Dirt-Cheap USB Arduino Hack From the Past

Mass production is a wonderful thing. Prices fall, and hobby hackers get cheap gear. The mind then wanders towards what can be done with it. So it’s little wonder that someone like [Aaron Christophel] would try to repurpose those sub-$3 AVR programmers that are all over eBay (translated poorly out of German here, but demonstrated in the video embedded below).

[Aaron] didn’t have to do much, really. The only trick is that you’ll first need to re-flash the existing ISP firmware with one that lets you upload code to the device itself over USB. If you don’t have an Arduino on hand to re-flash, buy at least two of the cheap programmers — one to program the other ones. Once you’ve done that, you have essentially an Arduino with limited pinout and two onboard LEDs, but in a nice small form-factor and with built-in USB. [Aaron] even provides an Arduino boards.txt file to make it all work smoothly within the IDE.

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AVR ISP programming via Arduino

ardunio avr isp programming

We found this Arduino AVR ISP programmer particularly interesting. AVR microcontrollers can utilize an interface called In-System-Programming. ISP allows the chip to be programmed or reprogrammed while in an actual circuit via a pin header. Atmel’s solution is the AVR ISP MKII programing tool. The MKII can also be reprogrammed just as an AVR. The difference here is that most people are not likely to modify the MKII to be used as anything but a programmer. On the other hand if you already have the Arduino, fetch the avr.isp.03 firmware and AVRdude. Then program a device, for example an ATtiny13 using the Ardunio as the programmer. All the project information is provided under the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. On a related note we covered a Microcontroller cheat sheet which covers AVR devices and ISP pinouts.