My first electronic post will be regarding one of the most useful capabilities of Arduinos. Arduinos are cheap toolkits (or “prototyping platforms” as they call it in their official website). With this tutorial we’ll be solving the first problem that people trying to start in the micro controllers world will face: the programmer.
Traditionally, to start making projects using the AVR family, one has to have a programmer, since we can’t program the µcontroller (microcontroller) directly. It used to be easy to make one, using a few parts, thanks to the good old RS-232 (aka Serial port), or Parallel port. But since nowadays fewer and fewer computers have Serial/Parallel ports on it, the programmers have evolved into USB programmers. This is a problem for the starting hobbyist: we can no longer use simple programmers with just a few components to program AVR µcontrollers, like this one bellow.
But fear not, for not all is bad for us, small children in the AVR world. We can still make other circuits, using cheap to make programmers, or buy them. The most known programmer to my knowledge (except the official, of course), is the USBTinyISP. There are many clones available, you can buy the official one from Adafruit, or you can just make it yourself, if you have the skill and parts required. The problem (there’s always a problem, heh?) is that you have to buy the full kit containing the ATTINY2313 already flashed, or you have to buy a clear one, and flash it yourself.
But maybe you just want to make a simple circuit, and not waste $20? Maybe you just want to explore and learn a little bit more about your Arduino? Sure thing, that’s why we’re here! Be aware, though: in the long run it is really advised to buy a real PCB soldered programmer. It makes your life way easier.
See the next adventure here.