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Chapter 9. Project 3: Building a DiscRov... > Thumbnail Guide to Microcontrollers

Thumbnail Guide to Microcontrollers

The heart (the soul? the brain?) of our DiscRover is a little computer called a microcontroller unit (MCU). We discussed these miniature wonders a bit in Chapter 4, but because you’re going to be spending a lot of time with one in this project, we thought we’d expound a little. We like to expound.

Like a full-blown microcomputer, a microcontroller has a central processing unit (CPU), fixed memory (ROM), Random-Access Memory (RAM), input/output (I/O) pins, an internal clock, and so forth, but unlike a microcomputer, an MCU is designed to fit all of the preceding onto a single chip, or a chip and a very small circuit board (called a module). Also unlike a desktop computer, which is designed to receive ongoing input from a person, run multiple programs, and perform varied tasks, an MCU is designed to do one thing over and over again with no, or limited, human input. MCUs are often called embedded processors or embedded systems and can be found in increasing numbers of consumer devices, from your car to your coffee maker.


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