Introduction to Microcontrollers - Hello World

Mike Silva September 11, 201316 comments

Embedded Hello World

A standard first program on an embedded platform is the blinking LED.  Getting an LED to blink demonstrates that you have your toolchain set up correctly, that you are able to download your program code into the μC, and that the μC and associated circuitry (e.g. the power supply) is all working.  It can even give you good evidence as to the clock rate that your microcontroller is running (something that trips up a great many people,...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Further Beginnings

Mike Silva September 1, 20134 comments
Embedded Programming Basics

This tutorial entry will discuss some further embedded programming basics that you will need to understand before proceeding on to the LED blinky and other example programs. We will do this by looking at the general organization and types of instructions found in most microcontrollers, and how that organization and those instructions are reflected (or, in some cases, ignored) by the C programming language.

Basic CPU...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Beginnings

Mike Silva August 20, 201312 comments

Welcome to this Introduction to Microcontroller Programming tutorial series. If you are looking to learn the basics of embedded programming for microcontrollers (and a bit of embedded hardware design as well), I hope these tutorials will help you along that journey. These are my first postings here, and I am writing this tutorial series because over the years I have seen countless newbies asking the same questions and tripping over the same stumbling blocks, and I thought I might be able to...

Intro to Microcontrollers Part 2: AVR Microcontrollers

July 11, 2013

This is part 2 of my playing around with AVR microcontrollers. Last time, I had a basic setup which could program an AVR using the Arduino ISP. I used it to drive a simple 7-segment, multiplexed 4-digit LED display. This is a follow up where I try out some of the other features the ATTiny24A has to offer. I also decided to invest some money in an AVR Dragon programmer/debugger so I'll go over some basic playing and setup with this device. I'll also discuss some of the problems...

MSP430 LaunchPad Tutorial - Part 4 - UART Transmission

Enrico Garante July 3, 201320 comments

Today we are going to learn how to communicate using UART with the Launchpad. For this purpose I will replace the default microcontroller that comes with the board with the MSP430G2553. It is the most powerful device in the MSP430 Value Line and it comes with an integrated hardware UART module, along with 16 Kb of Flash memory, 512 bytes of SRAM and an 8-channel, 10 bit ADC.

UART communication can be useful when dealing with sensors: as a basic example, we could...

MSP430 LaunchPad Tutorial - Part 3 - ADC

Enrico Garante June 25, 20138 comments

In this new episode of our journey into MSP430 I will explain the basics of Analog to Digital Conversion on the MSP430G2231.We will write a program that will read an ADC channel and will toggle some leds based on the result of the conversion. 

We start as usual with the inclusion of the header file for the MSP430G2231, the leds stuff and with the definition of a variable that will store the result of the conversion. We also declare a function that will initialize the ADC...

MSP430 Launchpad Tutorial - Part 2 - Interrupts and timers

Enrico Garante June 17, 201342 comments

What is an "interrupt"? It is a signal that informs our MCU that a certain event has happened, causing the interruption of the normal flow of the main program and the execution of an "interrupt routine", that handles the event and takes a specified action.

Interrupts are essential to avoid wasting the processor's valuable time in polling loops, waiting for external events (in fact they are used in Real-Time Operating Systems,

An Introduction to Embedded Development

Peter Johansson June 14, 20133 comments
This blog is a series to provide an introduction to embedded development for the aspiring embedded developer. No prior embedded development experience will be assumed, but you should have a reasonable understanding of the C language and knowledge of basic electronics. It will focus on the TI MSP430, but present topics in a generic way that can be easily translated to other processors. Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to my blog! This blog will be somewhat different from most...

MSP430 Launchpad Tutorial - Part 1 - Basics

Enrico Garante June 14, 201319 comments

TI's LaunchPad is a complete MSP430 development environment: all you have to do is download and install CCS IDE (login required), connect your G2231-ready LaunchPad to your computer with the included mini-usb cable, and you are ready to code!

Texas Instrument MSP430 LaunchPad

So, let's see how to start a new project in Code Composer Studio. This IDE is derived from Eclipse, so if you used it before you shouldn't have much problems.

We'll write a simple program that will...

Endianness and Serial Communication

Stephen Friederichs May 20, 20131 comment

Endianness is a consideration that is easily overlooked in the design of embedded systems. I myself am amply guilty of this oversight. It’s something you don’t ever have to worry about if you’re only working with a single processor or two processors that have the same endianness.  You can even avoid it if you have two processors that have different endianness but never transmit data between themselves that consists of more than one byte.  It’s easy to lull...

