You may not know but microcontrollers are practically everywhere. This means that we use them in our day to day even though we don’t know it. For example, we find them in the operation of equipment such as keyboards, mobiles, microwaves and much more.
Definitely, its use has been expanding over time without most people realizing it. Even most of the people who know about this is because they are interested in the subject or are knowledgeable about the subject.
However, in this post we will teach you what is a microcontroller, their main functions, types, history and you will even know the differences between these and the microprocessors. Although they appear to be roughly the same, they are not.
What is a microcontroller and what are these components for?
In a simple way, a microcontroller is understood as a programmable integrated circuit. This means that is able to follow all the orders that are recorded in his memory. Within its composition, there are several functional blocks and each of them fulfill a specific task. Its composition resembles that of computers, since it includes inside a central processing unit, input / output peripherals and a memory.
That is to say, a microcontroller is a kind of mini PC. They can be incorporated into all kinds of inventions and products in which it is necessary to run an automatic process. One of the most interesting aspects is that they are designed with the aim of helping reduce economic cost and energy consumption of any system, therefore, the size, peripherals and the amount of memory depend on the application that will be given to it.
What are the main functions and usefulness of a microcontroller in electronics?
First, microcontrollers are very useful when it comes to schedule tasks on certain devices. They are even present in almost any electronic device such as washing machines, mobiles, microwaves, cars, etc. An interesting fact that is worth mentioning is that these integrated devices have the peculiarity that they can be controlled through instructions from specialized processors.
Specifically modern ones, usually include an integrated programming language as in the case of BASIC. Consequently, it can be said that one of the main purposes pursued with microcontrollers is to offer users a programmable device that is low cost and whose energy consumption is lower than that obtained with other types of electronic elements. Thence, their incorporation into more and more products on the market.
History of microcontrollers When were they created and what impact did they generate?
The history of these dates back to the year 1971, with the launch of the first microprocessor called Intel 4004 4-bit. After this, the Intel 8008 and others a little more advanced. However, both required additional circuits to run a work system, which raised the cost of the total system.
With this in mind, that same year Texas Instruments engineers Gary Boone and Michael Cochran managed to present to the world the first microcontroller whose name was “TMS 1000”. Its commercialization began in 1974 and it combined ROM memory, RAM memory, a chip clock and a microprocessor. Its use was intended for embedded systems or also known as embedded, integrated or embedded systems.
When Intel realized all the possibilities they had, it developed the Intel 8048, which was an entire one-chip computer system optimized for control applications. This creation combined ROM and RAM memory on the same chip, and is found in more than a billion keyboards and other applications. From that moment on, the big impact than microcontrollers would have in the world.
So the president of Intel at the time, Luke J. Valenter, mentioned that the microcontroller was one of the most successful products in the company’s history, to the point that it helped expand the division’s budget by more than 25%. Another great leap in the matter occurred when in 1993, Atmel released the first microcontroller to use flash memory. From there the value of these began to rise, but today they can already be purchased for really low costs.
Types of microcontrollers What are the most used in computers and electronics?
exist three main types of microcontrollers that can be obtained in the market. Each of them has a long history and are implemented in different types of projects. In this sense, the most popular are: Intel, Microchip and Arduino. As previously seen, Intel is one of the pioneers of this type of device. Do not forget that they were one of the first to launch microcontrollers that could be programmed to carry out different tasks.
For its part, we must mention PIC microcontrollers from Microchip Technology Inc. They have become popular because they perfectly combine high quality, excellent performance and low costs. These are used in common applications such as computer peripherals, security systems, etc.
Finally, it is found Arduino. This is one free hardware and software platform based on a board containing a microcontroller and a development environment. Thanks to this, users can create all kinds of multidisciplinary projects. Arduino is one of the most used by those who want to start in electronics, because they are easy to work with, have a wide variety of uses and are easily incorporated into many types of projects.
What are the differences between a microprocessor and a microcontroller?
On many occasions, people are often confused between what is a microprocessor and a microcontrollerr. First, you have to talk about the definition of each one to have on the table the basic concepts that distinguish them. As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, a microcontroller is an integrated circuit that can be scheduled to perform certain tasks.
In other words, it will do everything for which it is programmed. For its part, a microprocessor is also a central integrated circuit but in charge of executing the programs. When it comes to the differences, the main ones are appreciated in terms of the components that each one has. For example, a microcontroller may have a microprocessor within its elements, but not vice versa.
In addition to that, below we share other of the main differences between the two:
- The price of a microcontroller-based system is a lot less, than a microprocessor-based one.
- Microcontrollers work with Harvard architecture, while microprocessors are based on the architecture of Von Newmann.
- Regarding the development times of an electronic project, with microcontrollers it takes less time.
Both have a wide field of action and they currently represent a great contribution within the field of technological development, which is why they are useful to execute different projects. In short, each of them has a certain function and, depending on what is needed, it will be selected whether the use of a microcontroller or a microprocessor is more convenient.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, we will answer you as soon as possible, and it will also be of great help to more members of the community. Thank you! 😉