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How Big Bang Theory and IoT relate to Tech on Tour


Hands-on ‘IoT Secure Hello World’ training introduces Atmel Wi-Fi and CrytoAuthentication technologies.


How The Big Bang Theory Relates to the Internet of Things

How many of you out there are fans of the CBS hit sitcom series Big Bang Theory? If you recall an episode from the show’s first season, entitled “The Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization,” the team of Sheldon Cooper, Leonard Hofstadter, Howard Wolowitz and Raj Koothrappali successfully triggered a lamp over the Internet using an X-10 system.

In order to accomplish this feat, the gang sent signals across the web and around the world from their apartment to connect not only their lights, but other electronics like their stereo and remote control cars as well.

“Gentlemen, I am now about to send a signal from this laptop through our local ISP racing down fiber optic cable at the of light to San Francisco bouncing off a satellite in geosynchronous orbit to Lisbon, Portugal, where the data packets will be handed off to submerged transatlantic cables terminating in Halifax, Nova Scotia and transferred across the continent via microwave relays back to our ISP and the external receiver attached to this…lamp,”  Wolowitz excitedly prefaced.

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The funny thing is, the technology that the group of sitcom scientists was simulating could have just as easily been done using a Wi-Fi network controller like the WINC1500. However, at the time of airing back in March of 2008, open access for Internet users looking to control “things” around the house was seemingly something only engineers and super geeks thought possible.

We can imagine this is probably how it would’ve gone down…

Bringing Next-Generation Technology to You

In order to make the scene above possible, an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 was hooked up to the WINC1500 and connected to a solid-state relay, thereby enabling the team to control the lamp.

If this captivated your attention, then you’re in for a treat. That’s because Atmel is taking its “IoT Secure Hello World” Tech on Tour seminar on the road — starting with Europe!

As an application space, IoT sensor nodes are enabled by a number of fundamental technologies, namely a low-power MCU, some form of wireless communication and strong security. With this in mind, the Atmel IoT Secure Hello World series will offer attendees hands-on training, introducing them to some of the core technologies making the Internet of Things possible, including Wi-Fi and CryptoAuthentication.

These training sessions will showcase Atmel’s Wi-Fi capability and CryptoAuthentication hardware key storage in the context of the simplest possible use-case in order to focus attention on the practical aspects of combining the associated supporting devices and software. This includes learning how to send temperature information to any mobile device via a wireless network and how to enable the remote control of LEDs on a SAM D21 Xplained Pro board over a Wi-Fi network using a WINC1500. In addition, attendees will explore authentication of IoT nodes, as well as how to implement a secure communications link.

Take the very fundamental use-case of switching on an LED, for instance, which will represent our ‘Hello World!’ For this IoT application, the LED will be controlled using a smartphone app via the Internet, while a sensor node will be enabled to read an analog temperature sensor. The first part of the training will introduce Atmel Wi-Fi technology, which connects our embedded development kit of choice, an Atmel | SMART SAMD21 Xplained Pro, via the Atmel SmartConnect WINC1500 Wi-Fi module to a local access point. The result will be the ability to easily and securely send temperature information to any mobile device on the network, while also having remote control of the LED.

From the moment a ‘thing’ is connected, it becomes susceptible to a slew of potential security risks from hackers. That’s why the second part of the training will delve deeper into how CryptoAuthentication can be used to authenticate the temperature sensor node and host application before it can read the temperature information to avoid fake nodes. A secure communications link will be implemented using a session key to and from the remote node.

When all is said and done, building for the IoT demands innovative and secure solutions while architecting a balance between performance, scalability, compatibility, security, flexibility and energy efficiency — all of which Atmel covers extremely well.


Atmel | Tech on Tour Agenda At-a-Glance

The Atmel team will be coming through a number of major cities, from Manchester and Milan to Munich and Moscow. Ready to join us? Be sure to register for one of the Atmel | Tech on Tour European, Asia, or North America locations today! Upon registering, you will even receive a WINC1500 Xplained Pro Starter Kit to take home.

