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My hat is off to Microchip and their CEO!

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by David L. Jones, Oct 29, 2009.

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  1. You aren't going to believe this...

    I recently reviewed the new Microchip PICkit3 compared to the old PICkit2
    and pretty much hammered the people responsible on behalf of those who have
    found the PICkit3 upgrade rather lacking:
    http://www.eevblog.com/2009/10/21/eevblog-39-pickit-3-programmerdebugger-review/

    At it turns out, not surprisingly the video made it's way all around the
    Microchip offices, even to the desk of their CEO.
    As with any multi billion dollar corporation, I expected either deathly
    silence or a nasty letter from their lawyers.

    But it turns out Microchip really do care about their products and
    customers, and really do listen, so they seriously took it as constructive
    criticism.

    So not only was my blog well received at Microchip, I got a lengthy call
    from none other than the Microchip CEO Steve Sanghi, thanking me for the
    blog and raising the issues. He pointed out a few factual errors which was
    fair enough, but admitted they could have done the PICkit 3 better and most
    importantly are working to fix the issues and give customers what they
    expect.

    They have even posted this hillarious video response in record time:


    I am absolutely blown away by their honesty and responsiveness, and it
    starts from their CEO down.
    Two thumbs up to Steve Sanghi and the guys and gals at Microchip!

    Dave.
     
  2. **Nice one Dave.
     
  3. JERD

    JERD Guest

    The power of one person (Dave)
    Well done!!

    JERD
     
  4. I'll take a look at the PIC for my next project.

    --
    Dirk

    http://www.transcendence.me.uk/ - Transcendence UK
    http://www.theconsensus.org/ - A UK political party
    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/onetribe - Occult Talk Show
     
  5. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    Sigh, I've been in that type of meeting before. Not as Mr Head, of
    course.
     
  6. Tons better.
    They have the PIC18 series which is more C friendly than the old 16 series,
    the 16 bit PIC24 series which is quite nice, and the new 32 bit PIC32 series
    based on a MIPS 4K core. Plus the dsPIC too.
    And why would you want to program in assembler anyway for all but niche
    areas?

    Even the old 16 series is not messy if you use a good C compiler, it takes
    care of any issues for you.

    Dave.
     
  7. Les Cargill

    Les Cargill Guest

    You order ones with enough memory internally. The ones I've used were
    USB connected and the easiest programming I've ever done. The
    external pins are all either built in or macros in a .h file. I
    honestly never checked
     
  8. You can add Altera to the list, I received an email from them about some
    issues I had with their website.
    Many people lurk here.

    Cheers
     
  9. That’s because you don’t have a MBA ;D

    Cheers
     
  10. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    And *that* is why I refuse to get an MBA :)
     
  11. Swanny

    Swanny Guest

    Maybe you don't understand the benfits of MH architecture.
     
  12. Swanny

    Swanny Guest

    Briefly, the Modified-Harvard architecture used in the PIC devices
    separates the program memory from the data memory, in other words
    separates the ROM/FLASH program memory from the RAM. In the case of the
    PIC, the program memory bus width is larger than the data memory bus
    width, allowing transfer of the complete instruction op code in fewer
    cycles (many instructions take only 1 cycle).

    The PIC peripheral bus (ie that accessible through external pins) uses
    the same bus as the data memory and hence is also isolated from the
    program memory. From a security perspective this allows sensitive data
    (such as encryption keys etc) to be stored in program memory and be
    completely inaccessible from the outside (provided the fuses are blown
    after programming). The Microchip devices are particularly good in this
    respect.
     
  13. There are really several PIC architectures.. the 12-bit instruction,
    (PIC16F54, PIC12F509 etc.) the 14-bit instruction (most other PIC16F,
    16 bit instructions (PIC18) (PIC17 is a dead end), the PIC24/DSPIC,
    and the PIC32. They've also extended the instruction sets in a couple
    of families. The 12-bit type is the most limiting, but also the most
    parsimonious with resources. Even C can't hide the ugliness there, but
    in most cases you won't notice or care because the tasks are
    relatively simple. For example, IIRC constant arrays can't exceed a
    page in size (256 bytes).
    IThe PIC18 is quite pleasant to program in assembler... just use
    access ram for everything you can, and you don't have to think much
    about banking. About the only thing I miss is an indexed plus offset
    addressing mode, and I think they have that in the extended
    instruction set mode, but I have not played with that (there are some
    trade-offs or it would not have to be another mode).

    As to the C vs. asm question.. well, if you have to have a USB or
    Ethernet (or Bluetooth) stack then you're in C territory. For less
    than 16 k bytes of program memory, assembler probably deserves a look,
    especially if you're not doing C-like things. And it depends on the
    skill set and prior experience the programmer has, as well as whether
    it's worth wringing out what is usually a << 2:1 improvement in
    program memory size and performance.
    The Hitech C compiler (even the free 'lite' one) works pretty well,
    though I've found some irritating bugs. It will even generate useful
    code for the 12-bit instruction chips.


    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
     
  14. TheM

    TheM Guest

    Just like with AVR, practically everything 1 cycle except branches.

    M
     
  15. baron

    baron Guest

    David L. Jones Inscribed thus:
    Absolutely hilarious ! :)
    I enjoyed both videos.
    Good on ya Dave.
     
  16. So do I. The 8051 family was/is great.

    But I found the varients of 8051 I used were obsolete on more than one
    occassion causing problems. I'm still sourcing SAB80C517 at silly
    prices for example.

    I first used the PIC for very low cost apps around 1990 and found that
    there was always an upgrade path which didn't obsolete my designs.

