I am in the process of getting started with electronics, and I have come to a crossroads. Being a complete beginner, should I start with 32 bit microcontrollers (specifically Atmel's UC3 series), or 8 bit microcontrollers (Atmel's MegaAVR or TinyAVR)?

What programmer would be the best option for the UC3 (as there are many models of JTAG to choose from and I can't figure out if UC3 is ISP compatible)?

What is the learning curve for each if programming in C (I know a very small amount, and was planning on using microcontrollers to learn C), and will the extra complexity of 32 bit be too much to handle without being grounded in 8 bit first?

If I end up going with an 8 bit micro, how much of a difference is there between an 8 bit and a 32 bit micro if I step up to 32 bit later on?

I am planning on using a solderless bread board for prototyping. 8 bit AVR's have a large number of micro's in DIP packaging, but 32 bit UC3's don't seem to have any DIP packaging. I found a site for adapters here http://www.proto-advantage.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2200114 (Sorry if that link isn't formatted correctly), but is there a better way that doesn't involve soldering extremely small TQFP packages into extremely small holes on an extremely small PCB board?

I am planning on learning electronics and programming through robotics; do 32 bit or 8 bit microcontrollers lend themselves better to that?

There are many tutorials for 8 bit, but good tutorials for 32 bit seem much rarer. Where can I find high quality tutorials for each?

On a side note, what are some good low cost breadboards, and what are the differences between them? They all look the same, their datasheets are very similar, and Wikipedia wasn't extremely helpful...

This is my first question, so I hope I covered my bases. I did a quick search for questions like this and didn't find one, so I hope this post isn't redundant. Thanks for your help! :D


closed as too broad by Matt Young, Joe Hass, Leon Heller, Chetan Bhargava, Daniel Grillo Apr 7 '14 at 0:30

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is way too much material to ask in one question. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Apr 6 '14 at 18:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ It would help if you split individual questions up so they are easier to answer one by one. \$\endgroup\$ – David Apr 6 '14 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think learning C on MCU is a mistake. You must learn it on a desktop computer, most easily on a unix-like system. \$\endgroup\$ – Ayhan Aug 9 '17 at 19:00

Using a 32bit microcontroller vs a 8bit microcontroller is like using a Computer as a simple calculator, and using a smart phone as a simple calculator. One has more potential for expansion than the other, but simple things can be done on both.

Your first projects will be the typical blink an led or serial communication projects like everyone else. It doesn't matter if you are using an 8bit or 32bit microcontroller at that point. It will be the same, but with different names or settings. So if you want to use or plan on using a 32bit controller or if you have a plan for something big and complex, just go with the 32bit controller. I much rather a ferrari than a toyota, especially if they cost the same.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would counter that it may be better to learn car-control in a Toyota if you're buying your 1st car. Learning on a small low-power 8-bit micro will teach you some good stuff early on that you may never bump into on a more powerful micro until waay down the line. Or to put it another way, when you hit the limit in the Ferrari, it's going to be a much bigger crash ;) \$\endgroup\$ – John U Apr 7 '14 at 9:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ and using a calculator as a simple calculator. I think you meant a computer, but when I read don't edit trivial ..., I just commented :) \$\endgroup\$ – I.Omar Aug 9 '17 at 12:51

I might not answer all your questions.

I think, for learning c-programming its best to start as easy as possible. I would recommend an arduino to learn the programming basics.

I think you should not pick a microcontroller by looking at the register size. You should pick a microcontroller depending on your needs. Right now you want to learn C.

In my opinion there you should start by buying an arduino or a PIC kit.

What you want is:

  • lot of support on internet and a load of libraries
  • complete solution so no programmers and other stuf needed
  • probably a not-so-expensive solution to start with (The pic needs a programmer so it's a bit more expensive)
  • \$\begingroup\$ OTOH, you only need to buy the PIC programmer once, whereas each Arduino comes with its own programmer (and associated cost). \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Apr 6 '14 at 19:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @IgnacioVazquez-Abrams only some arduinos have a programmer (Er ftdi usb to serial) on board. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Apr 6 '14 at 19:57

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