Saturday, July 31, 2010

This is Amazing

A few days ago I read an article (on Make: then by the builder: Achim Sack )
Detailing how to build the world's smallest intervalometer.
In that article he used a microprocessor from MicroChip the Pic10F222 in a 6-Pin SOT-23 package.

Look at this picture..

This is a picture I staged for size comparison. The little graphic next to the arrow is the same size as the SOT-23 package from MicroChip!!! The vertical line next to the chip diagram is one inch in length. (sketchup wouldn't let me scale it properly so the chip is actually 0.008mm smaller than it should be :P)

Now lets look at some specs for this chip this is so amazing (to me)!

Clock Maximum Frequency of Operation (MHz) 8
Memory Flash Program Memory 512
Data Memory (bytes) 23
Peripherals Timer Module(s) TMR0
Analog inputs 2
Features I/O Pins 3
Input Only Pins 1
In-Circuit Serial Programming™ Yes
Packages 6-pin SOT-23,
Operating Voltage Range (V)• Operating Current:- <>
Note 1: The PIC10F222 devices have Power-on Reset, selectable Watchdog Timer, selectable code-protect, high I/O
(copied from Microchip's datasheet(pdf) )

Yes...8mhz!! From a chip that you could reasonably accidentally swallow (without being TOO painful).

Additionally, this chip executes all instructions (except program branches) in a single cycle. So it can achieve up to 2MIPS (reference).

Furthermore it can run at 4mhz on 2volts and 170 microvolts!! That's 0.000170volts !! Standby adds three more zeros!!

I went digging around the internet to find out what the old school equivalent would be in terms of math ability.

I found the venerable Intel 286 chip can also achieve about 2MIPS (depending on clock speed). I haven't been able to find size specifications, but I remember the 286 being about an inch square. I did manage to find the power specs though. 3.3 watts at 5volts so current draw of about 660milliamps. Or about 66 MILLION times the current the microchip part draws.

The 286 was state of the art in 1982. I knew we had made progress but this is a real eye opener.

The cost is also interesting. Microchip describes the Pic10f222 as being "So inexpensive its practically disposable". It's available for less than 50 cents.

When I see spy gear on movies and tv. My mind usually responds with "they cant really do that" but I had no idea such a capable chip was available down at this size. Some of the spy gear is possible. Without even building custom chips for everything. This chip was available to the general public in 2008 and I'm sure there are things in development and secret that are even more miniaturized now.

I showed this to one friend this week and he said "You'd have to be a magician to solder that". I would say you would have to be a robot. I can barely see it.

I know what your thinking...what can you do with it. Well you can make an intervalometer (camera timer) like the guy who turned me on to it. Or you could do one of the projects on this page, or you could use it to blink leds, like so many people use their Arduinos for, the pic would be MUCH smaller and use alot less power too. Or you could use it for embedding intelligence in far flung systems (I'm thinking car door actuators and switches or similar applications). It would also be good or running servos or steppers (through an amplifier circuit). I would like to build a remote receiver/motor to turn the volume up and down on my stereo (or maybe use a digital resistor chip hacked in place of the volume knob). The 222 should be just right for that...

I also took a look at some other options in very small/cheap/low power processors while preparing for this.

I like the Texas Instruments MSP430. The usb part of the stick is the programmer. You enter your program in the IDE and send it to that little stick. It programs the very end piece. The processor is 16mhz and there are 14 user assignable pins. The great thing is the programmer (usb stick) is only $20 and then the target boards are only $3 a piece. The programmer for the PIC processors is $70. Not quite as easy to write programs for as an arduino but much more economical.

Why we should keep going to space

This video was just posted on Make: today.

This demonstrates how little we know about the universe and how much going to space teaches us.

It may seem uselessly stupid to study alka seltzer in micro-gravity. But many things that seemed pointless to study at the time ended up being useful.

It looks like space exploration (as we have known it in the past) is mostly dead in America and around the world. But I still believe there are many benefits to a vibrant space program.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Daily Reading

There are some sites I read daily. Because I am continuously entranced and fascinated by technology and wanting to possibly build something cool or useful for myself, most of these links are focused on DIY and technologies... (I especially like the featured workspaces and workspace organization tips)

/. (of course) (I've gotta actually admit I have no idea what slashdot means (oh wait wikipedia knows )

Toolmonger A blog all about tools.

CNCCookBook A blog about CNC

DPCars Cars documented from concept to building and testing (I've been reading this one since about 2002, I think)

If you watch these sites most of what I post will be ancient news to you. But maybe I can offer another perspective or help aggregate from these sources.

Is there anything cooler?

This video (youtube) is one of the coolest ideas I've seen anywhere (aside from the whole wasting one of my favorite foods aspect).

Who knew throwing 10,000 volts through a watermelon makes a simple gourd into a bomb!!

Btw: Your probably wondering why I didn't embed the video. It's because I don't believe in embedding dozens of videos. I have to operate from a slower/older laptop and embedding dozens of videos on a blog or a website slows my computer to a crawl. Its very frustrating. If I can figure out how to make blogger build in a break maybe I will embed videos in the future. But for now my website is usable for those on older/slower hardware and slower connections...

I'm back..

It's been almost two years since I posted.

There's lotsa reasons why, and I'll probably get into some of the reasons later.

I am gonna get back to writing and linking more in this space.

I'm also going to get over my fear of short posts (starting now) even ones mostly linking cool things going on around the net.

Hopefully I can engage your interest and show you some of the things that are possible and inspire you to what may be possible.