8:30 – 9:00     Check-In and Preparation

  • Assistance with installing software will be provided

9:00 – 10:15     Introduction to Atmel Wi-Fi Solution

  • WINC1500/WILC1000 Hardware and Performance Overview
  • Software and IoT Solution Overview
  • Wi-Fi Network Controller IoT Sensor Application

10:15 – 10:30    Hands-on Introduction

10:30 – 10:45    BREAK

10:45 – 12:30    Hands-on: WINC1500 Wi-Fi Network Controller IoT Sensor Application

  • Sending temperature information to any phone or tablet on the network
  • Enabling remote control of LED0 on the SAM D21 Xplained Pro board

12:30 – 1:30    LUNCH

1:30 – 2:15      Introduction to Atmel CryptoAuthentication IoT Security and Technology

2:15 – 3:00      Hands-on Introduction: Authenticating IoT Nodes

  • Authenticate the temp sensor node and host application before being able to read the temperature information to avoid fake nodes
  • How to implement a secure communications link using a session key to and from the remote node to any phone or tablet on the network

3:00 – 3:15    BREAK

3:45 – 4:30    Hands-on: Authenticating IoT Nodes (continued…)

4:30 – 5:00    Wrap-up, Questions and Answers


Prerequisites

Software Requirements

  • Download Atmel Studio 6.2 software.
  • Wireshark Packet Sniffer will be provided.

Hardware Requirements

  • Attendees are required to bring a laptop. Atmel will NOT supply computers at the training.
  • Please make sure to have administrator rights on your laptop.
  • Laptop must have at least one Internet port and one free USB host connector.

Evaluation Kit Requirements

  • Atmel | SMART SAMD21 – XPRO host MCU board
  • Atmel WINC1500 module mounted ATWINC 1500 Xplained Pro Extension (Product Code: ATWINC1500-XSTK)
  • Atmel Digital I/O WING extension board for sensor and SD-card input target USB

SAM L family now the world’s lowest power ARM Cortex-M based solution


Consuming one-third the power of existing solutions, Atmel | SMART SAM L achieves 185 EEMBC ULPBench score.


System design used to be an exercise in optimizing speed. That has since changed. Nowadays, embedded systems pack plenty of performance to handle a number of task, leading the challenge for designers to shift to completing those tasks using as little energy as possible — but not necessarily making it as fast as possible. As you can imagine, this has created quite the competitive environment on the processor battlefield amongst vendors, each seeking to attain the lowest power solution on the market.

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“The surge in popularity of battery-powered electronics has made battery life a primary system-design consideration. In extreme cases, the desire is not to run off of a battery at all, but to harvest energy from local sources to run a system — which requires the utmost power frugality,” writes Andreas Eieland, Atmel Director of Product Marketing. “In addition, there’s a growing family of devices like smoke detectors, door locks, and industrial sensors (4-20 mA and 10-50 mA) that can draw power through their inputs, and that power is limited.”

These sort of trends point to the significance of reducing the power requirements of electronic systems. However, the varying technologies that provide the necessary performance make power reduction harder. Fortunately, Atmel has been focusing on low power consumption for more than 10 years across its portfolio of AVR and Atmel ǀ SMART ARM-based processors. Many integrated peripherals and design techniques are used to minimize power consumption in real-world applications, such as integrated hardware DMA and event system to offload the CPU in active and standby modes, switching off or reducing clock or supply on device portions not in use, intelligent SleepWalking peripherals enabling CPU to remain in deep sleep longer, fast wake-up from low power modes, low voltage operation with full functionality, as well as careful balancing of high performance and low leakage transistors in the MCU design.

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With picoPower technology found in AVR and Atmel ǀ SMART MCUs, Atmel has taken it a step further. Indeed, all picoPower devices are designed from the ground up for lowest possible power consumption from transistor design and process geometry, sleep modes, flexible clocking options, to intelligent peripherals. Atmel picoPower devices can operate down to 1.62V while still maintaining all functionality, including analog functions. They have short wake-up times, with multiple wake-up sources from even the deepest sleep modes. Some elements of picoPower technology cannot be directly manipulated by the user, but they form a solid base that enables ultra-low power application development without compromising functionality. Meanwhile, flexible and powerful features and peripherals lets users apply an assortment of techniques to reduce a system’s total power consumption even further.

