AVR Dragon Wiring Alternative


We love our AVR Dragon programmer. It is a small board with a lot of functionality: in-circuit serial programming, JTAG, debug wire, and high voltage serial programming. Unfortunately, out of the box it is not quite ready for action. The Dragon ships with an unpopulated prototyping area and missing a pin header for the HVSP. For most people this means soldering on pin headers and a ZIF socket then jumpering between the various programming headers and the header for the socket. Tired of working with jumper wires, [Jussi] designed a small PCB to make the connections (original link in Finnish).


Above you can see the Dragon as it ships, with pin headers and ZIF socket added, and with jumper wires for prototyping. It’s easy to see why there is demand for an alternative. We have a Dragon Rider 500 prototyping board that we use with our Dragon, but [Jussi] feels that board is a bit too much for him.


His design uses header sockets to make the connections between pin headers on the AVR Dragon’s prototyping area. It also connects a crystal and has a jumper for selecting USB power. This solution requires a different adapter board for each different size of chip (8-pin, 20-pin, 28-pin, etc) and doesn’t facilitate connecting external circuits. But if you just need to program a lot of chips, this reduces the setup time to mere seconds.

23 thoughts on “AVR Dragon Wiring Alternative

  1. Hi I’m a new fan of the site and would like to take the opportunity to voice an idea for a cool article in your blog:

    how about a nice IC roundup that takes a blunt approach by telling pro’s and con’s of each platform. I mean with this Dragon I just discovered here it has become a little too much too keep track of. I actually don’t know what I would use for my next project. I’m sure you could make nice, general recommendations: xbee, Atmegas, that mbus from the other day, the Propeller, PICs?, Arduinos…

    would love that.
    thanks for such a cool blog.

    1. In websites such as the one by RS components (I use that company for most of my supplies) you can filter parts by functionality (ex. works at 5v, has one USART, and at least 6 ADC channels) which really helps me out when it comes to choosing an appropriate device for my project

  2. @Mesmer
    Dont think people have enough experience with all platforms to properly describe them, if something will be biased because misinformation it will start flame war. Just use on whot you can find most information, they all same pretty much

  3. @jimmys
    you ignorant dumbass, I dont work with ARV but know about dragon anyways, it just insane that there is people who work with avr and newer heard about dragon, it was long before arduinos and all that crap and it continue to be superior.

  4. @saimhe: You’re concentreting on the essential :D I guess that I’ve cleaned the PCB negligently so that it has some flux residue which makes dust stick to it. But hey, that’s not the point ;)

  5. amazingly i never knew something like this actually existed. i have been hearing a lot about it from a few people but i never really thought about it. i think it is pretty cool, being the semi – geek as i have been told by many lately.

    still good work hack a day.

  6. I got my dragon a few years back and it is a fantastic little tool. I’m always hesitant to do ISP actually in system because there have been reports of the whole thing cooking itself when writing in another system.

    This is a useful gadget, and really handy if your swapping between different chips all the time but a lot of effort if you only use the one type of micro controller *cough* atmega32 *cough*

  7. Apothus: Have you checked out the atmega 48/88/168?

    They’ve got less pins (no PORTA) and half the flash/eeprom/sram, but are nicer in most other ways.

    They have most of the same peripherals. work off lower voltages, operate at higher speeds.
    They’re a 300mil dip, so they fit in more prototype style boards, and they’re almost identical in every way except storage, so you can build with one, and scale up/down as storage requires.

    Also, ranging in price from about $2.75 to $5 they’re way cheaper than the mega32.

    If you really need all those pins, look at the mega324 or something. Better bang for the buck, though still a bit pricy in comparison.

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