Microcontrollers and Their Types

Embedded Systems | Microcontrollers: In this tutorial, we will learn about the microcontrollers in embedded systems and the various types of microcontrollers. By Vandana Sharma Last updated : May 12, 2023

What are Microcontrollers in Embedded Systems?

Microcontrollers are broadly utilized in Embedded System products. An Embedded product uses the microprocessor (or microcontroller) to do a single task only. A printer is an instance of an embedded system as the processor in it performs a single task only namely receiving the data and printing it.

Computers can be utilized for many applications like word processors, network services, and video game players. The reason that a PC can carry out multiple tasks is that it has RAM and an operating system that loads the application software into RAM & allows the CPU to run it. In an Embedded system, there is single application software, which is typically burned into ROM. An x86PC has different Embedded Products such as a keyboard, printer, modem, Disc controller, Sound card, CD-Rom Driver, Mouse & so on. Every peripheral mentioned here has a microcontroller in it for the specific task to be performed by that peripheral device. For example, within every mouse, there is a microcontroller to execute the task of searching the mouse position and transferring it to the PC.

Although microcontrollers are chosen for many embedded systems, there are times when a microcontroller is inefficient for the task. For this cause, in recent years many manufacturers of general-purpose microprocessors such as INTEL, Motorola, AMD, and Cyrix have targeted their microprocessors for the high end of the Embedded market. While INTEL, AMD, and Cyrix move forward with their x86 processors for both the embedded and desktop pc market, Motorola was firm to keep the 68000 families alive by targeting it chiefly for the high-end embedded systems.

One of the most significant requirements of the embedded system is to reduce power consumption and space. This can be achieved by incorporating more functions into the CPU chips. All the embedded processors from the x86 and 680x0 family, have low power consumptions in addition to some forms of I/O, Com port & ROM all on a single chip. In an advanced-performance Embedded system, the trend is to involve more & more functions on the CPU chip & let the programmer come to a decision that which feature he/she wants to utilize.

What are the Types of Microcontrollers?

The main types of microcontrollers are 8051, PIC, AVR, and ARM. But, based on their popularity microcontrollers are categorized into three parts (8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit microcontrollers). The following are the types of microcontrollers based on their popularity:

  1. 8-bit Microcontrollers: These can handle 8-bit Instruction sets. Ex-Intel 8031/8051, PIC1x, and Motorola MC68HC11 families
  2. 16-bit Microcontrollers: These can handle 16-bit Instruction sets. Ex-extended 8051XA, PIC2x, Intel 8096 and Motorola MC68HC12 families
  3. 32-bit Microcontrollers: These can handle 32-bit Instruction sets.Ex- Intel/Atmel 251 family, PIC3x.

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