Then, there’s the Atmel | SMART SAM L21 microcontroller, which has broken all ultra-low power performance barriers to date. These Cortex-M0+-based MCUs can maintain system functionality, all while consuming just one-third the power of comparable products on the market today. This device delivers ultra-low power running down to 35µA/MHz in active mode, consuming less than 900nA with full 32kB RAM retention. With rapid wake-up times, Event System, Sleepwalking and the innovative picoPower peripherals, the SAM L21 is ideal for handheld and battery-operated devices for a variety of Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

The ultra-low power SAM L family not only broadens the Atmel | SMART portfolio, but extends battery life from years to decades, reducing the number of times batteries need to be changed in devices such as fire alarms, healthcare, medical, wearable, and equipment placed in rural, agriculture, offshore and other remote areas. The SAM L21 combines ultra-low power with Flash and SRAM that are large enough to run both the application and wireless stacks — three features that are cornerstones of most IoT applications. Sampling now, the SAM L21 comes complete with a development platform including an Xplained Pro kit, code libraries and Atmel Studio support.

So how does the SAM L21 stack up against the others? Ahead of the pack, of course! As an alternative to so-called “bench marketing” of low power products, nearly ever large semiconductor company — and several smaller ones that focus on low power — have collaborated in a working group formed by the Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium (EEMBC). The EEMBC ULPBench uses standardized test measurement hardware to strictly define a benchmark code for use by vendors, considering energy efficiency and running on 8-, 16- and 32-bit architectures. At the moment, the Atmel | SMART SAM L21 product boasts the highest ULPBench score of any microcontroller, regardless of CPU.

“In Atmel’s announcement last year for the company’s SAM L21 family, I had pointed out the amazingly low current consumption ratings for both the active and sleep mode operation of this product family – now I can confirm this opinion with concrete data derived from the EEMBC ULPBench,” explained Markus Levy, EEMBC President and Founder. “Atmel achieved the lowest power of any Cortex-M based processor and MCU in the world because of its patented ultra-low power picoPower technology. These ULPBench results are remarkable, demonstrating the company’s low-power expertise utilizing DC-DC conversion for voltage monitoring, as well as other innovative techniques.”

While running the EEMBC ULPBench, the SAM L21 achieves a staggering score of 185, the highest publicly-recorded score for any Cortex-M based processor or MCU in the world — and significantly higher than the 167 and 123 scores announced by other vendors. The SAM L21 family consumes less than 940nA with full 40kB SRAM retention, real-time clock and calendar and 200nA in the deepest sleep mode.

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In fact, a recent EE Times writeup delving deeper into competition even revealed, “TI surpassed its own earlier result by announcing the MSP-432 family based on the Cortex M4F. It achieved a ULPBench score of 167.4. While TI was briefing the media on this product, however, Atmel quietly published a ULPBench score of 185.8 for its SAM L21 MCU based on the Cortex M0+.”

Beyond the recently-unveiled ARM-based chip, it’s also important to note the 0.7V tinyAVR. A typical microcontroller requires at least 1.8V to operate, while the voltage of a single battery-cell typically ranges from 1.2V to 1.5V when fully charged, and then drops gradually below 1V during use, still holding a reasonable amount of charge. This means a regular MCU needs at least two battery cells. Whereas, Atmel has solved this problem by integrating a boost converter inside the ATtiny43U, converting a DC voltage to a higher level, and bridging the gap between minimum supply voltage of the MCU and the typical output voltages of a standard single cell battery. The boost converter provides the chip with a fixed supply voltage of 3.0V from a single battery cell even when the battery voltage drops down to 0.7V. This allows non-rechargeable batteries to be drained to the minimum, thereby extending the battery life. Programmable shut-off levels above the critical minimum voltage level avoid damaging the battery cell of rechargeable batteries.

