Essay on “How to read a microprocessor datasheet.”

As many of you, on a (not so) nice day, a (not so) nice friend of mine told me about a (not so) nice electronic device. This was the starting point of my addiction to Arduinos. At last! A compact, cheap and complete solution for running microprocessor. Something I dreamed about for a long time in spite of many attempts to enter the world of ALUs, registers, clocks, scalers, etc. . And it took me far less time to start with Arduino than keeping stand-up on a windsurf: isn’t it a proof of easiness? While watching the first blinks of the built-in sketch, I started dreaming at all the projects that I could develop with this handy platform… Next night I felt like the pilot in a star ship, thousands, millions, googols of stars blinking in a universe of electronic devices. I was about escape from the solar system when the warning signal sounded loud in the cabin … in fact not, it was my alarm clock!
It took me a certain time to open a new window again in my agenda for getting further with my exciting projects. For those who want to get an idea of how time consuming is microprocessor discovery, I will compare it with the time needed to start golfing. I remember from the early days that the golf keeper came with his torch light to the practice in order to remind me that I was time to close. I also remember the nervous break downs while trying to hit that blo… ball: think about it while you try to play around with the advanced features of your microprocessor. Just for your records, I resigned from playing golf: I was missing to much the smell of soldering tin and hot semiconductors.
OK, so now you planned to spend some time to study the bits hard, the kids are playing quietly, you wife is out for tea, and you feel great. “Data sheets, data sheets, here we go!”, I found the data sheet of the ATEMEGA 8, 48, 168. Ho!, but I can see that there are different versions! OK, let’s go for the largest, aren’t we ready to get the utmost of this chip? Be brave! Hem, that’s more than 300 pages, I won’t have the time to read it all today. What about looking for a lighter version for now? OK, now I found “short data sheet”, just what I need. Right, let’s cool down and start having some good reading. End of page 4, I tried to record 4 dozens of acronyms, definitions and specifications. Time for a drink? No no no!, I decided to be serious! Keep digging page 5. The same acronyms as before, put in some Vasarely picture. We’ll come back to that later. Page 6, … 7, … 8 and next pages are full of tables, font size 6, with many, many data related to bits and registers: useless for stepping into my projects. Wrong data sheet, this one is just a reminder for advanced programmer who writes assembler code just like I ride a bike.
Let’s have a break and get back to Google and see if it is still my friend, and if it will help me finding a tutorial which will fit my needs in a better way. “Microprocessors for the nerds”, blah, I am not an absolute nerd am I? “Microprocessors without crying”, probably written by an emotive girl. “How I became a microprocessor expert”, Ah!, this one sounds great. I click on the hyper link, and … welcome to Amazon! “How I became a microprocessor expert” by Dr John GRUBBMAN, 120$ each, book 1, 2 3 and 4 . Without guarantied return on investment: forget it!
“Hi darling, how do you do? “ Did you mow the lawn as I was away, before your favourite mother in law arrives?” You do not even have the time to think about an answer that a terrifying sound pierces your ears: the quiet kids started repainting the bedroom, meticulously with a lot of creativity in colours and shapes while I was absorbed in my quest for information. Oh my…
Well my friends, it is a long way to the essence of microprocessors! What frightens me is that once you are real aware about one type of microprocessor, the maker will announce its obsolescence! Any way, it’s a lot of fun, and probably one of the better treatments against brain diseases, or at least, laziness!

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