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Microcontrollers? Answered

So, microcontrollers. What are they, how do I use them, where can I get them,and the likes. Oh, and is it possible to pull them off of circuits and stuff?


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Best Answer 10 years ago

There's small computers (usually single chip, these days), intended to be directly wired into devices. Things which are programmable beyond being a simple timer -- and even some timers these days -- are fairly likely to be using microcontrollers. Some of them are fast enough to be able to substitute from some analog electronics, which may make them a cheaper/easier solution for some tasks.

How you use them: You write a program using a bigger computer, and load it into them; you then wire/plug tthem into whatever circuit they're supposed to be controlling.

Odds of being able to rescue useful ones from junk circuitry: Negligible, I'm afraid. The ones which go into commercial products are often not reprogrammable -- they do what they've been told to do and nothing else -- and they're still not very common.

On the other hand, microcontroller chips by themselves are fairly cheap, and even an experimenter's kit which includes the programming hardware and software is quite affordable.

See the many Arduino projects here on Instructables for examples of what you can do with a microcontroller. But note that there are plenty of other microcontroller chips and development platforms out there, each with its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of speed, complexity, price, availability, and how much documentation and how many sample projects can be found to learn from.


9 years ago

Sigh. "There's", of course, was intended to be "they're". Fingers and mind not quite in synch.

(Wishlist: item for the Instructables Robots: It would be Really Nice if we could go back and fix that sort of thing without having to delete and repost.)