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Interested in learning more? You can explore Atmel’s low power technology here, as well as download the new white paper entitled “Turn Power-Reducing Features into Low-Power Systems” here.

Atmel stays ahead of the curve with its next-generation car center console

Connected cars are expected to be among several of the key trends at this year’s International CES. With up to a hundred million lines of code, at least 30 MCU-controlled devices — and some with as many as 100 — the vehicle is the ideal application to bring smart, connected devices in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT). Not only will these vehicles be packed with next-gen functionality ranging from navigation and parking assistance to diagnosis and road conditions, they will become much more intuitive and integrated with smartphone-like interfaces. In order to provide this, the automobile of tomorrow will feature a curved center console display offering a large amount of real estate for information to drivers. And, the newly-announced AvantCar™ 2.0 will make this possible.

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The successor to the concept introduced a year ago, the AvantCar 2.0 is equipped with an array of Atmel technologies including a 2.5D model of a car connected to a fully-functional central display demonstrating car access, car networking, MCUs, audio streaming over-Ethernet-AVB and CryptoAuthentication™ products. The futuristic AvantCar 2.0 sports active touchscreens, curved form factors, personalized color schemes and navigation menus via touch buttons and sliders in a cutting-edge sleek center console.

Focusing on user requirements for future generation automobiles, AvantCar 2.0 delivers an advanced human machine interface (HMI). The new concept boasts curved touchscreens highlighting HMI in upcoming automobiles using Atmel technologies like maXTouch touchscreen controllers and XSense flexible touch sensors, as well as Atmel’s QTouch™ with proximity sensing, LIN networking for ambient lighting controls, and automotive-qualified AVR MCUs.

“As a leading provider of smart, connected devices with sophisticated, easy-to-use HMI, Atmel is committed to delivering a state-of-the-art connected experience in the automobile,” Rob Valiton, Atmel SVP and GM of Automotive, Aerospace and Memory Business Units. “Atmel’s AvantCar 2.0 showcases the connected car and delivers a futuristic center console showcasing our latest technologies in a sleek, slim center console with increased performance and fully connected throughout the car. We are excited to bring this next-generation concept to the public demonstrating the future of HMI in the connected car.”

Upon quick glance, one thing you will notice is that the AvantCar 2.0 is a bit different than your typical console — no more mechanical buttons or clunky knobs. 

Instead, the touchscreens integrated capacitive touch buttons and sliders enable users to navigate general applications typically found within an automotive center displays. The second generation demo is slimmer than its predecessor, offering a more appealing aesthetic with improved performance including Silicon Image’s MHL® (Mobile High-Definition Link) solution — a technology that allows users to easily transmit content from a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device to larger displays such as in-dash automotive displays, while charging the mobile device.

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“The last one wasn’t as tailored to automotive standards for display quality,” Paul Kopp, Atmel Director of Automotive, told Venture Beat in a recent interview. “It also has curved liquid crystal displays (LCDs) that weren’t available before. It will look more like a curved surface. The designers really want that in automotive now. The lines will blend more with the vehicle itself.”

While carmakers have been using haptic feedback, it’s apparent that the trend has shifted towards much larger screens and easier touch technology. Tomorrow’s displays will likely be pretty big. While the average is currently about 8 inches diagonal now, it could, in fact, head closer to 10 inches or 12 inches in future models.

“When Tesla came out with a 17-inch main screen, that woke up a lot of the American manufacturers to the idea of bigger displays in the car,” Kopp told Venture Beat. “The right size for the user? The jury is still out.”

Those heading to Vegas for the world’s largest electronics show can experience the newly-unveiled AvantCar 2.0 concept by speeding on over to the Atmel booth (#MP25760) in the LVCC South Hall.

Atmel and other things turning 30 in 2014

The big 3-0. Can you believe it? It seems like yesterday, we were focusing on non-volatile memories and inventing EEPROM. And now, we’re looking back in the rearview mirror over the past 30 years as gaze ahead towards the constantly-connected era, better known as the the Internet of Things.

