I normally hang out over on All Programmable Planet and Microcontroller Central, but somehow, I've found myself here. This seems like a nice, happy place full of microcontroller goodness and other interesting things. It's a bit like my desk. I don't know how many things of general interest I have on my desk, but I do have plenty of MCU goodness.
Within arm's length of where I am, I have 10 PC boards with MCUs (half of which I've designed and built), two FPGA boards, two motor driver boards, an MCU programmer, and a power supply board. Another 10 or 15 feet away, I have probably 50 additional boards -- maybe more. I really should count sometime.
I've got MCU boards of my design sitting on my stairs, on my kitchen counter, in my hallway, in my living room, and all over my garage. I've got Microchip PICs, Atmel AVRs, and ARMs from a number of companies. The lightest MCU board I have is a small one I designed, with a thru-hole eight-pin dip Microchip PIC12F1822.
The toughest is undoubtedly the Zedboard with a Xilinx Zynq FPGA/dual A9 core chip. The densest I've personally designed is 1.3x2 inches with four ICs (three QFNs and a TSSOP). It has a LiPoly charger, USB, RS232, dual motor drivers, I2C, seven GPIO, and a partridge in a peripheral tree.
Of course, as complex as that little board was for me, it pales in comparison to the BeagleBone Black and Raspberry Pi that are sitting just inches from my fingers as I type this. Both of those, as well as the Zedboard and an Android development kit I have, are capable of running full operating systems: Android and/or Linux. In proof of that power, I've had both the Pi and Zedboard running as servers streaming live video out to the wide world of the Internet. The BeagleBone is fully up to the task, as well. I just haven't set it up to do so yet.
Created to be a computer, the Beaglebone Black runs Android and/or Linux operating systems and has a lot in common with the Raspberry Pi.
The Raspberry Pi and the BeagleBone Black are an interesting pair with a lot in common. Both were created to be more or less complete computers. The Pi was originally intended for education and has a few features reflecting that. For example, it has an ancient style RCA connector (quite possibly carved out of stone) for composite video. It's pretty funny to have the same computer display composite video at a resolution of roughly 320x200 out one side and 1,920x1,080 HDMI out the other.
The Raspberry Pi can run full operating systems. Duane Benson set it up to run as a server streaming live video out to the Internet.
The Pi has two USB connector spots, so it has more flexibility when running without a USB hub. I plugged a wireless keyboard/mouse combo into one and WiFi into the other. Both boards have wired Ethernet, so WiFi isn't necessary, but it's convenient. The only complaint I have about the BBB is that the micro HDMI and USB are so close that the cables can interfere with and stress each other. I had to sand some of the plastic off both cable ends.
Both boards have GPIO that are easily accessible from within Linux. To me, that puts these slightly into the MCU world. There isn't a clear dividing line between CPU and MCU, but I consider having GPIO and other MCU peripherals easily accessible from within the OS, and the ability to run without an OS, to be a determining factor. Both the BeagleBone Black and the Raspberry Pi are run by big MCUs when judged with my criteria.
Stay tuned for more MCU adventures. In the meantime, remember: All your PCB are belong to us.