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.
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