This article started as some of my (Kelly Egan’s) notes from experimenting with AVR microcontrollers. I am not an expert on AVR chips. This information is just a result of my personal research. AVR is just one type of microcontroller available. Others include PIC, Propeller, Basic Stamp, Make Controller, Arduino, and Wiring I/O boards.
What is AVR?
AVR is a series microcontroller chips designed by Amtel. Like other microcontrollers it can be used as the computer ‘brain’ of small electronic devices and sensors. It can be used independently of a desktop or laptop computer or in communication with such a computer. Some chips allow direct ethernet connections and therefore can be independently connected to the Internet.
Here are some of the reason I chose the AVR.
- Cost the chip, the programmer(device used to program the chip) and control board are all cheap compared to other options. PIC chips are also cheap but the programmers can be expensive, plus they have other drawbacks. Basic Stamps don’t require programmers but the modules cost from $50 to $100 dollars.
- OS X compatible The Basic Stamp is arguably the easiest to program on a Mac, but with a little effort an AVR chip can be as well. With a lot of effort a PIC might be able to be as well, but who wants to spend $300 on a programmer and find out it won’t work on your MacBook.
- Good support base From the research I have done there seems to be enough people using the AVR to make support fairly widespread. The Arduino, Make Controller and Wiring Boards are all based off AVR chips.
- Good marks the AVR also seems to receive good marks in the microcontroller community. While not as prolific as the PIC it is newer and so it seems it chips offer more power and ease of use. The fact that so many other microcontroller projects chose to base their systems off AVR seems a good sign as well.
- Installing AVR toolchain — Besides actually programming the chips ladyada’s tutorial is the most complete.
- AVR C Programming Tutorial— Micah Carrick’s tutorial on programming AVR chips is one of the most detailed available on using avr-gcc and the avr c library (avr-libc).