Ah, 1984. A period when our company was just being founded, Prince was turning the silver screen purple, the first Mac was hitting our desks, and Kevin Bacon was helping a small town get its groove back. Safe to say, if you’re turning 30 this year, you’re in good company… here’s some proof.

Tetris

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Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov released the first version of the game — which featured seven tetrominos descending from the top of a the screen to form a puzzle stack at the bottom — on June 6, 1984. The game would go on to become insanely popular and… addicting.


The Mac

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Steve Jobs introduced the original Macintosh computer on January 24, 1984. At the time, the model (which would later be renamed to “Macintosh 128k”) was the first mass-market PC featuring an integralgraphical user interface and mouse.


Dell

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Michael Dell created PC’s Limited while a student at the University of Texas on February 1, 1984. Originally, he sold IBM PC-compatible computers built from stock components out of his dorm room, before eventually dropping out to focus full-time on his fledging business.


3D Printing

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In 1984, Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corporation invented stereolithography, a printing process that enabled a tangible 3D object to be created from digital data. The technology is used to create a 3D model from a picture and enables users to test a design before investing in a larger manufacturing program. Today, a number of Atmel MCUs (including AVR XMEGAmegaAVR and Atmel | SMART SAM3X8E) are used to power these next-gen devices, all inspired by Hull.


IBM Portable

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IBM introduced its Portable Personal Computer 5515 model 68 in February 1984, shortly after the success of Compaq’s suitcase-sized portable machine. At the time, the computer weighed 30 pounds — certainly not “mobile” by today’s standards. The Portable was eventually replaced by the IBM Convertible.


Mark Zuckerberg

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We wouldn’t be sharing this blog on Facebook if the founder of the iconic social channel wasn’t born on May 14, 1984.


HP LaserJet

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The world’s first desktop laser printer for IBM-compatible PCs was introduced in May 1984. It was a 300-dpi, 8 ppm printer that sold for just under $3,500.


Cisco Systems

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Networking equipment company Cisco was founded in December of 1984 by two members of Stanford University’s computer support staff. The phenomenal growth of the Internet in the mid-to-late ’90s quickly changed the telecom landscape. Eventually, the company would go on to become evangelists of the “Internet of Everything.”


Computer Viruses

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University of Southern California professor Fred Cohen published a paper entitled “Computer Virus—Theory and Experiments,” where he warned about and shared the first definition of computer viruses.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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The TMNT first appeared in an American comic book published by Mirage Studios in May of 1984 in Dover, New Hampshire. The pizza-eating, crime-fighting ninjas were the brainturtles of artists Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, who in true Maker fashion, started a tiny publishing company out of Laird’s living room.


Legal Taping of TV Shows

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The Supreme Court decided a crucial case in January of 1984. Known as the “Betamax Case,” the court considered whether home VCR users could legally record TV shows for the purpose of watching them later, a practice known as “time-shifting.”


The Declaration of “National Ice Cream Month”

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I scream, you scram, we all scream ‘thanks’ to President Ronald Reagan, who proclaimed July 15, 1984 as the first “National Ice Cream Day.” From there on, the Congress designated July as “National Ice Cream Month.”


“Where’s the Beef?”

Who could ever forget those Wendy’s ads, right? “Where’s the beef?” quickly emerged as a catchphrase throughout the United States and Canada, originating as a slogan for the fast food chain.


TED Conferences

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Born in 1984 out of Richard Saul Wurman’s observation of a powerful convergence of technology, entertainment and design. The first TED included a demo of the compact disc, the e-book and cutting-edge 3D graphics from Lucasfilm, while mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrated how to map coastlines using his developing theory of fractal geometry. At the time, it was a one-off event held in Monterey, California, organized by Wurman himself.


Transformers

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The Transformers TV show, which made its debut in the U.S. on September 17, 1984. was inspired by the Japanese towline Microman. Transformers shortly thereafter rolled out its own figurines after Hasbro bought distribution rights for the Microman toy molds from Japanese company Takara.


“Baby Bell” Telephone System

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Led by the Bell Telephone Company and subsequently by AT&T, the Bell System was a system of companies which provided telephone services to a majority of North America from 1877 to 1984. In 1984, the system was broken up into seven independent companies by a U.S. Justice Department mandate, which became known as the “Baby Bells.”


