Tag Archives: AVR

Getting started with ATtiny85 (AVR Programming)


I just got the batch of ATtiny85s I ordered for some pals at a local Maker group. I have articles here on ATtiny84, but not on this chip. So here are some quick notes on getting started with the ATtiny85.

The first thing you need to program the chip is an AVR programmer. I am using a Pocket AVR Programmer from Sparkfun. But you can buy much cheaper programmers. Look for USBtiny programmers – in India you can get one of these for about Rs. 350 from ebay.in.

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Serial Communications with the ATtiny84

ATtiny TX

In a previous post, I talked about serial communications with an ATmega168. But that chip has USART – hardware support for serial communications. But what about the tinyAVRs? As continuation of my last post on setting up the ATtiny84 for programming, this time, I will talk about sending data from an ATtiny84 to a computer using serial communications.

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Getting Started with the Atmel ATtiny84 Microcontroller


Like many folks, I got introduced to microcontrollers through the Arduino platform. The ease of setup, simple language syntax and the availability of a huge number libraries makes Arduino a very attractive choice to prototype your hardware projects. But after you get a grip on your project, sometimes it’s worth asking if you really need the power and the prototyping ergonomics of an Arduino, especially if all you are doing is reading a few sensors and turning on a few LEDs.

Atmel has a line of microcontrollers called tinyAVR which are little microcontrollers which can do a lot of the work that an Arduino does in a much more compact form. Take a look at the wikipedia page that compares the capabilities of the tinyAVRs.

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ATmega168 Power Save Mode and Pin Change Interrupt

Most times your microcontroller is running in a loop, waiting for something to happen – like a button press. All this while it is consuming power, and this could be an issue, especially if you are running the circuit from a battery. To counter this problem, there are ways of reducing the power consumption of your chip. Here are the various “sleep modes” supported by the ATmega168.

[Table reproduced from Atmel ATmega168 datasheet for illustrative purpose]


In a previous post about an Ambient Light sensor using an Op-Amp Comparator, I mentioned that we would be using the op-amp output to “wake up” an ATmega168. So here, we will be using the “power-save” mode from the above table, and use a pin-change interrupt to wake up from this sleep mode.

The setup used is shown below in the 2 schematics I had posted before. The output Vo from the op-amp should be connected to the pin 14 of the ATmega168 (PCINT0/PB0). Also, in this case, we are not using serial output, so you can remove the connections to the FTDI adapter.



Here is what the circuit looks like, hooked up on a breadboard:


This is the how the program works:

  • When the program starts, start the 16-bit timer, set to fire an interrupt every 3 seconds. Start the timer only if pin 14 is low. (This means that the light level is high in our sensor circuit.).
  • When the chip is not sleeping, it will be flashing an LED attached to pin 6.
  • When the 16-bit timer interrupt happens, set a flag (a volatile variable) so that the main loop reads this flag and puts the chip to sleep mode. It will also turn the LED off at this point.
  • Set up a pin change interrupt on PCINT0 for any logical change in input. When the interrupt fires, if it was caused by a rising edge (ie., light to dark), wake up the chip, and stop the 16-bit timer. If the interrupt was caused by a falling edge (ie., dark to light), re-start the 16-bit timer.

You can read about pin-change interrupts and the 16-bit timer in the Atmel ATmega168 datasheet.

The complete code listing is below. The opening comments in the code also have all the required build commands.