TLA Microsystems - What is a microcontroller ?(TLA_TOP.GIF-23k)

What is a Microcontroller ?

What is a Microcontroller and why should I care ?

Simply put, a microcontroller is the "microchip" that TV programs like Beyond-2000 keep going on about.  "XYZ Corp have put a microchip in their Gismo and now it can blah, blah, blah ….." and probably goes beep when it's finished.

These are small, low cost computers that are able to do things.  While your Pentium PC is a fast thinker, it would be useless without the microcontrollers inside it.  There's one in the mouse, one in the keyboard, one in the monitor and at least one in the hard-disk, as well as the printer and modem.

Where they really excel is within products that are more than just computers.  Here, they really have taken over the world, and our lives literally depend on them.  Your car probably has several.  The fuel injection controller, ABS, air-bags, the stereo and air conditioners are all computer controlled.  At work is the fax machine, cellphone, photocopier, the elevator and the burglar alarm.  At home is the TV, video, stereo, microwave, washing machine, lawn sprinklers and maybe even the vacuum cleaner.
If it has a display, push-buttons or goes beep, it is a safe bet that there's a micro involved.

Fascinating ! What's it got to do with me ?

Patriotism.  This is New Zealand and microcontrollers are the "number 8 fencing wire" of the 90's.  We are a nation of people that love to solve problems and we have the imagination and gumption to do it.  New Zealand electronics manufacturers lead the world in applying cost effective technology to a problem and solving it.
Car batteries go flat when the lights are left on - Measure the current draw and turn them off.
Washing machine gearboxes are a manufacturers headache - Design a motor that can be controlled without a gearbox.
Only want calves from the best cows - Identify the cows with ear tags and measure the milk yield.

But these are huge companies with lots to invest.

Yes, these ones are.  But you probably haven't heard of the many small companies making niche products for export and doing very well, thank you.  Whatever the size of your business or idea, electronic technology is not out your reach.

You know the problem.  You see a solution.
Now what ?

Ask ! Please !  Often things that appear difficult or expensive are, in fact, not so.  Microcontrollers start at $1 in small quantities and can do so much.  It costs nothing to discuss an idea and, of course, there is no obligation.

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