Chuck, thanks for this story. It's amazing that 8-bit MCUs are still around (I, too, have written about their imminent demise). It's even more amazing to read about the peripherals that can now be integrated on these little beasties, especially the op amps and ADCs.
Seems like it happens all the time. Companies try to expand the application of their new products to widen the market. A big part of the proposed market is an overkill (or not enough). Then someone gets smart and applys the KISS principle.
When you look at the day to day tasks that most microcontrollers need to perform, 8 is enough For years we wrote in Assembly, trying to save every byte and sometimes every bit in sub 1K ROM sizes. Now most development is in C and even the smallest designs are 2K or more. A battery charger, toaster or touch-free towel dispenser doesn't need a 32 bit core, but some good peripherals and enough memory to develop in C is a great place to use the smaller geometries and lower cost of today's technology. Even with complex tasks a fast 8 bit core can get the job done. I recently had a design that required some graphic manipulation, so I benchmarked a Silicon Labs 8051 against an Arm Cortex M0. The 8051 was faster, however I'm sure that the Cortex was dogged down by the GCC compiler from the development kit. Just the same, the pipe-lined 8051 was more than up to the task of juggling 24 bit graphics.
Good point, Rob. It's also an example of how the eight-bit architecture continues to remain competitive. For years, we've heard eight-bit is going away (full disclosure: I've written it, too). But eight-bit remians viable and cost-competitive.
Good point, Rob. As the devices these microcontrollers are targeted at become more a part of a system that requires control, this level of integration will allow them to be more intelligently cotrolled. I a thinking about energy awareness and total system load applications.
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
Using Siemens NX software, a team of engineering students from the University of Michigan built an electric vehicle and raced in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. One of those students blogged for Design News throughout the race.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.