Electronics > Microcontrollers

Need help learning uC's

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I'm interested in learning the ins and outs of uC's.   I've got a pretty strong background in analog electronics related to amplification and musical applications.  However, if you asked me what a bit was, I would tell you that it attaches to a power drill.

Over the past year, I've been flirting with learning microprocessors, specifically the Z80 CPU.  I thought that the Z80 would be a good place to start because it was basically the first in the evolutionary chain and, well, simpler for lack of a better word.  After doing a little bit of research, I figured out that interfacing and support would be a big pain in the ass so I abandoned that idea.

Next, I bought an Arduino Uno on the recommendation of a friend..  It seems rather limited and I got super pissed off when I inspected the unit and determined that the 5v rail didn't work the way it was supposed to (If I remember correctly, there was some kind of sense switch for outboard power that was a completely crappy design and didn't switch properly) so I stuffed it into a drawer somewhere and occasionally use it as a multi-channel function generator.  My attitude is that if they can't even get a power sense switch right, the rest of the unit probably sucks too.  Furthermore, a lot of info on the net says that I should lean C and Assembly, whatever assembly is.  Also, I need to compile stuff for some reason?

Recently, I found a few copies of  a magazine called Circuit Cellar and was absolutely bombarded by all of the cool stuff available.   They make these really awesome projects look simple and I think it would be a blast to have my toilet talk to my microwave.  For the first time in a long time, it looks as though learning uC's might still be within my grasp without going to college.  I'm hoping that maybe some of the vocabulary in Circuit Cellar will soak in or I'll get lucky and find a good place to start learning how to create intelligent designs.    Some of the PIC prototype boards in Circuit Cellar look cool and that might be a good place to start?

I'm assuming that uC's are a better place to start than the Z80 or 8051 nowdays because RAM, ROM, & Oscillator are all on the same chip?   Does anybody have advice or book recommendations?  Again, I need to learn the very basics like C, Fortran, Assembly, Compiler, etc.


If it was me http://www.microchip.com/pickit2 or http://www.microchip.com/pickit3

Perfekt for a beginer.


Might be a bit late but if you like the idea of an older microcontroler you could have a go with the 8051. Theres plenty of support and they are supported by SDCC if you would like to use C.
I started on the PIC aswell and while the support and IDEs are excelent although I found the interrupts to be a bit frustrating but there are slight annoyances to most ucs so I wouldn't worry too much once you've learn one the rest become alot easier  :).

Heres a link to a modern 8051 processor very good specs for a 8 bit microcontroller


And appologies for not reading your post fully. A microcontroller contains a core, examples of this are the Z80 and 8051. In the 80's the Z80s and motorolas had the RAM and ROM and other peripherals on external IC's as you said. Fortunately now there are many 8051 based uCs such as the one in my previous post, and I think there are Z80s in existence, which have all the rom ram etc on board the uC. The link belows for a website which discusses the 8051 and provides a good overview of a microcontroller.


The pics certainly a good sugestion as the datasheets contain brilliant information on how to program the chip. With the pics its easiest to start with the 16f series so the uC will have a number like pic16f84.


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