Bare-Metal STM32: Using The I2C Bus In Master-Transceiver Mode

As one of the most popular buses today for on- and inter-board communication within systems, there’s a good chance you’ll end up using it with an embedded system. I2C offers a variety of speeds while requiring only two wires (clock and data), which makes it significantly easier to handle than alternatives, such as SPI. Within the STM32 family of MCUs, you will find at least one I2C peripheral on each device.

As a shared, half-duplex medium, I2C uses a rather straightforward call-and-response design, where one device controls the clock, and other devices simply wait and listen until their fixed address is sent on the I2C bus. While configuring an STM32 I2C peripheral entails a few steps, it is quite painless to use afterwards, as we will see in this article. Continue reading “Bare-Metal STM32: Using The I2C Bus In Master-Transceiver Mode”

Four jumper wires with white heatshrink on them, labelled VCC, SCL, SDA and GND

The Connector Zoo: I2C Ecosystems

I2C is a wonderful interface. With four wires and only two GPIOs, you can connect a whole lot of sensors and devices – in parallel, at that! You will see I2C used basically everywhere, in every phone, laptop, desktop, and any device with more than a few ICs inside of it – and most microcontrollers have I2C support baked into their hardware. As a result, there’s a myriad of interesting and useful devices you can use I2C with. Occasionally, maker-facing companies create plug-and-play interfaces for the I2C device breakouts they produce, with standardized pinouts and connectors.

Following a standard pinout is way better than inventing your own, and your experience with inconsistent pin header pinouts on generic I2C modules from China will surely reflect that. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could just plug a single I2C-carrying connector into an MPU9050, MLX90614 or HMC5883L breakout you bought for a few dollars, as opposed to the usual hurdle of looking at the module’s silkscreen, soldering pin headers onto it and carefully arranging female headers onto the correct pins?

As with any standard, when it comes to I2C-on-a-connector conventions, you would correctly guess that there’s more than one, and they all have their pros and cons. There aren’t quite fifteen, but there’s definitely six-and-a-half! They’re mostly inter-compatible, and making use of them means that you can access some pretty powerful peripherals easily. Let’s start with the two ecosystems that only have minor differences, and that you’ll encounter the most! Continue reading “The Connector Zoo: I2C Ecosystems”

Screenshot of a logic analyzer software, showing the SDA channel being split into three separate traces

I2C Tap Helps Assign Blame For SDA Conflicts

If you’ve ever debugged a misbehaving I2C circuit, you probably know how frustrating it can be. Thankfully [Jim] over at, has a proto-boardable circuit that can help!

Inter-integrated circuit bus (aka I2C) uses open collector outputs on a two wire interface. Open collector means a device connected to the I2C bus can only pull the bus down to ground. Chips never drive a logic “HIGH” on the wires. When nothing is driving the lines low, a weak resistor pulls the lines up to VCC. This is a good thing, because I2C is also a multidrop bus — meaning many devices can be connected to the bus at the time. Without open collector outputs, one chip could drive a high, while another drives a low – which would create a short circuit, possibly damaging both devices.

Even with all this protection, there can be problems. The SCL and SDA lines in the I2C communication protocol are bidirectional, which means either a controller or a peripheral can pull it low. Sometimes, when tracing I2C communications you’ll need to figure out which part is holding the line low. With many devices sharing the same bus, that can become nigh-impossible. Some folks have tricks with resistors and analog sampling, but the tried and true method of de-soldering and physically lifting chip pins off the bus often comes into play.

[Jim’s] circuit splits SDA signal into controller-side and peripheral-side, helping you make it clear who is to blame for hiccups and stray noise. To do that, he’s using 6N137 optoisolators and LMV393 comparators. [Jim] shared a NapkinCAD schematic with us, meant to be replicate-able in times of dire need. With this design, you can split your I2C bus into four separate channels – controller-side SDA, peripheral-side SDA, combined SDA and SCL. 4 Channels might be a lot for a scope, but this is no problem for today’s cheap logic analyzers.

Continue reading “I2C Tap Helps Assign Blame For SDA Conflicts”

A Gaggle Of Boards Makes For An I2C Playground

It’s not much of a stretch to assume that the majority of Hackaday readers are at least familiar with I2C. In fact, there’s an excellent chance that anyone who’s ever done more with an Arduino than blink the onboard LED has at one time or another used the serial communication protocol to talk to a sensor, display, or other external gadget. Of course, just because most of us have used it in a few projects doesn’t mean we truly understand it.

If you’re looking to brush up on your I2C knowledge, you could do worse than to follow the guide [András Tevesz] recently wrote up. With a title like Hardware Hacking 101: E01 I2C Sniffing, How to Listen to Your Arduino’s I2C Bus, you know you’re in for a good time. While the document is arguably geared more towards security researchers than electronic hobbyists, the concepts presented can be useful even if you’re just trying to debug your own projects. Continue reading “A Gaggle Of Boards Makes For An I2C Playground”

A vintage pocket calculator with extra exposed circuitry added

I2C Breathes New Life Into Casio Pocket Calculator

When is a pocket calculator more than just a calculator? [Andrew Menadue] has been pushing the limits of his 1970s Casio FX-502P by adding all sorts of modern functionality via the calculator’s expansion port.

