At this week’s Embedded World 2016, Atmel is heading back to 8-bit old school with their news, straight to the low pin count end of their MCU portfolio with a significant upgrade to the tinyAVR family.
According to Atmel’s briefing package, development of the ATtiny102 and ATtiny104 has been in progress for some time. We got a peek at the Atmel roadmap for AVR where these are labeled “next generation tinyAVRs”, and all we can say is this is the beginning of a significant refresh – alas, we can’t share those details, but we can now look at these two new parts.
What jumps out immediately is how the AVR refresh fills a significant gap in Atmel’s capability. The existing tinyAVR family is anchored by the ATtiny10, a capable 8-bit AVR core running at up to 12 MIPS with 0.5 or 1KB flash and 32B of SRAM. The pluses of extended availability are obvious at the beginning of the lifecycle, but by the midpoint of a long run, the technology can start to seem dated.
That is certainly the case for the ATtiny10 introduced in April 2009. At that time, the ATtiny10 was a shot straight at the Microchip PIC10F, with much higher CPU performance and a competitive 6-pin SOT and 8-pin DFN package offering. Outside of the CPU itself, the ATtiny10 and PIC10F line up pretty closely except for two areas: self-programming, and the accuracy of on-chip oscillators and voltage references. ATtiny10 parts require pre-programming from Atmel or a distributor, and its rather wide accuracy specs need help from product calibration and external componentry – however, cost and code compatibility still have a lot of sway, and the popularity of the ATtiny10 was unshaken.
The ATtiny102 and ATtiny104 retain the AVR performance advantage – still a 12 MIPS core with 1KB flash and 32B SRAM – and upgrade many of the features around it. First and most noticeable is a packaging improvement. The ATtiny102 comes in an 8 pin SOIC (with the 8 pin DFN option still available). For a generation of applications needing more I/O in a low-cost part, the ATtiny104 comes in a pin-compatible 14 pin SOIC with 6 extra I/O pins.
Self-programming of flash has been added to both versions, and with the same core footprint a single production image for both parts is achievable. Fast start-up time is available as an option. The internal voltage references are now highly accurate, with calibrated 1.1V, 2.2V, and 4.3V taps at +/- 3%. Internal oscillator accuracy is now +/- 2% over a 0 to 50 degrees C temperature range at fixed voltage. Those changes prompted expanding successive approximation ADC resolution to 10-bit, and channels are doubled to eight. Two of the I/O pins can now be configured for a USART, adding serial communications capability. A new 10-byte Unique ID provides a serial number.
Those features translate to customer satisfaction with intelligent devices using the ATtiny102 and ATtiny104. The more accurate internal oscillator improves the precision of motor control in personal care devices such as toothbrushes and electric shavers. The calibrated voltage references enable applications where rechargeable battery management is a primary function, for example in the d.light family of portable solar-powered lighting.
For more information on the ATtiny102 and ATtiny104 MCUs, visit the Atmel site:
This announcement, and what I think will follow from Atmel later this year, reaffirms just how important 8-bit is for the future at Atmel. The AVR architecture is beloved because of its simplicity and ubiquity with over 7B cores now shipped. The advances in the ATtiny102 and ATtiny104 are aimed at reducing BOM and manufacturing costs and enabling further innovation in intelligent consumer devices.