THE 32-BIT MICRO
BY THOMAS KIBALO
In 2010, Nuts & Volts introduced the
16-bit Micro Experimenter with a
seven article series. The 16-bit
Experimenter offered a new and
significant microcontroller capability
when compared with current
offerings of eight-bit technologies in
both performance and functionality.
This year, we’re going to raise the
bar with an even more powerful
device — the “32-bit Micro
Experimenter” or, as always,
“Experimenter” for short.
FIGURE 1. The 32-Bit
The Experimenter uses the Microchip 32-bit family of microcontrollers, leveraging what we’ve learned so far with the 16-bit Experimenter to make the transition to 32-bit easier. This makes sense because of the significant overlap between Microchip’s 32-
bit family and their 16-bit family. In fact, the PIC32 —
Microchip’s new 32-bit offering — supports all the
Experimenter’s 16-bit PIC24F peripheral operations, as well
as a new set of atomic bit operations (more on those in
later articles). The 32-bit development tool suite like the
MPLAB IDE, PICKIT3, and Microchip C compiler family are
similar to those used with the 16-bit set. In addition,
peripheral programming has been simplified with a new
Microchip C 32-bit program peripheral library set. Again, as
with the 16-bit Experimenter, the 32-bit Experimenter
requires some familiarity with C language at a high level.
With the Experimenter, we will experience a whole new
level of applications. Look for embedded web control, use
of Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS), USB, speech
playback, high speed (100 MHz) Ethernet, and high
resolution graphics — all of which we have come to expect
in today’s top-end multi-media consumer products. We will
explore these together through a series of articles using the
32-bit Micro Experimenter.
58 February 2011
The PIC32 Microcontroller
— an Overview
Microchip’s 32-bit microcontroller — the PIC32 — is the
top performer in their product family, offering significant
enhancements in speed, memory capability, and
performance over all other members. If you require high-end performance for your microcontroller application, then
the PIC32 is the processor for you. Let’s do some
comparisons. Let’s compare the PIC32MX695F512H
microcontroller (PIC32 bit processor used with the 32-bit
Micro Experimenter) to the PIC24FJ64GA002 (the 16-bit
microcontroller used on the 16-bit Micro Experimenter),
then to the PIC16F887 (common eight-bit microcontroller).
In Table 1, a MIPS (Millions of Instructions per second)
metric is used to capture execution performance. As shown,
the PIC32 runs 5X faster than the PIC24F and 16X faster
than the PIC16. The PIC32 also executes instructions with
much larger data words — 32 bits versus 16 and eight bits.
Finally the PIC32 has the largest compliment of Flash and
RAM, allowing it to tackle bigger program applications.
The block diagram of the PIC32 in Figure 2 shows the
internals of the chip. The PIC32 (as shown in the Table) is a