If you know of some smart, technically inclined people, you might find yourself wanting to share with them the magical wonders of microcontrollers. They may be hesitant, since the task of learning all the ins and outs can be daunting at times. Simon Schoar knows that and decided the easiest way to share with his co-workers would be to create a fun gadget with the capability to be reprogrammed that he could simply give away.
The entire board, populated and ready to go.
Pictured above is the SLDongle, or SLD. This little board, which Simon freely distributed, comes equipped with an Atmega88PA and a string of LEDs. Upon plugging it in, his co-workers were greeted with some nice LED effects such as a simple chaser effect. For more advanced users, you can either control the LEDs manually, or even completely reprogram the microcontroller yourself.
As one commenter at hackaday pointed out in the comments, the USB plug built into the PCB comes with its own set of issues. As you can see in the picture above, the USB pad has been tinned. Sid found that the initial pad was being scraped clean after only a few uses, so he had to tin the pads manually on all of them before distributing.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.