Microcontrollers - Overview


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A microcontroller is a small and low-cost microcomputer, which is designed to perform the specific tasks of embedded systems like displaying microwave’s information, receiving remote signals, etc.

The general microcontroller consists of the processor, the memory (RAM, ROM, EPROM), Serial ports, peripherals (timers, counters), etc.

Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

The following table highlights the differences between a microprocessor and a microcontroller −

Microcontroller Microprocessor
Microcontrollers are used to execute a single task within an application. Microprocessors are used for big applications.
Its designing and hardware cost is low. Its designing and hardware cost is high.
Easy to replace. Not so easy to replace.
It is built with CMOS technology, which requires less power to operate. Its power consumption is high because it has to control the entire system.
It consists of CPU, RAM, ROM, I/O ports. It doesn’t consist of RAM, ROM, I/O ports. It uses its pins to interface to peripheral devices.

Types of Microcontrollers

Microcontrollers are divided into various categories based on memory, architecture, bits and instruction sets. Following is the list of their types −

Bit

Based on bit configuration, the microcontroller is further divided into three categories.

  • 8-bit microcontroller − This type of microcontroller is used to execute arithmetic and logical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication division, etc. For example, Intel 8031 and 8051 are 8 bits microcontroller.

  • 16-bit microcontroller − This type of microcontroller is used to perform arithmetic and logical operations where higher accuracy and performance is required. For example, Intel 8096 is a 16-bit microcontroller.

  • 32-bit microcontroller − This type of microcontroller is generally used in automatically controlled appliances like automatic operational machines, medical appliances, etc.

Memory

Based on the memory configuration, the microcontroller is further divided into two categories.

  • External memory microcontroller − This type of microcontroller is designed in such a way that they do not have a program memory on the chip. Hence, it is named as external memory microcontroller. For example: Intel 8031 microcontroller.

  • Embedded memory microcontroller − This type of microcontroller is designed in such a way that the microcontroller has all programs and data memory, counters and timers, interrupts, I/O ports are embedded on the chip. For example: Intel 8051 microcontroller.

Instruction Set

Based on the instruction set configuration, the microcontroller is further divided into two categories.

  • CISC − CISC stands for complex instruction set computer. It allows the user to insert a single instruction as an alternative to many simple instructions.

  • RISC − RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computers. It reduces the operational time by shortening the clock cycle per instruction.

Applications of Microcontrollers

Microcontrollers are widely used in various different devices such as −

  • Light sensing and controlling devices like LED.

  • Temperature sensing and controlling devices like microwave oven, chimneys.

  • Fire detection and safety devices like Fire alarm.

  • Measuring devices like Volt Meter.



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