Atmel AVR Presentation, Part 4

Atmel AVR Presentation 5/17/09

Continue with Programmers and Debuggers...

I am going to finish up with programmers and debuggers in this article. I went through the different offerings from Atmel, so now I will focus on other sources. When you start searching for other AVR programmers and debuggers, you tend to find them in three categories: Parallel port interface with resistors only or including a logic chip; Serial port programmers that have a few components; or USB style programmers which tend to have more features. I have also found kits and D.I.Y. schematics for low cost programmers.


Pololu started out with their Orangutan Programmer. It was designed for the Orangutan series of robot controllers. The programmer plugged into the USB port and had a 6pin ISP cable. This programmer emulated the serial port version of the Atmel AVRISP. Recently Pololu add a newer programmer to it's ever growing list of electronic devices. The new USB AVR Programmer is similar to the original Orangutan programmer. The new unit emulates the AVRISP mkII. One of the other great features is this programmer creates two serial ports. The first port handles the in-circuit programming. The second serial port is a TTL level serial port you can attach right to the RX and TX pins of your AVR. Then you can send debug messages through the port to any terminal program. It is a nice debugging feature. At the time of this writing, it looks like the Orangutan programmer will be replaced with the USB AVR programmer.


I could spend several days talking about and explaining Sparkfun's offerings, but I will not bore you with the details you can look up yourself. Sparkfun has programmers and debuggers that cost from $6 to $90. Some are serial port versions, several use the USB port, and a couple are even ICE (in-circuit emulators). You'll have to just check them out to see if you find something you like.

Wright Hobbies

Eddy Wright provides 2 different programers through his store. The first programmer only comes in kits and is the simplest. It is a parallel port programmer that only uses a few resistors. His second programmer that you can purchase alone is the logic circuit version of the parallel port programmer. The best feature is their low cost. Take a look at Wright Hobbies and see if either of them would work for you.

Kits and D.I.Y.

Some other choices are kits and do-it-yourself schematics. One of the best kits out there is the USBtinyISP. This programmer comes from the Lady Ada web site. The kit is low cost and easy to assembly. The kit provides a pre-programmed micro that handles the programming duties. The kit can be purchased from the Ada Fruit web site. Just look in the left column for AVR programmers.

Another possibility is to build your own. Electronics-DIY provides schematics and instructions on how to build your own. Again, this programmer is just the simple resistor parallel port programmer that others sell. There is not much else to say on this unit, except they do explain how the programmer works.


All I am going to say at this point is type in "avr programmer" into your favorite search engine and you will swamped with programmers. Take a look around and you are bound to find something you'll like.

Join me next time when we finish up this presentation with software. We will take a look at the different languages and programming environments.