This is Spinal Tap

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Directed by Rob Reiner, the breakthrough mockumentary “This is Spinal Tap” was released on March 2, 1984. The film, which would go on to become a cult classic, chronicled the fictional comeback tour of British heavy metal group Spinal Tap.


What is the Trebek Era of JEOPARDY!

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Alex Trebek has hosted nearly 7,000 episodes of JEOPARDYsince its syndicated debut on September 10, 1984. Over the past 30 years, he has become one of TV’s most enduring and iconic figures, engaging millions of viewers worldwide with his impeccable delivery of “answers and questions.”


MTV’s Video Music Awards

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Long before the days of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Usher, MTV launched its first Video Music Awards (commonly referred to as “The VMAS”) on September 14, 1984. The event, which was hosted by Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler at the Radio City Music Hall, honored the best music videos from May 2, 1983, to May 2, 1984 — an era when the channel actually aired videos!


The Print Shop

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Brøderbund’s Software Inc.s’ publishing package The Print Shop epitomized the 1980s computing, enabling users to make cards, signs, and even banners. Before printing, it showed a colorful “THINKING” screen as it computed the graphics necessary to print.


The Moon Treaty

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The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies is an international treaty that turns jurisdiction of all celestial bodies (including the orbits around such bodies) over to the international community. The treaty was finalized in 1979 and entered into force for the ratifying parties in 1984. As a follow-on to the Outer Space Treaty, the Moon Treaty intended to establish a regime for the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies similar to the one established for the sea floor in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.


Canadians in Space

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One of the first country’s first astronauts, Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in outer space in October 1984.


Virgin Atlantic Airways

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Virgin Atlantic’s maiden flight from Gatwick to Newark Liberty International Airport took place on June 22, 1984.


Space Shuttle Discovery’s Maiden Voyage

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Space Shuttle Discovery was one of the three orbiters of NASA’s Space Shuttle program and the third of five built. The shuttle’s maiden voyage occurred on August 30 through September 5, 1984. Over 27 years of service, it would go on to launch and land 39 times, gathering more flight time than any other spacecraft to date.


Ghostbusters

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“Who you gonna call?” The iconic science fantasy comedy — starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as three eccentric parapsychologists in New York City who start a ghost-catching business — made its box office debut June 8, 1984.


The Terminator

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On May 12, 1984, two beings from the year 2029 arrive in Los Angeles: one is a Terminator T-800 Model 101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a cyborg assassin programmed to kill a woman named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton); the other is Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a human resistance fighter sent to protect her.


The Karate Kid

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Released on June 22, 1984, The Karate Kid was an American martial arts romantic drama film starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita and Elisabeth Shue. The flick was an underdog story in the mold of previous success, Rocky.


Gremlins

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Who could ever forget June 8, 1984? Not only was it the day Ghostbusters made its debut, but it was the day a boy inadvertently broke three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashed a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.


Revenge of the Nerds

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Revenge of the Nerds was an American comedy film highlighting the social life on a college campus. The flick, which starred Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards, made its premiere on July 20, 1984.


Bruce Springsteen “Born in the USA”

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Plain white t-shirt, check. Jeans, check. Red hat in the back pocket, check. This summer anthem was released on June 4, 1984.


Cirque du Soleil

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Before becoming an incredibly popular mix of circus arts and street entertainment (and certainly long before the days of synchronized dancing drones), Cirque du Soleil was conceived with the assistance of the Quebec government, as part of the celebrations surrounding the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s arrival in Canada. The first production, Le Grand Tour debuted in the small Quebec town of Gaspé, and was later performed in 10 other cities throughout the province. The first blue-and-yellow big top seats 800, much smaller than its sold-out venues today.


Hulkamania

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“Whatcha gonna do, brother?” Hulkamania was officially coined on January 7, 1984.


Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary Pass

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November 23, 1984: A day that will forever live in sports history. What has since been dubbed “The Hail Flutie Game” was a college football game between the Boston College Eagles and University of Miami Hurricanes. The game is most notable for a last-second Hail Mary pass from quarterback Doug Flutie to wide receiver Gerard Phelan to give Boston College the win.


Don’t forget, you can join us in our birthday celebration! Learn how by clicking here.

And the Simply AVR Design Contest winners are…

Back in March, Atmel launched the second stage of its Simply AVR Design Contest, which encouraged Makers, designers and engineers to develop clever, ground-breaking 8-bit microcontroller-based designs using its highly-popular AVR family. After several months of ideation and submissions, we’re excited to announce that the grand prize winner of the contest is Juan Gonzalez for his IoT ATmega2560-powered robot.

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Programmed with Atmel Studio 6.2, the winning IoT project — which garnered nearly 116,000 votes — runs in three modes including Wi-Fi via an Android application, object-tracking mode and MIMIC mode via TCP/IP.

“Atmel AVR MCUs are simple to use, have a robust ecosystem and are extremely flexible, allowing beginner developers to create innovative, out-of-the-box embedded designs beyond traditional applications,” explained Gonzalez.

“The ATmega-powered IoT robot only took me a couple days to put together and I was thrilled when I was notified. Thank you to the Atmel team for enabling me to showcase my design. I will continue to design with AVR MCUs.”

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In total, five winners were selected through public voting on the contest site and Facebook; meanwhile, a separate Simply AVR Design Contest was conducted in parallel in China. Runner-ups included:

Sumit Grover, Remote and GSM-based home automation system

Savvas-George Kokkinidis-Loungos, Wireless remote car device using hand movements

Shreyas Gite, Arduino-powered medical scanner to measure body temperature and other vitals

Rahul Kar, Digital Soduku solver

“I’d like to congratulate our winners for the Simply AVR Design Contest,” said Sander Arts, Atmel Vice President of Marketing. “With over 300,000 votes for all five winners, there was clearly a lot of enthusiasm for the second phase of the Simply AVR Contest. All these projects showcased creative, impressive designs that demonstrate the simplicity of Atmel’s AVR MCUs which extend beyond the traditional boundaries. With a community of AVR enthusiasts, we are looking forward to the continuation of this program.”

With another successful challenge in the books, we’re eager to see what the future holds for these Makers’ prototypes. Perhaps, they will follow in the footsteps of previous design contest champion Pamungkas Prawisuda Sumasta, who recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for his team’s Phoenard all-in-one prototyping device.

Those wishing to browse through some of the other submitted creations can head over to the contest’s official gallery here.

A look back at World Maker Faire 2014

And just like that, another weekend of making has come to an end but not without its ‘Faire’ share of memories. On September 20th and 21st, World Maker Faire 2014 attracted some 85,000 Makers, modders, hackers, hobbyists and veteran engineers from 45 states and 36 countries to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Inside a jam-packed booth (#EP24), attendees had the chance to meet, mingle and make a wide range of projects — many of which were powered by Atmel microcontrollers.

From announcing the new Arduino Wi-Fi Shield 101 and moderating a Maker panel to hosting a number of hands-on demos and meeting AVR Man himself, it was an incredible two days!

Here’s a look back at the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth in pictures…

Next, the Atmel team is headed for Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition on October 3-5, 2014. Will we be seeing you in Italy?

Atmel and the Maker Revolution

I was part of the “original” Maker revolution. This was years ago, in the late 1980’s, and I was a latecomer. We used to make our own circuit boards, but slightly different from the ones today.

There was a 386 computer on my desk. My trusty 386 had ISA ports, extension card space, that most of us used as a basis for our designs. The ISA bus was easy to use, and the connector was large, meaning we could use simple, basic, cheap equipment to make our boards. What did we make? Everything! Digital IO, radio, remote control systems, everything. When I was a student, my flat was controlled entirely by one of these cards. Of course, the brain of my invention was the computer itself, it wasn’t easy to create a computer system.