    Secondly Microchip always have product available. I recall one rep
    trying to convert me to the ST6. Then he said ST are behind on
    production and delivery was 4-6 months.

    There are better micros than the PIC from an engineering perspective
    but they are hard to beat from a production view point.
     
  17. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    I'm using one from SiLabs, right now. Last 8051 project I did was
    back in the early 1980's. (Still have a box of about 100 80C32 chips
    in perfect shape.) For this app, I needed a much faster floating
    point ln(x) function (achieved under 18 microseconds) and found myself
    spending some time coding assembly on it. No question in my mind that
    this processor was designed with hand-coded assembly in mind, though.
    Very easy to use efficiently for a human coder, though I do have to
    check the book often to see if a particular instruction supports a
    particular mode of access, yet just the kind of thing to seriously
    complicate a compiler's life.
    I gather that Atmel has an AT89 line that includes an external bus and
    so does SiLabs. Not sure how either of these would score on not
    obsoleting designs, though.
    Yes. I've been using PICs since the late 1980's.. just around the
    very month that Parallax entered the public fray. Nobody likes the
    bare-bones ALU design for the smaller-width instruction families --
    it's design guts lay out on the floor, plain to see. But Microchip
    has maintained a very serious commitment to upgrade pathways over the
    entire time I've been involved (just after they decided to move beyond
    the "million unit rice cooker customer" days and place them into a
    broader marketplace. I couldn't have guessed then how strong that
    commitment would be. But they seem to well know what is important and
    they have clearly (to me) worked very hard to _earn_ the respect they
    have gained. And it's been so on almost every good business front.

    One begins to realize after experiencing such a company's commitment
    to their customers, if that realization isn't already at hand, just
    how relatively unimportant an instruction set is to all these other
    business factors.
    Well, Microchip has had their days with delays (the wait for the
    18F252 from using the 18C252 comes to mind) but they have tended to be
    shorter than longer delays.
    In all the time I've used them, they have consistently maintained a
    solid professional use pathway that simply doesn't break. I have old
    tools that they no longer make (ProMate II) and yet they still support
    it without question or quibble. If I have so much as a flaky power
    switch they want me to send it in and fire off a replacement with
    shipping included for the "bad" one, so that I don't even miss a
    single second of use. Same for the modules that plug into it. Their
    tools are supported, decades it seems after they don't sell them
    anymore. That takes commitment on their part.

    I find wringing of hands over the instruction set to be relatively
    badly placed. There are a lot more important things to focus on and
    on those areas Microchip has done a yeoman's service across the board.

    Obviously, I use other manufacturers too. It's _very_ hard to find a
    1MHz 16-bit SAR ADC anywhere in Microchip's monolithic cpu fold, for
    example. But none of have compared quite as well on the business
    issues over the years.

    Jon
     
  18. Also when looking for a long term investment in micros you may have to
    consider the companies viability.
    Microchip are essentially the only micro manufacturer actually making monay
    and doing quite well at present. All the others are losing money
    hand-over-first and some are in a very bad state. All the fanboys scream
    Atmel, but they haven't made a cent since they started, and are probably the
    most unstable in terms of long term viability.

    Dave.
     
  19. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    I will turn this question around on its head in a moment. Your point
    is made, but there is another view, too.
    I place this at the feet of the quality of their business managers and
    their clear recognition of the right priorities in forging lasting
    business relationships. I am sure that there are excellent technical
    resources developing microcontroller products at all of the other
    businesses. Perhaps just as good as found at Microchip -- I simply
    can't compare them because I'm not informed about it. But I do know
    how they operate their business model. And I have been little other
    than impressed with it. So while I'm sure that poor technical quality
    would kill them (so I'm sure they do have good technical resources),
    so also would a poorly arranged set of priorities in their business
    design. And their competition, from my experience, do not come very
    close, sad to say. Almost to a company, though they differ in the
    reasons why I think they hang themselves on some point or another.
    I would tend to imagine this would give them a clue. Standing on the
    outside as a consumer of these kinds of products, I have no question
    at all why Microchip is doing well. It's actually pretty easy to see
    why they are successful. They are committed to a mutual relationship
    in business and they actually _work_ at earning their respect, day in
    and day out. They just don't slip up on this.

    If they do fail, it will only be because the entire field is in a nose
    dive. Not because they didn't get the business issues right.
    I don't know much about Atmel. I developed one commercial product
    using their AT90S2312, I think. From start to finish, it took me 4
    days to write it and the experience was excellent during the process
    because I never needed to actually call for any support from Atmel and
    the part worked well. Later, when considering an AT91 from Atmel's
    French arm, experiences turned significantly sour because I did have
    to involve them. And that's the last time I considered using Atmel
    for professional use -- I still like them for personal projects where
    I know in advance I'm not depending on them for anything serious.

    I tend to imagine that it is Atmel's own fault for ordering it's
    business priorities wrongly. At least that's a consistent theory from
    my short experience with them. I would have NO problem specifying an
    Atmel part for some hobbyist project. But that's about where I draw
    the line. And just perhaps, others have also learned from experiences
    not unlike my own. Perhaps they are paying the piper, now. But I
    can't say. Might be for entirely different reasons.

    Love your web site, when I get time to enjoy it!

    Jon
     
  20. krw

    krw Guest

    8051s, in several performance varieties (parallel one-clock to the
    original serial 12-clock ALU), are now available as FPGA soft cores.
    Obsolete chip? Just synthesize. Haven't quite figured out why I want
    to buy FPGA fabric to do an 8051, though. ;-)
    I don't see much use for the larger PICs. We're using a PIC-24 but
    it's more than overkill and just too weird.
     
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