Several older Casio calculators included an expansion port for connecting cassette tape storage and printing functionality. Data on the FX-502P could be saved on cassette tape using the well-known Kansas City standard, however this signal was produced by Casio’s FA-1 calculator cradle, not the FX-502P itself. To interact with the calculator itself would require an understanding of whatever protocol Casio designed for this particular model.

It turns out that the protocol is a little quirky compared to its contemporaries, with variable length data packets and inverted data logic, (zero volts is ‘1’ and three volts is ‘0’). Once the protocol was untangled, it was ‘simply’ a matter of connecting the calculator to the GPIO interface on the STM32, and using some software wizardry to start shooting data packets back and forth.

This hack can be used to send and receive data from an SD card (via a RAM buffer), however it’s the other expansion capabilities that really make us wonder. [Andrew] has demonstrated how easy it is to add a real-time clock or thermal printer. Using the I2C capabilities of the STM32, it’s likely that all sorts of gadgets and sensors could be coupled with this vintage calculator, and many others like it.

You can find even more details about this hack over here, including some follow up videos to the original hack. No stranger to vintage calculators, we last featured [Andrew] after he retrofitted a modern LCD display to an old Casio. It’s charming to see how these calculators are far from obsolete.

Continue reading “I2C Breathes New Life Into Casio Pocket Calculator”

You Can Send MIDI Over I2C If You Really Need To

The Musical Instrument Digital Interface has a great acronym that is both nice to say and cleanly descriptive. The standard for talking to musical instruments relies on a serial signal at 31250 bps, which makes it easy to transmit using any old microcontroller UART with a settable baud rate. However, [Kevin] has dived into explore the utility of sending MIDI signals over I2C instead.

With a bit of hacking at the Arduino MIDI library, [Kevin] was able to get the microcontroller outputting MIDI data over the I2C interface, and developed a useful generic I2C MIDI transport for the platform. His first tests involved using this technique in concert with Gravity dual UART modules. After he successfully got one running, [Kevin] realised that four could be hooked up to a single Arduino, giving it 8 serial UARTS, or, in another way of thinking, 8 MIDI outputs.

At its greatest level of development, [Kevin] shows off his I2C MIDI chops by getting a single Raspberry Pi Pico delivering MIDI signals to 8 Arduinos, all over I2C. All the Arduinos are daisy-chained with their 5V and I2C lines wired together, and the system basically swaps out traditional MIDI channels for I2C addresses instead.

There’s not a whole lot of obvious killer applications for this, but if you want to send MIDI data to a bunch of microcontrollers, you might find it easier daisy-chaining I2C rather than hopping around with a serial line in the classic MIDI-IN/MIDI-THRU fashion.

We’ve seen [Kevin]’s work before too, like the wonderful Lo-Fi Orchestra. Video after the break.

Continue reading “You Can Send MIDI Over I2C If You Really Need To”

A pinout diagram of the new Pi 4, showing all the alternate interfaces available.

Did You Know That The Raspberry Pi 4 Has More SPI, I2C, UART Ports?

We’ve gotten used to the GPIO-available functions of Raspberry Pi computers remaining largely the same over the years, which is why it might have flown a little bit under the radar: the Raspberry Pi 4 has six SPI controllers, six I2C controllers, and six UARTs – all on its 40-pin header. You can’t make use of all of these at once, but with up to four different connections wired to a single pin you can carve out a pretty powerful combination of peripherals for your next robotics, automation or cat herding project.

The datasheet for these peripherals is pleasant to go through, with all the register maps nicely laid out – even if you don’t plan to work with the register mappings yourself, the maintainers of your preferred hardware enablement libraries will have an easier time! And, of course, these peripherals are present on the Compute Module 4, too. It might feel like such a deluge of interfaces is excessive, however, it lets you achieve some pretty cool stuff that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Having multiple I2C interfaces helps deal with various I2C-specific problems, such as address conflicts, throughput issues, and mixing devices that support different maximum speeds, which means you no longer need fancy mux chips to run five low-resolution Melexis thermal camera sensors at once. (Oh, and the I2C clock stretching bug has been fixed!) SPI interfaces are used for devices with high bandwidth, and with a few separate SPI ports, you could run multiple relatively high-resolution displays at once, No-Nixie Nixie clock style.

As for UARTs, the Raspberry Pi’s one-and-a-half UART interface has long been an issue in robotics and home automation applications. With a slew of devices like radio receivers/transmitters, LIDARs and resilient RS485 multi-drop interfaces available in UART form, it’s nice that you no longer have to sacrifice Bluetooth or a debug console to get some fancy sensors wired up to your robot’s brain. You can enable up to six UARTs. Continue reading “Did You Know That The Raspberry Pi 4 Has More SPI, I2C, UART Ports?”