Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (3-22-10): The future of eight-bit MCUs - Embedded.com

Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (3-22-10): The future of eight-bit MCUs




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A few weeks ago in “What's next for microcontrollers“,Joseph Yiu, a process design engineer from ARM Ltd., presented atechnically knowledgeable and impassioned argument that 32-bit CPUs areon the way to finally displacing 8-bit MCUs.

Yiu's article triggered a number of equally impassioned and wellreasoned arguments in defense of the 8-bit MCU, most recently fromSteve Drehobl in 8-bit MCUs won't begoing away anytime soon .” Embedded.comreaders Chuck Mauro and Ingar Fredriksen have also come to the defense of the 8-bit MCU.

Another sign that the 8-bit MCU market is still strong and viable,according to Rich Nass, is the recent flurry of8-bit product introductions at and since the Embedded Worldshow in Europe a few weeks ago. And if design articles are anyindication, the rumors of the death or coming death of the 8-bit MCUare not true. In “Batteryless energyharvesting for embedded designs,” for example, TI's AdrianValenzuela points out this new market is ideally suited for non-32-bit MCUs of more lowly origins.

Articles on designing with 8-bit MCUs are a staple on Embedded.com.Recent contributions include adding intelligence toindustrial applications, machine-to-machine communications,synergisms between8-bit MCUs and FPGAs, multitasking on an 8-bit PIC MCU,variable speedcontrollers for consumer appliances, and sensor designwith 8-bit MCUs.

Other less recent but still relevant design topics: 8-bit auto MCU design, implementing IPv6 on an8-bit MCU, making an 8-bit PI controller, optimal C constructsfor the 8051 MCU, and doing FFT on an 8-bit MCU.

But if you think that despite all this support for 8-bit MCUs youneed to make the shift from 8-bit to 32-bit, in addition to Yiu's article, for guidelinesyou might want to check out “MCU architectures, thenand now,” and “Practicalmigration from 8-/16- to 32-bit PIC. ” Good reading! (Bernard Cole, Embedded.com Editor )

The 8-bit MCUs won't be going away anytime soon
Despite claims that the 8-bit MCU will soon be obsolete by 32-bit devices, that may not exactly be the case.
  JACK GANSSLE: On the future of 8-bit MCUs
Small is Beautiful
8 bits will never go away. In fact, various vendors have some pretty cool new parts available.
  COMMENTARY/FEATURES: on microcontrollers
Who needs more than 8-bit horsepower?
A reader responds to a question on 8-bit vs. 16-bit vs. 32-bit microcontrollers.
Letter to the editor: more support for 8-bit MCUs
Another reader response to a question on 8-bit vs. 16-bit vs. 32-bit microcontrollers.
8-bit MCUs – It's not the size, but what you do with them, that's important
The popularity of 8-bit MCUs could actually be on the increase, despite the trend towards faster, larger and more powerful cores.
  EDITOR'S TOP PICKS by Bernard Cole, Embedded.com Editor
Batteryless energy harvesting for embedded designs
In the era of 32- and 64-bit multicore behemoths, 8- and 16-bit MCUs get new respect for power management.
  #INCLUDE by Rich Nass
A flurry of activity heading into “Embedded Season”
It's time for the two biggest shows in the embedded systems industry.
  DESIGN ARTICLES: Developing 8-bit MCUs Apps
The basics of embedded multitasking on a PIC
High-end concepts typically aren't applied to an 8-bit MCU. But don't rule them out just yet.
Intelligence is integrated into industrial applications
In today's fluid and interconnected geopolitical environment, it seems that any micro- or macroeconomic event can lead to significant increases in energy costs, whether that energy is delivered as an electron, a gas or a liquid.
Choosing a microcontroller and other design decisions
This three-part article is abstracted from the book “Embedded Hardware Know It All”, which provides a “360 degree” view from best-selling authors.
Build low cost consumer appliances & smart meters with low pin count 8 bit MCUs
In this back-to-the-basics “why-to,” Sandhya Mallikarjun presents the case for using low pin count 8 bit MCUs in a wide range of consumer appliances, smart meters and home entertainment systems.
Selecting the right network connection for your MCU-based machine-to-machine application
There are at least eight distinct configurations to embed Ethernet in a microcontroller-based M2M design. Here are a few hints on how to choose the appropriate configuration based on the interface needs of the target application.
A refresher course in sensor design using microcontrollers
Martin Bates provides details on the design the interface between a sensor and a microcontroller, and how to specify the performance of the linear amplifier used to translate the sensor output into suitable input for an MCU.
Enable variable speed control for consumer appliances with digital power management
A digital power management system offers accurate and variable speed control but until recently cost has been a significant hurdle. Here is a cost-effective variable-speed universal motor control solution to help you meet your motor control challenges

Choosing the best system software architecture for your wireless smart sensor design
Anton Hristozov evaluates the factors you need to consider in selecting the best system software architecture for your embedded wireless sensor Network (WSN) design.
Control issues: How FPGAs can address MCUs' general-purpose I/O scaling wall
The general-purpose inputs and outputs ports available for a microcontroller are usually limited in number. FPGAs can be deployed to overcome this barrier by adding four 8-bit ports to any 8-bit microcontroller. This article describes how to deploy an 8051-based FPGA as an 8-bit microcontroller.
  OTHER PERSPECTIVES: on 8-/16- vs 32 bit MCUs
What next for microcontrollers?
Viewing the migration of embedded developers from 8- and 16-bit to 32-bit microocontroller from the perspective of the ARM architecture, ARM's Joseph Liu looks at some of the factors accelerating this migration.
Practical migration from 8-/16- to 32-bit PIC
An insider's account of moving from Microchip's 16- to 32-bit PIC MCUs.
  EDITOR'S NOTE: by Bernard Cole, Embedded.com Editor
Take note of two more special EETimes panels at the up-coming ESC event in San Jose. In “Wireless Sensor Networks: The World's Smallest Embedded Computers,” Peter Clarke takes the reins in what promises to be an absorbing discussion, while in “Counterfeiting: An Industry Menace,” Bolaji Ojo explores the effects of counterfeiting and what's to be done about it. Full details here.Finally, if you find you're getting lost in a haze of established and new memory options for your next design, check out the Fundamentals of Memory where Objective Analysis's Jim Handy outlines the pros and cons of each major memory type, how they're applied and how the latest technologies such as magnetic RAM and phase-change memory compare.

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