A devboard with the CH32V003, with a few resistors and bodges, with a USB-C cable plugged into it, and a programmer plus an extra probe attached.

USB PD On CH32V003 Teaches You Everything

How do you talk USB Power Delivery (PD)? Grab a PHY? Use a MCU with one built-in? Well, if you’re hardcore enough, you can do it with just a few resistors and GPIOs. [eeucalyptus] shows you their implementation of USB-PD on a CH32V003, which has no PD peripheral. This includes building a PD trigger, completely open source, and walking you through the entire low-level PD basics, too!

It helps that CH32V003 is a 32-bit MCU with a good few resources and peripherals, for instance, an internal comparator. Other than that, you don’t need much in terms of hardware resources, but you do need a steady hand — parts of the firmware had to be written in assembly to keep up with PD timing. Want to tinker with the fruit of this research, perhaps, further build upon the code? There’s an example board on GitHub, too!

Want to try your own luck with this method? There’s a schematic, and logic analyzer captures, and a board to refer to. Again, more than enough information on every single low-level detail! Otherwise, grab an MCU pre-programmed to talk PD, maybe a trigger board chip, or maybe even a PD PHY and implement PD communications with it directly – it’s pretty easy!

We thank [Julianna] for sharing this with us!

Two of these boards next to each other, one showing the front, assembled, side with the MCU and supporting components soldered on, and the other showing the back, patch panel, side, with wires connecting the MCU pads to testpoints leading to the supporting components

Try Out MCUs With This Jumperable TSSOP20 Adapter

There are so many new cool MCUs coming out, and you want to play with all of them, but, initially, they tend to be accessible as bare chips. Devboards might be hard to get, not expose everything, or carry a premium price. [Willmore] has faced this problem with an assortment of new WCH-made MCUs, and brings us all a solution – a universal board for TSSOP20-packaged MCUs, breadboard-friendly and adaptable to any pinout with only a few jumpers on the underside.

The board brings you everything you might want from a typical MCU breakout – an onboard 3.3V regulator, USB series resistors, a 1.5K pullup, decoupling capacitors, and a USB-C port. All GPIOs are broken out, and there’s a separate header you can wire up for all your SWD/UART/USB/whatever needs – just use the “patch panel” on the bottom of the board and pick the test points you want to join. [Willmore] has used these boards for the CH32Vxxx family, and they could, no doubt, be used for more – solder your MCU on, go through the pin table in the datasheet, do a little point-to-point wiring, and you get a pretty functional development board.

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CH32V003 Makes For Dirt Cheap RISC-V Computer

These days, when most folks think of a computer they imagine a machine with multiple CPUs, several gigabytes of RAM,  and a few terabytes of non-volatile storage for good measure. With such modern expectations, it can be difficult to see something like a microcontroller as little more than a toy. But if said MCU has a keyboard, is hooked up to a display, and lets you run basic productivity and development software, doesn’t that qualify it as a computer? It certainly would have in the 1980s.

With that in mind, [Olimex] has teased the RVPC, which they’re calling the “world lowest cost Open Source Hardware All-in-one educational RISC-V computer” (say that three times fast). The tiny board features the SOIC-8 variant of the CH32V003 and…well, not a whole lot else. You’ve got a handful of passives, a buzzer, an LED, and the connectors for a PS/2 keyboard, a power supply, and a VGA display. The idea is to offer this as a beginner’s soldering kit in the future, so most most of the components are through-hole.

On the software side, the post references things like the ch32v003fun development stack, and the PicoRVD programmer as examples of open source tools that can get your CH32V computer up and running. There’s even a selection of retro-style games out there that would be playable on the platform. But what [Olimex] really has their eye on is a port of VMON, a RISC-V monitor program.

When paired with the 320×200 VGA text mode that they figure the hardware is capable of, you’ve got yourself the makings of an educational tool that would be great for learning assembly and playing around with bare metal programming.

It might not have the timeless style of the Voja4, but at least you can fit it in a normal sized pocket.

Thanks to [PPJ] for the tip.

CH32V003 Provides Ultra Cheap Speech Recognition

Speech recognition was once the stuff of science fiction, but it’s now possible with relatively modest hardware. Just how modest, you ask? How about a 10 cent microcontroller?

