Friday Hack Chat: 8-Bit Micros With Microchip

A few years ago, Microchip acquired Atmel for $3.56 Billion. There are plenty of manufacturers of 8-bit microcontrollers, but everyone makes 8051s, and the MSP430 isn’t as popular as it should be. Microchip’s acquisition of Atmel created what is probably the largest manufacturer of 8-bit micros, with a portfolio ranging from ATtinys smaller than a grain of rice to gigantic PICs.

This Friday, we’re hosting a Hack Chat with the Technical Marketing Engineer of 8-bitters at Microchip. If you love AVR, this is the guy to talk to. If you’re still rocking the vintage 1993 PICkit, this is the guy to talk to.

On the docket for this Hack Chat are some new PICs and some very interesting peripherals coming down the line. ADCC — A2D with computation — is on the table, along with configurable logic cells. This Hack Chat is also going to go over Microchip design tools like MP Lab Xpress.

Of course, these Hack Chats are a question and answer session for the community. We’re encouraging everyone to ask a few questions about what Microchip is doing. We’ve opened up a discussion guide for this Hack Chat. If you have a question, just add it to the list.

If you can’t make the Hack Chat, don’t worry. We’re going to have a transcript of the entire chat. That should be available here shortly after the chat concludes.

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hack Chat group messaging. This hack chat will take place at noon Pacific time on Friday, June 9th. Here’s a fancy time and date converter if you need timezone help.

Log into, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about

20 thoughts on “Friday Hack Chat: 8-Bit Micros With Microchip

  1. Microchip mainly needs to fix their horrendous development tools for the 8bit micros. It is embarrassing.

    Also these days it is getting more and more difficult to justify using an 8bit PIC micro with crappy/proprietary dev tools in the face of cheap and more powerful ARM micros from NXP, ST, TI and many others which don’t require that.

    1. meh, i admit PIC is no panacea but i find gpasm and ICPROG to be a suitable development environment. the only thing i dislike about the development experience is that ICSP programming connector is not as convenient as all of these ARM boards that have a USB port built-in.

      and i love developing for embedded ARM! USB, gdb, a decent 32-bit instruction set, clock cycles to burn, a real treat.

      but the 8-pin 8-bit PICs i use the most of will accept 2V-6V, while ARM chips usually need a regulated 3.3V. the PICs have fantastic low-power modes and a heap of peripherals. if the project doesn’t require much computation, doesn’t require a regulated power supply, and can fit within the I/O facilities of a PIC at hand, then i find justifying the slightly less comfortable development environment to be a real no-brainer.

      cheap low-end ARMs are great, but there is still a niche for PICs on my workbench, at least.

      1. heh, i can’t help myself. another thing i love about PIC vs ARM is the documentation. a PIC12 datasheet is short, and even so it is 100% complete, everything you need to know. it is well-organized and generally well-written. a good starting point and a good reference.

        for the STM32, i had to go on a scavenger hunt to get 5 different PDFs (chip reference manual, chip datasheet, chip programmer’s manual, board user’s manual, cortex M3 reference manual) before i thought i had complete information. i wouldn’t say any of those documents is well-organized or well-written. some are downright confusing. they are often vague and verbose at the same time – a bad combination. and even so, i had to get a 6th (thumb 16 reference card) before i had a decent reference to use while developing. that thumb reference card is so much better than any of the documentation i found before it that i use it even though it doesn’t document thumb-2, and the stm32 does support thumb-2. i like ARM but in an embedded environment being able to find a complete reference is such a boon!

      2. ARM can be even better at low power (for example, the MSP432 line), and for the most part has a better range of peripherals than any PIC I’ve come across, by a long shot. So it seems that your main point is the wider voltage range — assuming no other part in the project has stricter requirements, so even then it’s not much of a “win”.

        I just made a tiny board with a PIC10F but overall I very much avoid PICs. Most of the time there’s far better choices.

    2. I’m still waiting for them to come up with a better way to properly load and build an assembler so I can get better optimizations. Not sure if I’m doing something wrong, but some of the opcodes fail to build, if they build at all, when trying to use their current IDE. It’s a bit annoying.

    3. I just started back with PIC a year or two ago so I’ve only used mplabX and before that the parallax tools (90’s). The tools seem fine to me, what is the issue you speak of?

    4. Is there really any need for Microchip to fix their dev tools? Due to the absence of GNU toolchain support for PICs, I chose AVR for 8-bitters around two decades ago. I still use them, though no longer professionally, and still find gcc & binutils more than sufficient for development.

  2. Used Microchip stuff for many years, but we don’t like the corporate rot it has recently shown.
    They made the Mega2560 cost more than 3 times what it was, and twice as much as an ARM6 SoC. Also, web IDEs make my group run for the competition…

    Microchip now have some great analog/power parts, but they really need to get over their animosity to former competition. In my opinion, Espressif (with the FreeRTOS) could dominate 90% of use-cases if they added a hardware augmented USB stack. From a price perspective it will likely hang on longer… until the low end ARM7/8 SoCs start going general application when they reach <$4.50.

    1. This is one of the least informed comments I’ve seen on HaD… and that’s such a low bar.

      By “use-cases” I’m assuming you’re talking about people hacking together projects in their garage?

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