Microcontrollers are extremely small microcomputers which are self-contained within one single chip. They are essentially a simplified computer and one that has been designed to run one basic program repeatedly. You tend to find that microcontrollers are used so that they can perform a single automated task, which is pre-programmed by the user.
What Are the Different Types of Microcontroller?
There are only three different types of microcontrollers and these are 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit. One of the most common questions asked is how much does a microcontroller cost? Well, the answer is that it will vary depending on which one you look to buy. You will need to decide which one you think would be better for the use you had in mind. The main way that they differ from one another is in their bus width; in other words, the width of their respective data pipes. The wider will mean that the speed of the chip goes quicker. An 8-bit is widely considered one of the most basic and cost-effective models but then they do have slightly limited functionality. On the other hand, if you use a 16-bit or a 32-bit, then these are more expensive, but run better in a way that matches this price increase.
The Applications of a Microcontroller
Microcontrollers are incredibly common in practice thanks to the fact they can be applied to several different circumstances. Today, you will find them in a huge array of different devices and gadgets. If you have any electronic device which contains either a sensor, a display or user interface, then chances are there will be a microcontroller in there. Though there are a lot of different applications, some of the most common that you will see in everyday life include:
- Robotics and automation
- Domestic appliances, as well as consumer electronics
- Equipment that you would see in the medical industry or a lab (these include the likes of diagnostic devices, x-ray machines and monitoring tools)
- Systems used in vehicle control and the automotive industry (this includes the likes of navigation software, multimedia consoles and powertrain adjustment)
- IoT devices and systems
- Controls used in the industrial and production environment
What Does the Microcontroller Do?
So, with such a massive array of functions, what is it that the microcontroller does? When it has been successfully installed as part of a functioning circuit within a device or system, it can be used to sense, monitor, and respond to a variety of different events. Some of the most common tasks that microcontrollers are usually programmed to carry out include the following:
- Illuminating an LED or an OLED display once it has been touched or in response to user demand, as is seen with many modern mobile phones.
- Playing sounds and flashing lights in an application that is used to sense temperature
- Inside a pump or other mechanical device, responding to the need for a motor to switch on and off.
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