Saturday, August 15, 2009

Other microcontroller features

Other microcontroller features
Since embedded processors are usually used to control devices, they sometimes need to accept input from the device they are controlling. This is the purpose of the analog to digital converter. Since processors are built to interpret and process digital data, i.e. 1s and 0s, they won't be able to do anything with the analog signals that may be being sent to it by a device. So the analog to digital converter is used to convert the incoming data into a form that the processor can recognize. There is also a digital to analog converter that allows the processor to send data to the device it is controlling.
In addition to the converters, many embedded microprocessors include a variety of timers as well. One of the most common types of timers is the Programmable Interval Timer, or PIT for short. A PIT just counts down from some value to zero. Once it reaches zero, it sends an interrupt to the processor indicating that it has finished counting. This is useful for devices such as thermostats, which periodically test the temperature around them to see if they need to turn the air conditioner on, the heater on, etc.
Time Processing Unit or TPU for short is a sophisticated timer. In addition to counting down, the TPU can detect input events, generate output events, and perform other useful operations.
Dedicated Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) block makes it possible for the CPU to control power converters, resistive loads, motors, etc., without using lots of CPU resources in tight timer loops.
Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART) block makes it possible to receive and transmit data over a serial line with very little load on the CPU.
For those wanting ethernet one can use an external chip like Crystal Semiconductor CS8900A, Realtek RTL8019, or Microchip ENC 28J60. All of them allow easy interfacing with low pin count.

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