Chapter 5

Introducing Microcontrollers


Bullet Looking at microcontrollers and how they work

Bullet Examining how microcontrollers are programmed

Bullet Learning about microcontroller digital I/O pins

I first learned about microcontrollers years ago, when I wanted to create an automated prop for a Halloween display. The prop consisted of a Frankenstein creature that was attached to a pneumatic (air-powered) pop-up mechanism. Unsuspecting trick-or-treaters would walk into Frankenstein’s lab, where the creature was sitting on a big work table. After a few moments, a voice would cry out, “It’s alive! It’s alive! It’s alive!” and lights would flash on and off. Then the creature would start to twitch, and then pop up screaming “puttin’ on the Ritz!” As the creature popped up, a bright floodlight would illuminate him. After a few seconds, the light would go out and the creature would lie back down.

I pondered how I could create the electronic circuit to control my prop. It could be done with an old computer and relay interface that would connect to the computer’s parallel port. But I then realized it would be more fun and cost about the same to do it with a microcontroller instead of an old ...

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