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Introduction to Basics of Microcontroller or Microprocessor - analogy to human body parts – Part1

Many people who are new to the microcontrollers and microprocessors facing a lot of difficulties to understand the subject which made me to write this article.
Don’t worry !!!, these are very simple concepts to learn and understand, I will make it easy for you!.
Here in this tutorial, I am trying to make the concept of microcontroller easy to beginners. It is always easy to understand anything by making analogy with the known thing. The same principle I am going to apply here. That’s why, I am going to relate the human body with our microcontroller or microprocessor.
Before going to discuss on this, let me ask you two questions which makes our discussion easier. We always knew that machines almost work like a human – I mean in every aspect by reducing the human interaction. They have their own heart and brain. Ofcourse, those are controlled by the human itself but there is a case where the machines are trying to think themselves --Artificial Intelligence (AI) concept.
Have you seen the Hollywood movies like IROBOT, TERMINATOR, and EAGLE EYE, in which the computers are trying to think themselves? You will also find the partial artificial intelligence in computer games like Chess, Tic tac toe.
Ok! Coming to the actual discussion, we got a conclusion from the above discussion, that there will be a brain and a heart exists in the microcontroller. Now! Let us try to answer the following questions.
Q1. What is the heart of the Microcontroller or Microprocessor? Which of the following is correct?
a) ALU
b) Clock
c) Power Supply
Q2. What is the Brain of the Microcontroller or Microprocessor? Which of the following is correct?
a) ALU
b) Clock
c) Power Supply
The above questions can be easily answered if we know the function of the human heart and brain.

Human Heart vs Processor Heart: The basic function of human heart is to pump the blood to all the body parts of the human and make them synchronize and active.
Fig1.1: Microcontroller or Microprocessor Heart analogous to Human Heart versus


Likewise the clock system of the microcontroller will pump the clock pulses to all the internal devices of the microcontroller or microprocessor and make them synchronize. Therefore, we can say the heart of the microcontroller or microprocessor is clock circuit or clock system.

Human Brain vs Processor Brain: The human brain is the very complex architecture in the world. It will do calculations and thinking (logical, arithmetic, lateral) on different things. ALU is just like a human brain but not that much complex. It will perform Arithmetic calculations, Logical calculations, bit wise calculations, etc., so therefore we can say that ALU is the brain of the microcontroller.
Fig 1.2 Microcontroller or Microprocessor brain analogous to human brain


Human Memory vs Processor Memory:
The brain itself contains huge memory and its capacity is around 2.5 petabytes (or 1 million giga bytes), still counting. But our microprocessor doesn’t have such huge internal memory, so we have to connect the memory chips (kilo to mega bytes) externally. Whereas, coming to the microcontroller a small amount of memory is available internally and also supports the external memory interface. The advanced processors or controllers supports a little bit higher memory capacity.

The memory is again divided in to two types in microprocessor or microcontroller.

1. RAM (Random Access Memory) – to store temporary variables and results.

2.   ROM (Read Only Memory) – to store the software program which drives the hardware devices that are attached or connected to the microprocessor or controller. Not only that but also stores permanent variables, lookup tables, arrays and results. In microcontrollers, both RAM and ROM comes as internal memory depends up on the variants of the microcontroller.

Human I/O Ports Vs Processor I/O ports:
A human body consists of input output parts likes eyes, ears, hands, legs, nose, mouth etc,. By using these human can see, hear, walk, smell, speak, eat, etc. All these are connected to internal nerves system. Likewise all the input output devices are connected to the I/O port of the microcontroller.
Fig 1.3 Human Body part versus Microcontroller or Microprocessor parts


You can better understand, what is a port with the analogy of a sea port?
A sea port is a place where we can import and export the goods. Likewise I/O port in the microcontroller is used to import and export the data, in proper manner. We termed it as “Data transfer”.
Fig 1.3: Sea port analogous Microcontroller port


Generally, all the microcontrollers will have more general purpose I/O ports (for 8051 microcontroller there are four ports Port1, Port2, Port3, Port4 and one serial Port); where as the microprocessor doesn’t have I/O port. External chips (like 8255 IC – for programmable and parallel data transfer, 8251 IC – for serial data transfer) should be connected to support functionality of the ports.


Block diagram of the Microcontroller:
Now from above discussion we can form the internal block diagram of the microcontroller or block diagram for a micro processor with external interfaces. Fig 1.4 refers the internal block diagram of microcontroller or a micro processor with external interfaces.

 
Fig 1.4: Simple Block Diagram of Microcontroller

We can draw the Block Diagram of Microcontroller in a more effective way, which is shown in below figure 1.5.
Fig 1.5: Microcontroller Block diagram



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