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Design of a microcontroller

Discussion in 'Microcontrollers, Programming and IoT' started by Solidus, Sep 5, 2013.

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  1. Solidus

    Solidus

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    4
    Jun 19, 2011
    Well, prepare yourselves now for one hell of a topic: the design of a microcontroller.

    I've recently started getting into VLSI design and what not - intend to eventually make a startup off it - and I was wondering about playing around with designing a microcontroller.

    So, what exactly goes into these things? Obviously, GP/IO and ADCs with a CPU core, along with various serial transceivers (UART, I2C, SPI, etc.), but how are the modules linked?

    Here, let me come up with an example that will illustrate better - suppose I take a motherboard, and completely hack up the BIOS - would I be able to code a "program" or bootloader to that chip that would allow me to use a motherboard as a MCU? That is, could a routine computer CPU be commanded differently by that program memory to say, ignore IDE protocol and use the IDE ports as GP/IO?

    I'd like to think microcontrollers are as simple as hooking up peripherals to the address and data lines of a CPU, but that'd be a pretty foolhardy assumption.

    Anyone have experience or ever played around with concepts like this?
     
  2. Harald Kapp

    Harald Kapp Moderator Moderator

    10,224
    2,204
    Nov 17, 2011
    A sensible configuration will use an internal bus to connect the components. One common example is the AMBA bus system, designed by the ARM corporation.

    Of course you could design your own bus system. I strongly advise against doing so. Using any standard bus system opens the way to add new functions by using (buying) read-made components that can be plugged into the standard bus system.
     
  3. Solidus

    Solidus

    349
    4
    Jun 19, 2011
    So this is an interconnect protocol somewhat analogous to standards like PCIe?

    Ideally I'd try to design a bus protocol that breaks out an interface over multi-purpose pins for allowing connection of addressed external peripherals (after all, how many ADCs do you need? haha).

    And you're right, I'd rather stick with something that has already been designed, drafted and tested rather than try and reinvent the wheel, as I don't have $20 million or a fab with which I can use to prototype devices on a whim.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  4. Harald Kapp

    Harald Kapp Moderator Moderator

    10,224
    2,204
    Nov 17, 2011
    Well, "somewhat" is the word of the day.
     
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