Adafruit's Trinket is a tiny $8 development board that packs a punch.
People often lament that leaving an entire Arduino inside a project is not very cost effective, nor space effective. While creating an entire custom circuit is an option, another is just to find a smaller and cheaper replacement. Adafruit has just announced their tiniest and cheapest Arduino-compatable development board for exactly this purpose.
The Trinket is tiny. Its dimensions are 31mm x 15.5mm. It could literally be hidden in a hem or cuff. You could mount this in a baseball cap and never notice the weight; too bad the same can't be said for batteries. The Trinket comes in two versions. The 3v model, which runs at 8Mhz and the 5V model that can run at either 8Mhz or 16Mhz. Both versions cost $7.95.
Here are the features from the Adafruit website:
ATtiny85 on-board, 8K of flash, 512 byte of SRAM, 512 bytes of EEPROM
Internal oscillator runs at 8MHz, but can be doubled in software for 16MHz
USB bootloader with a nice LED indicator looks just like a USBtinyISP so you can program it with AVRdude (with a simple config modification) and/or the Arduino IDE (with a few simple config modifications)
Mini-USB jack for power and/or USB uploading, you can put it in a box or tape it up and use any USB cable for when you want to reprogram.
We really worked hard on the bootloader process to make it rugged and foolproof, this board won't up and die on you in the middle of a project!
~5.25K bytes available for use (2.75K taken for the bootloader)
On-board 3.3V or 5.0V power regulator with 150mA output capability and ultra-low dropout. Up to 16V input, reverse-polarity protection, thermal and current-limit protection.
Power with either USB or external output (such as a battery) -- it'll automatically switch over
On-board green power LED and red pin No. 1 LED
Reset button for entering the bootloader or restarting the program. No need to unplug/replug the board every time you want to reset or update
5 GPIO -- 2 shared with the USB interface. The 3 independent IO pins have 1 analog input and 2 PWM output as well. The 2 shared IO pins have 2 more analog inputs and one more PWM output.
Hardware I2C / SPI capability for breakout & sensor interfacing.
I got my hands on one when I ordered a bunch of LED toys and was able to get it up and running, powering a ring of LEDs in less than five minutes thanks to the Adafruit tutorial system. I did have to solder the header pins on, so maybe we'll say 10 minutes. Having it on my work bench, I couldn't help but get a picture to compare the size between this, the teensy 2.0, and the Raspberry Pi. These are not products you would usually compare, but they were available.
HalHerta, that is my point, which is that teaching a bit of programming won't be teaching anything else. So yes, it can possibly get people interested in something, but then they won't have any ideas about what is wrong and how to fix it when some hardware doesn't work quite as expected.
My point being that it winds up not teaching any of the stuff that is the foundation, and without that everything is just cook book, follow the recipe. Which is fine for baking a cake but not much use for grilling a hamburger.
WKetel, I wholeheartedly agree with your premise. Using the Arduino platform to teach Engineering/Technologist students Embedded systems & Electronics is a horrible idea because the Arduino platform abstracts so much of the hardware and even software concepts and knowledge required to build "proper" hardware and software.
Having said that, the arduino platform is a great tool to get high school kids excited about technology, electronics & programming. Furthermore, in my opinion, kids that do get into into programming/ electronics earlier on in their lives will develop much better critical & independent thinking / problem solving skills than most.
The arduino platform is also a great tools for artists, hobbyists and others who want to get something going without having to go get a degree related to embedded systems.
Even engineers/technologists can use the Arduino platform for rapid prototyping
While it may be fun to put an ittybitty controller board into something and make it work, there is certainly not much electrical learning going on. That has been my thought when folks praise the arduino for being ssuch a wonderful learning tool. No understanding of the limitations of I/O even. Just hook it up and load some code and it does things. No understanding of how to make a comparator function or how to use an opamp or how to implement an H-Bridge driver. So while it can be an entertaining toy and it is certainly able to teach folks about programming, there is a whole lot more to things than just soe code that is a variation of what somebody else wrote. AND, software is not the real world.
Wow -- very interesting -- I just emailed "The Mighty Hamster" (a blogger over on All Programmable Planet) asking if he might be interested in implementing a USBtinyFPGA in the programmable fabric of a regular low-end FPGA...
I haven't been keeping up with Arduino or anything ATtiny either (probably because of a philosophical opposition to architectures with crummy low-res non-extensible timers), and I was one of the legions who was an early purchaser of John Hyde's fabulous book "USB Design by Example" so I was pretty used to thinking about USB access in terms of "certifiable" architectures. And when you look at the USB "world" that way you get used to the premise that to use any subset of USB at all you have to think only in terms of designs that incorporate the specified protocol "state machine" functions in hardware, and you are allowed only to implement prespecified device classes etc. And in that "worldview" even architectures like those in FTDI's wonderful USB protocol adapters seem borderline miraculous. In such a world an 8-pin device without even a pretense of any kind of USB hardware support is clearly not a candidate (or at least not an obvious one) to do anything on such a relatively complex communications mechanism except violate protocols and cause confusion. Then along comes some inglorious hacker and invents something called USBtiny and just turns the whole applecart upside down:
I think maybe THAT'S the real story for lots of us, I hope I'm not "burying the lead" about the Trinket itself but I think USBtiny may be a BIT more of a "disruptive technology" if you see what I mean, anyway it's all good news!
Halharta, thanks for the addtional board options! Everytime I look I find more development boards and prices keep falling! What a great time to be an engineer.. It makes me wonder what will be available in a year or two, I can't wait. What other low cost high performance boards do EETIMES readers know of and could recommend???