The ATtiny Series Is A Great Companion In Isolation

As a consequence of the social distancing and self isolation, many a maker has been searching for ways to cure boredom. So what happens when you put a maker in a closed space with electronics parts. The answer is a bunch of random microcontroller projects that help beat boredom. [Danac1886] posts a video with a bunch of experiments with the ATtiny series of microcontrollers which can be a source of time-killing inspiration for these tough days of solitude.

The video is based upon a variety of controllers ranging from the ATtiny85 to the ATtiny84 and even includes the ATtiny2313. There is also a project with the ATtiny10, an SMD SOT23-6 package that is quite amazing to behold. All the devices can be programmed using the Ardino as an ISP so all you need is another Arduino lying around in case you do not have an AVR ICSP.

As for the projects themselves, there is an assortment of things that start with the basic blinking LED, adding an I2C LCD and then moving on to a 7 segment display counting up with variable speed controlled with a pot. We really loved how much these tiny projects inspire and can help someone get started with basic electronics and programming.

If you are looking to get started, have a look at the Jumbo LED with the Attiny10 and we assure you, it will brighten your day.

11 thoughts on “The ATtiny Series Is A Great Companion In Isolation

    1. ATTiny10 is really TINY!! And that’s just the bigger SOT23 form factor, ATTiny10 also comes in even smaller UDFN package half the size of SOT23

      I made UNO shield to program ATTiny10 SOT23 package to simplify wiring, the ZIF socket was the single most expensive part I’ve bought. Detail is at I am out of blank PCB though but I can offer Eagle file or gerber file.

  1. I can credit the Tiny series for giving me the confidence to jump into making my own PCBs and building the microcontroller directly into the project vs. just using a standard Arduino, Digispark or the like. The Tinys don’t require external crystals, and with the Micronucleus bootloader and a few resistors and diodes, you can program them over USB. They’re the perfect combination of capabilities and ease of use.

    I bought a few dozen Tiny10’s with no project in mind, but they’re so small, I’m sure I’ll come up with something to use them on. The 85 and the 841 are my favorites so far.

  2. For a slightly more modern option which still comes in breadboard-friendly packages, check out the MSP430.

    It has a fork of GCC, and a fork of the Processing IDE (which most people know as “Arduino”) called Energia. And it has a focus on very low power consumption, so it still has a worthwhile niche in these days of $1 Cortex-M0 chips.

    The “launchpad” boards also have debuggers which you can use to do OCD with your breadboard creation, and the socketed DIP boards even ship with a spare microcontroller.

    And here’s the kicker: some of the newer ones use nonvolatile FRAM instead of Flash!

    Oh, and it’s a 16-bit core, not 8- or 32-. Quirky, but very fun.

  3. This might be the right time to go back to basics: a Tiny13, a few transistors Rs and Cs – and program the chip via the Internet – Burkhard Kainka’s Sparrow Project – and there are roughly 100 examples to try out and there is as well a book about this project I tried quite a few when I prepared the book.

  4. The Tiny’s are part of the reason my interest in Atmel (now microchip) dove below see level.
    The Tiny’s are too small for a decent program. I need about 3kiB for libraries. Incompatibilities with the ATmega’s (USI instead of USART, I2C is handled completely different, just makes them more of a nuisance then usefull.
    I do use ATmega’s 8 and the newer / improved 328. Pinout is pretty annoying. If you need the USART (which I always do, because of RS485) then you do not have an 8-bit port, which is annoying.
    I need Flash of at least 4kiB, more is OK of course, but I often do not need the pins of a M8. Sawing off half the chip is not an option because reset and SPI for programming are on opposite corners.

    The usual next suspect is of course ARM. and even more RISC-V, but not yet enough (cheap) models available for me to be interesting. If MSP430 does GCC it may be nice. I can live with adapter board for prototyping on Breadboards. You should never stick a crystal directly into a Breadboard anyway. Everyone who says otherwise does not have enough experience with it yet and will get bitten if continuing on this road.

    1. It’s OK if the attinys don’t fit your use case. For plenty of other projects, they are sufficient. Fortunately there’s a huge variety of microcontrollers of different spec to choose from to suit whatever a project needs:-)

      I for one am hugely impressed with V-USB and the micronucleus bootloader. For quick and dirty mouse/keyboard hacks, an attiny is wonderful. Perfect for little dataloggers or making your PC respond to external stimuli. Sure, there are “better” ways to solve these problems, but digispark clones (or attiny + a couple of passives) are cheap and compact.

      As for crystals on a breadboard, again, sometimes they work. At least well enough for proof of concept, then you can move to a better solution. (And for the USB hacks, you don’t even need a crystal!)

      And if the crystal _doesn’t_ work on a breadboard, that’s the time for an aspiring hacker to go and figure out why.

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