World’s Smallest Ethernet Controller

June 1, 2005
Paul Whytock reports on Microchip’s 28pin stand-alone Ethernet controller and its latest family of 8bit microcontrollers with high memory that could help designers preserve legacy 8bit code and development-tool investments.

Claimed as the world's first 28pin stand-alone Ethernet controller, providing the smallest whole-product Ethernet solution for embedded applications, the ENC28J60 from Microchip is targeted at remote communication between embedded applications and local or global networks.

The company also unveiled the first ten members of its high-pin-count, high-density memory PIC18F87J10 flash microcontroller family. It's said to double the performance in low-voltage applications by delivering as much as 10MIPS at 3V.

Let's first discuss the Ethernet controller. Microchip says that designers who require communications for remote control or monitoring are often faced with the complexity of large-footprint, expensive Ethernet controllers that are tailored for personal-computing systems.

While most Ethernet controllers come in greater than 80pin packages, the IEEE 802.3-compliant ENC28J60 offers comparable features in a 28pin package. The controller uses the industry-standard SPI serial interface, which needs four lines to interface to a host microcontroller.

By adding Ethernet connectivity to an embedded system, microcontrollers can distribute data over a network and be controlled remotely. Supporting development tools include the PICtail Ethernet Interface board (part No AC164121), which plugs into a selection of the company's standard PICDEM demonstration boards. Microchip's free TCP/IP stack, which is designed for all PIC18 host 8-bit microcontrollers, is available now for download from Microchip's web site. You will also find information on a third-party stack for all PIC16 host 8bit microcontrollers.

HIGH-DENSITY MEMORY Now about the ten new members of the high-pin-count, high-density memory PIC18F87J10 flash microcontroller family. Microchip believes that as performance levels among 8, 16 and 32bit microcontrollers continue to blur and designs migrate to lower voltages, designers need cost-effective, peripheral-rich 8bit microcontrollers with high memory densities and pin counts that help them preserve legacy 8bit code and development-tool investments.

The PIC18F87J10 family addresses these issues by providing linear access to up to 128Kbytes of onboard flash memory, while remaining code- and tool-compatible with all PIC18F microcontrollers. In addition, the PIC18F87J10 microcontrollers include nanoWatt technology for optimal power management, along with two synchronous serial ports (for SPI or I2C) and two asynchronous serial ports (LIN-capable USARTs).

Other key features of the family include 32 to 128Kbytes of flash program memory; up to 4Kbytes of data RAM; two Enhanced USART modules for RS232, RS485, and LIN serial interfaces; two Master Synchronous Serial Port modules, each supporting Master I2C or SPI interfaces; five timer/counters (3 x 16bit, 2 x 8bit); a 15channel, 10bit ADC with auto-acquisition timing; two analog comparators; and three enhanced capture/compare PWM modules with support for H-bridge motor drives.

The microcontrollers are supported by MPLAB Integrated Development Environment (IDE), MPLAB Visual Device Initializer, MPLAB C18 optimizing C Compiler, Application Maestro software, MPLAB ICD 2 In-Circuit Debugger, and MPLAB PM3 Universal Device Programmer. The PICDEM HPC Explorer Board is also available for development.

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