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I am just beginning to learn how to use microcontrollers, and I have decided I am going to learn on the UC3B 32-bit avr. I will also be learning C programming in the process. What do I need in terms of programmers and other necessities, while staying pretty cheap, and where are some tutorials to help me get started?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Many people start to learn MCU programming with an Arduino. It's pretty cheap and there are loads of example projects etc. there are also many kinds of shields which makes it pretty easy to accomplish almost anything. \$\endgroup\$ – Handoko Jun 10 '14 at 20:28
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Microcontrollers are available with a wide variety of capability and performance. If you're just starting out, it might be wise to begin with something simpler (like the tinyAVR series). Atmel makes evaluation kits (such as the EVK1101) which I would recommend when working with a specific microcontroller platform. Such kits allow you to fully explore the feature set of the product without having to hook up external support circuitry (as much).

As for programming, you have a number of options again. If you look at the UC3 Tools page at Atmel, various compatible programmers are listed, such as the AVR Dragon. You can also probably use third-party programmers such as the USB Tiny from Adafruit, but I haven't personally used it for UC3.

You can use Atmel Studio to write and debug your code, but you can also use any text editor (i.e. Notepad++) and AVRDude to compile (I recommend you get WinAVR).

Finally, to learn embedded C for microcontrollers, there are many resources online. There is a lot of good references to programming at AVRFreaks.net. If you're really new to programming, you should probably look at taking an introductory programming class (many community colleges offer this) and also at some books about the subject:

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I heard of the Dragon, but some guys on AVR freak said that it had a tendancy to fry itself. Why can't I use an ISP programmer? Does the UC3 not have the apropriate pins? \$\endgroup\$ – Graf Jun 10 '14 at 17:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ ISP means "in system programming"; most of the programmers (if not all) support this method of programming. My experience is with ATtiny and ATmega mostly, plus a few ARM micros. I'm not sure what programming methods UC3 series supports. The Dragon works well for the tiny and mega series, but might not be ideal for UC3. \$\endgroup\$ – JYelton Jun 10 '14 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alright, I think the dragon is the only cheap(ish) option then. The AVRJTAG 1 apparently doesn't work, leaving the 400 usd JTAG MK2, and the 100 usd AVR ONE. I looked on the data sheets for the ISP programmers and the UC3s weren't listed. I have had serious trouble finding info on the UC3s anywhere besides Atmel, and I still havn't found a dedicated tutorial, on the web or in print. I may end up going with an 8 bit simply because I can't find any tutorials specifically for the UC3s. \$\endgroup\$ – Graf Jun 10 '14 at 19:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're just starting out, and don't have a specific project requirement, I definitely recommend learning on a simpler 8-bit micro first. Best of luck; sorry I don't know much more about the UC3 series. \$\endgroup\$ – JYelton Jun 10 '14 at 19:39
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Nice choice actually, been working on those things for the past months, both in the low power area and for general purpose, including USB and stuff like that.

If you've already decided on the B series (it actually doesn't matter, only few components change between the series such as the ADC) get the EVK1101 and a JTAGICE3. That's it, nothing else needed, no adapters, nothing. Plug both into USB and you're good to go (ok, you should download Atmel Studio).

First thing to note: Start with an already existing example (the ASF (framework) comes with many examples for nearly every component). Understand, which functions to execute.

Also, make sure you read the chapters on clocks and the power manager thoroughly.

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This might not be the answer you're looking for but please consider this:

You might have a better learning experience starting out with the 8bit AVRs, also from Atmel. All of Atmel's MCU are supported by Atmel's IDE AVR Studio so you learn the IDE once and keep on using it when you move on to more powerful MCUs.

The IDE is fantastic, really got better with version 6 and comes with visual assist for free!!!

Regarding a debugger / programer. I would invest a little money and buy the JTAGICE MKII and avoid all 3rd party programmers and debuggers! When I started out I used a 3rd party programmer with AVRDude and all kind of 3rd party apps and wasted a lot of time setting up the environment just to get going. Save yourself the trouble, that extra $100 - $200 is worth so much less than your time. Of course the JTAGICE MKII also supports all the protocols Atmel MCUs use (JTAG, ISP, debugWire).

Your best source for anything Atmel - www.avrfreaks.net which is a developers and support community like no other.

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