Tag Archives: ShuttAVR

Getting back to basics with Atmel and the Maker movement

Upgrading or building a PC from scratch was certainly an adventure before the days of plug and play. Now I’m not saying you needed a soldering gun to upgrade your video card, although I did know plenty of people who would break one out at the drop of a hat (or screw), even if it wasn’t strictly necessary.

Still, there was plenty of blood, sweat, and yes, sometimes even tears if you wanted to install a new hard drive (go MFM!), memory, and in later years, a sound card paired with a 2x CD-ROM. Manually setting DMAs and IRQs was routine, and the same could be said for endlessly tweaking other BIOS settings. Make no mistake, building or upgrading a PC back in those days was somewhat time consuming, taking hours and sometimes days, especially if the new hardware was faulty or didn’t play nice with your older (or legacy) components.

Fast forward to 2013. I’m writing this article on a laptop which took all of 5 minutes to configure. Am I nostalgic for the old days? Why yes, yes, I am. And I say this without any hesitation whatsoever, even though there were many days when I pulled my hair out back in the 90’s because I couldn’t get the darn PC to work right.

I was just a young kid then, wanting to play the latest titles like Sim City, Monkey Island and Starflight II, so any delay in getting things up and running meant less gaming time, something I was desperate to avoid, even though I was playing on a massive VGA monitor that probably consumed as much power as the WOPR.

Despite all the rather obvious shortcomings of a time before plug and play, I really enjoyed building something from scratch, as well as working with both hardware and software on a more visceral level. Sound familiar? Well, it should, because that is exactly what today’s growing Maker Movement is all about – getting back to basics with electronic DIY components like Arduino boards which are powered by Atmel microcontrollers.

While it is practically impossible to list all the devices showcased at the recent Bay Area Maker Faire with Atmel silicon under the hood, a quick glance at the exhibitor list reveals a plethora of projects powered by our microcontrollers, including drones, electric vehicles, numerous robots and even mini space satellites.

On display at the Atmel booth was the Maker Bot 3D printer, the Puzzlebox Orbit, Marshmallow Crossbow, Hexbugs and Faraday bike – all fitted with Atmel MCUs. There are also a number of noteworthy Atmel-based hacks and mods we’ve highlighted on both the hardware and software side in recent weeks on Bits and Pieces, including the ShuttAVR, KLBasic, running a GUI window manager on the ATMega1284p microcontroller, the Uzebox and lots more.

So yes, I think it is pretty safe to say that the DIY Maker movement has come full circle in recent years and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon – as technology becomes more and more accessible for the masses. We at Atmel are proud to be at the forefront of such a democratizing movement that will undoubtedly help shape the next generation of engineers, hackers, modders and do-it-yourselfers.

Getting up close and personal with Atmel’s tinyAVR

So Atmel’s tinyAVR tech has been in the news lately, popping up in the Agent smart watch which recently debuted on Kickstarter and the uber-cool ShuttAVR mod for cameras.

As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, the Agent smart watch combines the SAM4S and tinyAVR MCUs to provide extended battery life – consuming less than half the power of competing platforms. Essentially, the tinyAVR MCU handles maintenance tasks and events while the ARM-based SAM4S deals with the operating system and related apps. This combination optimizes power use and enables the larger SAM4S microcontroller to remain in sleep mode for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, “balthamos89” used the versatile AVR ATtiny25 to help build the ShuttAVR,  a device which allows cameras to snap pictures at precisely defined intervals.

“I happened to have some AVR ATtiny25′s lying around, so I popped open the IR remote for the camera and poked around a bit. Though, I poked around a bit too much and ended up with a broken IR remote,” he explained.

“Determined, I ripped out the old chip and soldered a new switch. I had to add in code for handling the IR signaling, but I ended up with a functioning remote. Not only that, but it had intervalometer capabilities as well.”

So let’s take a closer look at Atmel’s tinyAVR technology which resides under the hood of a growing number of cool devices these days.

First off, all tinyAVRs are based on the same architecture and compatible with other AVR devices. Features like integrated ADC, EEPROM memory and brownout detectors allow users to design applications without adding external components. tinyaAVR also offers up flash memory and on-chip debug for fast, secure, cost-effective in-circuit upgrades.

“The tinyAVR offers an advanced combination of miniaturization, processing power, analog performance and system-level integration,” an Atmel engineer explained. “Simply put, the tinyAVR is the most compact device in the AVR family and the only device capable of operating at just 0.7V. And there’s nothing really tiny about that. Plus, tinyAVR designs can be coupled with Atmel’s CryptoAuthentication tech for an extra level of security against hackers and cloners.”

It should also be noted that the smallest tinyAVR measures only 1.5mm x 1.4mm. This  means makers, modders and engineers can all employ the tinyAVR as a single chip solution in small systems – or use it to deliver glue logic and distributed intelligence in larger systems.

“The AVR CPU gives the tinyAVR devices the same high performance as our larger AVR devices,” the engineer continued. “Flexible and versatile, they feature high code efficiency that lets them fit a broad range of applications.”

As expected, tinyAVR offers a high level of integration, with each ping boasting multiple uses as I/O, ADC, and PWM. To be sure, even the reset pin can be reconfigured as an I/O pin. Oh, and yes, the tinyAVR also features a Universal Serial Interface (USI) which can be used as SPI, UART or TWI.

On the power side, where most microcontrollers require 1.8V or more to operate, the tinyAVR boosts the voltage from a single AA or AAA battery into a stable 3V supply to power an entire application.

So if you do use tinyAVR tech in your next maker, hacked, modded or industrial project, be sure to drop us a line and let us know! In the meantime, additional information about Atmel’s extensive tinyAVR lineup can be be found here.