September 9, 2009 -- Microcontrollers, in many ways, are the indispensable engines of our world. With hundreds of billions of them in use, MCUs play a variety of different but equally important roles in almost every electronics application imaginable. Inexpensive, easy to use and well understood, MCUs are an integral part of a design engineer's toolkit—and her or she can choose from thousands of controllers and controller variations.
But controllers do run into limits. The general-purpose input and output (GPIO) ports available for a microcontroller are usually limited in number. Many applications require more ports than are available on the microcontroller. And because GPIOs are used for a number of functions like serving as a gateway to numerous peripherals and buses, managing LEDs and interrupt sources, oftentimes more is better.
FPGAs, however, can be deployed to overcome this barrier by adding four 8-bit ports to any 8-bit microcontroller. With the broad IP libraries available from FPGA vendors today, it's a relatively straightforward endeavor. Take the 8051s soft microcontroller core. It can be configured as an 8-bit microcontroller, without sacrificing power budget, cost or board real estate.
By Mike Brogley. (Brogley is IP and Solutions Product Marketing Manager for Actel Corp.)
This brief introduction has been excerpted from the original copyrighted article.
View the entire article on the EE Times Programmable Logic Designline website.
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