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A Brief Explanation of Microcontrollers

Benjamin Perlin

A photographer by profession, Benjamin Perlin is also a robotics and engineering enthusiast. Benjamin Perlin has belonged to the Middle Tennessee Robotics Club for approximately eight years and has developed a strong working knowledge of robotics components, including microcontrollers.

By definition, a microcontroller is a very small computer that one can program to perform a particular task. It must fit on a single microchip and have individual inputs and outputs, which the programmer creates by setting a series of pins to the high/on position or the low/off position. The programmer may also program the pins on the microchip to read the high/low settings of incoming electrical signals and to use these readings to control output.
Many microcontrollers possess analogue-to-digital converters, which allow them to read voltage signals that have a value range broader than the simple binary high/low. For this reason, although today's microcontrollers are still limited by their size and resultant limitations on electrical input and output, they have the capability to perform complex tasks. Possibilities are even greater with augmented microcontrollers, which have such additional features as voltage regulators, timing crystals, and motor drivers.

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