Cortex-M Exception Handling (Part 1)

Ivan Cibrario Bertolotti November 28, 20152 comments

This article describes how Cortex-M processors handle interrupts and, more generally, exceptions, a concept that plays a central role in the design and implementation of most embedded systems. The main reason of discussing this topic in detail is that, in the past few years, the degree of sophistication (and complexity) of microcontrollers in handling interrupts steadily increased, bringing them on a par with general-purpose processors.

VHDL tutorial - combining clocked and sequential logic

Gene Breniman March 3, 2008

In an earlier article on VHDL programming ("VHDL tutorial" and "VHDL tutorial - part 2 - Testbench", I described a design for providing a programmable clock divider for a ADC sequencer. In this example, I showed how to generate a clock signal (ADCClk), that was to be programmable over a series of fixed rates (20MHz, 10MHz, 4MHz, 2MHz, 1MHz and 400KHz), given a master clock rate of 40MHz. A reader of that article had written to ask if it was possible to extend the design to...

Coding Step 2 - Source Control

Articles in this series:

When I first started out in programming, version control was not an introductory topic. Not in the least because it required a 'server' (ie, a computer which a teenaged me couldn't afford) but because it seemed difficult and only useful to teams rather than...

Using XML to describe embedded devices (and speak to them)

Martin Strubel October 12, 20111 comment

This article discusses one of the typical development cycles in embedded device and communication design and presents a possible, light weight solution using the free DClib/netpp framework.

The challenge

Assume we're faced with the design of an embedded device, be it a simple SoC unit or a more complex, uC controlled engine with various attached peripherals. From first prototype to the market, the following development cycle is typically walked through:

Energia - program a TI MSP430 using Arduino sketches

Lonnie Honeycutt November 5, 20131 comment
TI MSP430 Launchpad

I started tinkering with microcontroller a couple of years ago with an Arduino Uno.  I had a little experience with C, so programming in the Arduino environment has been relatively easy and straightforward for me.  My code is not necessarily elegant or efficient, but I can usually figure out how to make an Arduino do what I want it to do eventually.  A lot of credit to the Arduino userbase, as it is very easy to figure most things out with a quick Google...

Favorite Tools: C++11 std::array

Matthew Eshleman February 26, 20172 comments

Many embedded software and firmware projects must be developed to high standards of reliability. To meet these reliability requirements, firmware project teams will consider many design tradeoffs. For example, an engineering team may avoid or outright ban the use of dynamic memory allocation, a feature typically accessed via the C library call "malloc" or the C++ allocator "new". When authoring software under such...

Real-time clocks: Does anybody really know what time it is?

Jason Sachs May 29, 20118 comments

We recently started writing software to make use of a real-time clock IC, and found to our chagrin that the chip was missing a rather useful function, namely elapsed time in seconds since the standard epoch (January 1, 1970, midnight UTC).Let me back up a second.A real-time clock/calendar (RTC) is a micropower chip that has an oscillator on it that keeps counting time, independent of main system power. Usually this is done with a lithium battery that can power the RTC for years, so that even...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - More Timers and Displays

Mike Silva October 15, 20131 comment

Building Your World Around Timers

By now you have seen four different ways to use timers in your programs.  Next we will look at some ways to produce the effect of multiple parallel streams of work in your program with the help of timers.  This effect is only an appearance, not a reality, since a single microcontroller (one core) can only run a single thread of code.  However, since microcontrollers are so fast in relation to a great many of the tasks to...

Best Firmware Architecture Attributes

Dr. Tayyar GUZEL June 4, 20166 comments

Architecture of a firmware (FW) in a way defines the life-cycle of your product. Often companies start with a simple-version of a product as a response to the time-to-market caveat of the business, make some cash out of the product with a simple feature set. It takes only less than 2-3 years to reach a point where the company needs to develop multiple products derived from the same code base and multiple teams need to develop...

Cortex-M Exception Handling (Part 2)

Ivan Cibrario Bertolotti February 1, 20169 comments

The first part of this article described the conditions for an exception request to be accepted by a Cortex-M processor, mainly concerning the relationship of its priority with respect to the current execution priority. This part will describe instead what happens after an exception request is accepted and becomes active.


Before discussing in detail the sequence of actions that occurs within the processor after an exception request...