What is a Microcontroller? Definition and Basic Characteristics

If you have asked yourself what is and what is a microcontroller for? What is its operation? Well, here we will explain in a clear and understandable way for everyone, everything you need to know about this piece of engineering, which gives us so much every day, and that many times we do not even know it is there.

Microcontrollers are widely used globally, ranging from those used to control motors, to those that are assembled on boards to create innovations like those of Arduino. For this and other reasons, we could not conceive of modern life without this instrument.

What is a PIC and what is it normally used for?

The microcontroller It is mainly what makes it possible for devices such as mobile phones, computers and all kinds of devices that we use in our daily lives to exist; becoming a great solution for the electronic field, with enough structure to support connectivity options.

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arduino microcontroller operation

Same as is a circuit that contains the components of a computerThis is quite small in size, which is incorporated into the device that controls it, it also manages to minimize components and cost, since they are the key part of computer boards.

This consists of a series of modules, which are usually common to all models, the components that it has are the following: The CPU processing unit, ROM program memory, DMA controller, interrupt management, Bluetooth communication modules, LCD display interfaces, RAM data memory, internal oscillator and many more components.

It is usually remembered as a simpler and older version of what CPUs are today, from the aforementioned it can be seen how important microcontrollers are, since achieve the development of technological devices that we use daily.

What is the operation of a microcontroller?

The operation of a microcontroller is extremely ingenious, and allows to do many tasks per second, being widely used in systems that integrate a CPU, serving as an aid when expressing basic instructions but as they are used together, they can become large calculations. To add instructions to a microcontroller, you have to do through software.

To add the program to the microcontroller, it will have to be copied to hexadecimal, being its format par excellence. To design a program it is necessary to know its functional parts, which are ROM memory, and input and output lines. Thanks to its functions and the range of its controls at analogue level, it is possible to use MCUs instead of wired electronic cards, which are complex.

It also has functionalities that run in parallel with programs, which are: The clock circuits, the timers, the Watchdogel which is a control that reacts to infinite interactions, analog digital converters, power failure protections, and low consumption idle states.

What is a Microcontroller for?

Main elements of a microcontroller

When we talk about microcontrollers, we mean integrated circuit that contains the components of our computer, this usually controls the operation of a specific task, as it is so small it is common for it to be integrated into the device it controls in our equipment. This is composed of a series of elements that allows its correct operation, and which are:


The input and output peripherals play a very important role, since through these the microcontroller interacts with the outside. That is to say, receive and send informationFurthermore, one fact to take into account is that although a microcontroller has several input and output peripherals, only one is capable of doing both functions.

Process unit

The central processing unit or CPU, we could say that it is the core or brain of the microcontroller, since it has the function of executing actions previously saved within memory.


When we talk about the microprocessor, we refer to a specific part within the microcontroller, which makes this system functional. Explaining it more accurately, it is a Integrated circuit that is part of the central processing unit, that is, the core of the system.


Memory is the space where the microprocessor save all the information that enters it, in addition it also stores the actions that it can perform in terms of the execution of its tasks.

What uses can be given to a microcontroller?

Essentially, as it is necessary for so many things, it serves an endless number of functions, because it has the same blocks that a computer has, which helps us treat it as a computing device.

operation of a Microcontroller

This can be used for sensor management, for games, for calculator development, in light sequencers, in the light warnings, for the operation of the electric locks, also for the electronic agendas. Makes us able to use remote controls for televisions, clocks and alarms; smart robots and much more, which is really too much to which the microcontroller contributes.

To achieve the programming a microcontroller, you will have to do the following: The creation of the program that will perform the task of telling this element what to do, a code must be written, then compile that code into binary language, load this code into the microcontroller machine.

The management program will remain within it in a special area, using the tools it will be easy to manage the programming through graphical interfaces.

Which follow the designer for the implementation of the machine code in him. You can also find 8-, 16- and up to 32-bit microcontrollers, which refer to the size of the data bus and with a larger bus it is possible to create complex calculations.

What are the differences between a microcontroller and a microprocessor?

The difference that we can highlight between these two components would be that while the microprocessors are in charge of large tasks that require greater capacity in our equipment, since this system controls several peripherals, that is, it has control over other external components. On the other hand, the microprocessor only fulfills specific tasks, such as management of input and output elements or interrupt handling.

What is known as the architecture of a microcontroller?

When we talk about the architecture of the microcontroller, we are not referring to the system that allows defining its operating structure. In this type of system two types of architecture stand out What are they:

Harvard Architecture, which would be the way memory is organized, on the other hand we also have the architecture of Von Neumann, which is chronologically older than Harvard and focuses on the databases and storage of this system.

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