What is a Microcontroller?
A Microcontroller is a programmable digital processor with necessary peripherals. Both microcontrollers and microprocessors are complex sequential digital circuits meant to carry out job according to the program / instructions. Sometimes analog input/output interface makes a part of microcontroller circuit of mixed mode(both analog and digital nature).
Microcontrollers Vs Microprocessors
1. A microprocessor requires an external memory for program/data storage. Instruction execution requires movement of data from the external memory to the microprocessor or vice versa. Usually, microprocessors have good computing power and they have higher clock speed to facilitate faster computation.
2. A microcontroller has required on-chip memory with associated peripherals. A microcontroller can be thought of a microprocessor with inbuilt peripherals.
3. A microcontroller does not require much additional interfacing ICs for operation and it functions as a stand alone system. The operation of a microcontroller is multipurpose, just like a Swiss knife.
4. Microcontrollers are also called embedded controllers. A microcontroller clock speed is limited only to a few tens of MHz. Microcontrollers are numerous and many of them are application specific.
Development/Classification of microcontrollers (Invisible)
Microcontrollers have gone through a silent evolution (invisible). The evolution can be rightly termed as silent as the impact or application of a microcontroller is not well known to a common user, although microcontroller technology has undergone significant change since early 1970's. Development of some popular microcontrollers is given as follows.
Development of microprocessors (Visible)
Microprocessors have undergone significant evolution over the past four decades. This development is clearly perceptible to a common user, especially, in terms of phenomenal growth in capabilities of personal computers. Development of some of the microprocessors can be given as follows.
We use more number of microcontrollers compared to microprocessors. Microprocessors are primarily used for computational purpose, whereas microcontrollers find wide application in devices needing real time processing / control.
Application of microcontrollers are numerous. Starting from domestic applications such as in washing machines, TVs, airconditioners, microcontrollers are used in automobiles, process control industries , cell phones, electrical drives, robotics and in space applications.
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