Munich, Germany — Motorola sold its five-billionth 68HC05 microcontroller early last week. That's the greatest number of chips ever sold in a single product line said representatives of Motorola. The five-billionth chip was presented to Electrolux, the kitchen and cleaning appliance company, at a conference in Germany.
According to Jim Turley, an embedded processor industry analyst, the occasion is a good indicator of general trends in the world. The first 68HC05 rolled out in 1985, before the spread of the microcontroller into almost all spheres of life. At that point in time, applications that made use of microcontrollers were extremely complex and sophisticated, and the chips themselves were expensive.
“Before [the 68HC05],” Turley said, “A microcontroller was the sort of thing that you saw only in the lab.” Other similar chips were emerging then, but it was the 68HC05 that “launched the market for what we call embedded systems. Now they show up everywhere, in thermostats, in toys, in kids' sneakers.”
While the chip itself is a simple, general-purpose 8-bit MCU, what set it apart was its low cost. “For the first time,” said Turley, “you could put a computer in something for just a few dollars.”
The 68HC05 was developed in cooperation with the companies who were leaders in the markets in which microcontrollers were ready to be introduced. In this way, Motorola got the feedback they needed to make the integration of the chip into such devices as a garage-door opener an attractive-and low cost-option.
This is a major reason for the chips extended success. When various important companies began using the 68HC05 in their products, other players soon followed. Thus, Motorola created a model for the addition of microcomputers to products that had existed for years, and even longer, without them.
Both Turley and people from Motorola say they expect another 5 billion 68HC05s will be sold in the future.
“Old chips don't die in embedded systems,” said Turley. “They get cheaper and they end up in more and more products.”