A computer system requires several components. It requires a processor, and there were quite a few on the market at the time. It also requires memory, but two kinds; random access memory, RAM for short, is where variables are stored, and is the memory that a program uses to copy, calculate and modify data. A computer also requires read-only memory, ROM for short, and this is where the program is placed. Even that was tricky. You see, at the time, in order to “flash” a new program, we had to remove the EPROM device (short for Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) and place it in ultraviolet light for up to 30 minutes. That was only the beginning. In order to flash a new program, you had to put it into a programmer, a device attached to the computer that wrote data into the device. Once that was done (it took a few minutes), then you could put the chip back onto the circuit board, and away you went. If you made a mistake, or if your program didn’t work, then you had to redo everything, which took over half an hour.

All of this was complicated, and required multiple components. The processor was one component. The RAM was another. So was the ROM. Interrupt controllers? Digital IO? PWM? They were all external components too. There was a reason why computers used to be that big. So we simplified things. The processor was the PC, and we just made extension boards. Of course, this made making things like robots difficult, but we had lots of fun.

The ISA bus was slow, and users wanted PCs to become faster and faster. The ISA bus was soon replaced by VLB, short for VESA Local Bus. It added an extension to the ISA bus, allowing for faster memory transfers. We had faster computers, better graphics, and we could still use our boards. However, it also sent a clear message; we were soon to find a new way of doing things. VLB was replaced by PCI, which was replaced by PCI Express. This bus is lightning fast, but requires complex electronics, and very good equipment to make boards with connectors that fine. Our trusty ISA cards soon ended up in the dustbin. We could still use the serial port or the parallel port, but it wasn’t the same. Most of us stopped.

It was depressing. We tried making our own computers, but they were complicated. External components, long flash times, prohibitive prices… One company was listening.

Atmel's ATMEGA328P-PU an AVR 8-bit processor

Atmel’s ATMEGA328P-PU an AVR 8-bit processor

In 1996, Atmel shipped the AVR processor. It was an 8-bit processor, with a twist. It had internal RAM, and internal flash. No more external components. It could be flashed within seconds, and reflashed. You didn’t even need to take it off the breadboard to reflash it. Founded in 1984, Atmel had already made semiconductor devices for the professional market, but was also very close to Makers. They heard our cry for help, and they delivered. The AVR changed everything.

AVR-XMEGA

The AVR chip was an 8-bit device (32-bit devices also exist), but the computer we used to control our ISA cards was 32-bit. The thing is, we didn’t need 32-bits, and an 8-bit microcontroller was perfect for our needs. The AVR was small, cheap, reliable, and really, really easy to use. We flooded back, we redesigned our boards, and we made. We made everything. How good were the AVR chips? By 2003, Atmel had shipped 500 million devices.

Fast forward a few years, and here we are today. Makers are everywhere. We are back. We are making more than ever. And with awesome sponsors like Atmel, we are here to stay. 2013 was the year of 100 Maker Faires, and they were full of Arduinos.

New Breed of Maker Movement Engineers Blooming from Garages, Maker Faire, Hackerspaces, and Makerspaces

New Breed of Maker Movement Engineers Blooming from Garages, Maker Faire, Hackerspaces, and Makerspaces

What is on the Arduino? Well, most of them have an AVR. The Arduino Due isn’t an AVR-based device, it is an ARM device, but even that is made by Atmel too, and is just as easy to use. 2014 promises to be even more exciting!

New Breed of Engineers - Some Images from Maker Faire Bay Area, there were over 100 Maker Faires in 2013 budding in cities all across the globe

New Breed of Engineers – Some Images from Maker Faire Bay Area 2014. There were over 100 Maker Faires in 2013 budding in cities all across the globe

Arduino Due

Here’s the Arduino Due – with an Atmel ARM Based Processor

With Atmel as a sponsor, Makers are here to stay. If you haven’t tried to make your own device yet, try it! It doesn’t cost a lot, and you don’t need all the complicated hardware we used to have. You will be up and running in mere minutes, and believe me, it is fun! If you have any questions, go and see Atmel at one of the Maker Faires. If you come by the Maker Faire Rome, come say hello, I’ll be there with Atmel to show you just how much this technology has changed my life, and show you how to start.