[Brian Smith] has achieved a very basic form of speech recognition on a CH32V003 RISC-V microcontroller. It may only recognize spoken digits, but that it does so at all on such a modest platform is impressive in itself.

For training purposes it enlists the help of a desktop Linux computer, however the recognition process is purely in the ten cent chip. He goes into much detail about how it achieves this on a system without floating point arithmetic, as well as the other shortcomings of such a limited platform.

We’ve become used to thinking of super-cheap chips as of limited use, but the truth is they’re surprisingly more capable than expected. We’re seeing them starting to appear as subsidiary processors on some badges, so it will be interesting to see them proliferate in more projects now their availability problems have eased. Go on – for ten cents, what do you have to lose?

256-Core RISC-V Megacluster

Supercomputers are always an impressive sight to behold, but also completely unobtainable for the ordinary person. But what if that wasn’t the case? [bitluni] shows us how it’s done with his 256-core RISC-V megacluster.

While the CH32V family of microcontrollers it’s based on aren’t nearly as powerful as what you’d traditionally find in a supercomputer, [bitluni] does use them to demonstrate a property of supercomputers: many, many cores doing the same task in parallel.

To recap our previous coverage, a single “supercluster” is made from 16 CH32V003 microcontrollers connected to each other with an 8-bit bus, with an LED on each and the remaining pins to an I/O expander. The megacluster is in turn made from 16 of these superclusters, which are put in pairs on 8 “blades” with a CH32V203 per square as a bridge between the supercluster and the main 8-bit bus of the megacluster, controlled by one last CH32V203.

[bitluni] goes into detail about designing PCBs that break KiCad, managing an overcrowded bus with 16 participants, culminating in a mesmerizing showcase of blinking LEDs showing that RC oscillators aren’t all that accurate.

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Chip Mystery: The Case Of The Purloined Pin

Let’s face it — electronics are hard. Difficult concepts, tiny parts, inscrutable datasheets, and a hundred other factors make it easy to screw up in new and exciting ways. Sometimes the Magic Smoke is released, but more often things just don’t work even though they absolutely should, and no amount of banging your head on the bench seems to change things.

It’s at times like this that one questions their sanity, as [Gili Yankovitch] probably did when he discovered that not all CH32V003s are created equal. In an attempt to recreate the Linux-on-a-microcontroller project, [Gili] decided to go with the A4M6 variant of the dirt-cheap RISC-V microcontroller. This variant lives in a SOP16 package, which makes soldering a bit easier than either of the 20-pin versions, which come in either QFN or TSSOP packages.

Wisely checking the datasheet before proceeding, [Gili] was surprised and alarmed that the clock line for the SPI interface didn’t appear to be bonded out to a pin. Not believing his eyes, he turned to the ultimate source of truth and knowledge, where pretty much everyone came to the same conclusion: the vendor done screwed up.

Now, is this a bug, or is this a feature? Opinions will vary, of course. We assume that the company will claim it’s intentional to provide only two of the three pins needed to support a critical interface, while every end user who gets tripped up by this will certainly consider it a mistake. But forewarned is forearmed, as they say, and hats off to [Gili] for taking one for the team and letting the community know.

LoRA, With No Radio

A LoRa project has traditionally required a dedicated radio module, because it’s a commercially licenced protocol. But as the way it works has been progressively reverse engineered, it’s become ever more possible to produce a LoRA radio for yourself. But what about a LoRA radio without a radio at all? [CNLohr] has managed just that, by driving a microcontroller pin and relying on one of its harmonics to provide enough RF to be received by a LoRA gateway.

The video below the break goes into the process in great detail, revealing some of the tricks. Undersampling to create intentional aliasing for example allows subharmonic peaks to be produced in unexpected places. Most of the development is performed on Espressif microcontrollers, but as the code is optimised it becomes possible to use it on much more modest silicon. The dirt cheap CH32V003 RISC-V microcontroller for example can be a LoRA transmitter able to talk to a gateway at a range of hundreds of metres with the CH32 and 2.5km with the ESP32. The code can be found in this GitHub repository.

The CH32 can’t receive of course, and it relies on barfing harmonics all over the spectrum to work. But on the other hand its total RF output is so tiny that we’re guessing a filter for the LoRA band might even make it almost legal. He’s got a little way to go before beating the record though.

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