter), or a PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) unit.

Identifying the Pins of the Microcontroller

One of the most important tasks, once you have selected a microcontroller is to familiarise yourself with the pin diagram. Understanding what function and purpose each of the microcontroller's pin does.
Every microcontroller will have pins for connecting to the power source, ground, pins for programming, and Inputs & outputs pins.

Programming a Microcontroller

High-level language that we use to programme a microcontroller needs to be compiled and tranlated into assembler language code, which in turn is translated into a compact machine code for storage and execution in the microcontroller's memory. In practice, programming a microcontroller involves editing a programme, compiling it, and then downloading it into the microcontroller. If all is ok, you can then run your programme on the microcontroller.

In general you will need to debbug your programme, i.e. check for potential errors and problems, looking for mistakes such as :

  • Circuit not powered
  • Mismatch between pin number mentioned in the programme and the one used in the circuit
  • Diconnected components, such as resistors, LED, actuators
  • Components used are of the wrong value/specifications, such as wrong resistor, too much load on the circuit...
  • Circuit not correctly connected to the Computer
  • Programme refering to the wrong connection port between the computer and the circuit
  • Connection port being used by another application