Atmel AVR Projects

AVR timeline

Timeline for AVR projects.

These were done at fairly low priority. Whenever there was a break in other work, we had another go at the challenge of making a very low-cost display for warehousing applications. The funding for the hardware was provided by a pharmaceutical company, while I provided the time. The idea was to form a joint venture if a solution could be found. There was a a market as this company owned four warehouses, however, the South African government turned the pharmaceutical industry upside down in an effort to try to reduce the prices to end-users. There was so much uncertainty, that the warehouse were concerned about investing and new graduates avoided Pharmacy for many years. Many pharmacists simply emigrated. During this period, technology and the customer’s expectations would march on.

The AVR family had a decent sized Flash, a nice register set, low-cost download programming cable, plus reasonable evaluation boards. It was possible to buy a tray with the price being about ZAR40 to ZAR50 per device in single quantities. (The exchange rate average for 1999 was ZAR6,11867 to the US$, so ZAR40 was US$6,54). Luminary Micro would bring out an ARM 24-pin device for $1 or R11 in single piece quantities a few years later (before being acquired by Texas Instruments). In the ARM section we posted an example of the last version using very capable hardware for a low price.


A low cost SDK200 was purchased to evaluate the RISC AVR micro. The hardware was not bad, but the software was sadly written in assembler. The 8-bit C compiler was priced at Swedish prices by IAR.

Pick by Light

The first pick-by-light test was a 20-pin Atmel AT89C2051, (8051 core equivalent) that could drive two pairs of 7-segment displays. It was put together by Warwick Smith in September, 1998, and programmed in C in November, 1998. The serial interface was RS-232 which simplified initial tests. (Dates from listings and schematic.) I wanted to drive more displays per processor to reduce the cost. See the photo of several tubes for driving up to three pairs of 7-segment displays which was developed about a year later between some other projects.

Vertical tubes AVR pick by light

HMI Interface

We should have made a standard product some years ago for a HMI, but sadly, with heads buried deep into the embedded Linux kernel for an Alchemy MIPS board, the horrible AVR assembler had to be picked up again.