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To be specific, i am interested if there is a way to buy a clean microcontroller (doesn't matter whether it is Atmel or Pic), program it and implement it into your circuit board, without any additional attachments.

PS: Here, additional attachments means something like Arduino, which, apart from microcontroller consists of many other electronics.

I just want to implement plain (without anything) microcontroller into my circuits.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ An Arduino doesn't attach anything that allows programming of the MCU. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5, 2015 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your comment, but this question isnt about Arduino. Its just whether i can program and implent to my circuit ONLY microcontroller, without external parts. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marakaido
    Feb 5, 2015 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ programming a micro controller varies from one type to the next. Programming an AVR is different than a PIC which is different than various ARM processors \$\endgroup\$
    – Gorloth
    Feb 5, 2015 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your correction. But the question is whether i can use ONLY microcontroller, without any external parts in my circuit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marakaido
    Feb 5, 2015 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is possible; I do it regularly with small PICs running off of slow internal clock. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5, 2015 at 19:37

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No, you can't run a microcontroller without anything else in the circuit. You almost can, but you really need a bypass cap across the power pins of the micro, physically close to the micro.

Other than that, some micros are capable of running without requiring anything else. Most have a negative-going reset line that needs to be held high for the micro to run. However, some have a built-in pullup resistor on that line, or can be optionally configured to enable a built-in pullup. The micro would also need a internal oscillator, but quite a few have that.

One example of a micro that just needs power, ground, and a bypass cap is the PIC 10F200. The MCLR pin can be configured so that it is a digital input, and the micro always runs when power is applied. This gives you one input pin, and three pins that can be either input or output, depending on what the firmware does.

There are a number of other PICs that can do this too. The limiting factor is you need one that can be configured to not do MCLR or with a internal pullup on MCLR. If you are willing to tie MCLR high, then quite a few more PICs fit your specification. Some will have multiple power and ground pins, so will require additional bypass caps. Not all have internal oscillators, but just about all the newer ones do.

If you explain what you want this micro to accomplish, we can probably suggest some models to look at.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is correct, but just to be clear: the microcontroller will run on its own, but will need to be connected to an external programmer first. \$\endgroup\$
    – pjc50
    Feb 5, 2015 at 22:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @pjc50: True. As I understand the question, he wants to get a microcontroller, program it, then put it into a circuit without any other parts. Of course I don't know what the point is if the micro won't connect to anything. If it doesn't have to do anything, any chip will do, and you don't even need to power it. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5, 2015 at 22:34
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In general you will need something to connect a computer to the microcontroller for programming, usually some kind of programmer.

NXP makes a line of ARM microcontrollers that have a built in USB bootloader. If they are blank they automatically enter a bootloader mode that makes them show up as a mass storage device you drop the firmware onto. If you are going to use USB in your circuit this would mean you don't need anything extra. The parts I've used are LPC1343 and LPC1345, others have the same thing, but check before buying them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Some other microcontrollers (e.g. STM32) have similar built-in bootloaders that communicate via UART rather than USB. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5, 2015 at 22:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that's a good point. If you are going to have a UART anyway then it wouldn't be any extra hardware to use one of those. \$\endgroup\$
    – Austin
    Feb 6, 2015 at 22:11
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You better put some decoupling caps or you'll be back here asking questions about why your circuit doesn't work.

You may also need a little RC circuit or at least a pull up on reset, and a connector of some kind so you can debug.

But you can get away with something very minimal. Although if you don't connect it to anything interesting... what's the point :)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer. I think i will just end up buying Arduino Uno. :( \$\endgroup\$
    – Marakaido
    Feb 5, 2015 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Marakaido You can do both: Get a Chinese ardunio for $2. Then use it as an ISP programmer to program microcontrollers (like bare AVRs or other arduinos). \$\endgroup\$
    – Navin
    Feb 6, 2015 at 3:31
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I hate to be that guy that self promotes, but awhile ago I made a quick video about programming a "bare-bones" Atmel circuit using an ATmega328P. In the video I show a breadboarded circuit and flash SW to it to blink an LED at 1Hz:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fhu1XL1m_jk

In the description, there is a link to a shared G Drive that has the code, and a jpg of the schematic wired up. Also a BOM.

Here is my partner article that supplements the video:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Getting-Started-with-Embedded-Systems-using-Atmel/

These aren't exactly my best work but they address what you're looking for.

If these don't help too much, these are the series of articles that I used to learn how to get into programming on embedded systems, for a "bare bones" MCU:

https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/category/1

In summary, you can't program a "plain" MCU. You need some decoupling capacitors, a voltage regulator, pull up resistor on the RESET pin, etc. But the links above will show you the "least" that you need to start.

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You can implement a uC into your breadboard. But for example (PIC), you will need to program it through a programmer through ICSP/ZIF socket. Then you can use the uC by its own, no other components attached. A decoupling caps are always welcome, but you can try to run the PIC without them(it might fail). Since you do not want a lot of external components, you can use internal oscillator in the selected uC (check if it has one).

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Atmel TinyAVR series parts can operate with about nothing but power and gnd connected. Like some other parts they also have their own built in RC oscillators. Some are < USD 1.

See: http://www.atmel.com/products/microcontrollers/avr/tinyavr.aspx

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