...that 98% of the processors used today are microcontollers -
that means for every 2
desktop computers you can see in an office there are 98 others that you
see!. They are in everything toasters, microwave ovens, security
phones, petrol pumps, jogging machines... the list is endless.
Most of the modern microcontrollers have a built in ADC, and all have timers and many other useful modules. All you need to do is decide what to use, and then activate the appropriate modules.
They also have built in RAM and EEPROM that is re-programmable and programming them is easy so you can change their operation very quickly - even in circuit!
They also have built in timers (often several timers), comparators and ADC internal hardware units making it simple to create almost any project you can think of!
There are many different types of microcontroller from many different manufacturers and two popular types are from MicrochipTM and AtmelTM:
MicrochipTM (Industry popular PIC range)
MicrochipTM specialises in supplying almost bespoke solutions (microcontrollers) for a problem and creates hundreds of different variants. The idea is that you create a solution to a problem and you want to cost reduce it so what you really want to do is chop out all the hardware that you do not need.
There are many variants with added built-in modules such as a GLCD lcd driver, a motor controller, a capacitive touch sensor etc. So you choose a device based on what hardware you want to control. You can even get 6 pin SMD (SOT-23) microcontrollers!
On this site only a few devices are used 12F675, 16F88, 16F877A, 18F2550. This is done because these devices offer a broad range of internal peripherals found in almost all in the devices in the same family (12F,16F 18F). You can learn here about these devices and be able to move easily to another, since the internal hardware is controlled in the same way.
AtmelTM : Made extremenly popular by the Open source ArduinoTM group.
You have probably heard of the ArduinoTM which is not a microcontroller but rather an open source movement that uses Atmel (and other) microcontrollers to offer a simplified way of connecting hardware (shields) and control devices (software). Because the hardware and software is open source many people have contributed free software so it makes it easy to quickly setup and create something.
Be warned though that just because you can use other software and connect it quickly may not mean that you understand it - and that means that any bugs in the software are up to you to find and correct.
There are several FREE
projects here (with source code
in C) that you can use to learn about microcontrollers which includes
an ultrasonic distance meter,
an led matrix driver
and many more (which
you can find on the projects
Each Project includes source code, description and schematics which you can use as a basis for starting your own proje cts or just usethem stand-alone.
Just Starting out ?
Check out the tutorial section where you'll find tutorials on building the circuits, device programming, prototyping and using high level languages.
Need some extras ?
The tips and techniques section gives information on designing specific circuits that either are difficult or that save you time and effort.
Claim Your: Useful
"Arduino Software Guide"
Flame detector circuit : How to use UV light to detect a flame.
Gem tester circuit : How to test whether your gems are real using conductivity.
Digital I/O expansion. Several diferent serial design techniques with different tradeoffs to increase the number of input or output pins in your microcontroller design.