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AVR/Arduino Programming Hardware from adafruit

usbtinyisp MEDYou can build your own parallel port programmer to update your Arduino or play directly with AVR microcontrollers as described in a previous uCHobby post. But what if you don’t have a Parallel port? What if you prefer a kit with a real PCB or maybe something that works with USB, is quick and easy to build. Limor at adafruit industries has what you need.

I took a look around Limor’s shop and found that she has every angle of AVR/Arduino programming covered with reasonably priced programmer kits. In this article I give a quick review of what’s available and I try to introduce you to the truly remarkable Limor.

About Limor and adafruit Industries.
Limor was described by Phillip Torrone of Make Magazine as one of the few people making money from open source hardware in this video of Limor and Phillip at OSCON 2007. Learn more about Limor and her projects at her web site. Look over the Finding Parts section of her site for useful information related to stocking your electronics projects.

Limor has started the Open Bench project to create a set of open source designs for the equipment an electronics hobbyist will need on the workbench. It is just getting started but watch it close. I hope to contribute to this effort myself, maybe with the SigGen1 project. If you have some ideas or designs for bench equipment it may be time for you to get involved.

I am sure we will all be hearing more from Limor as she helps bring electronics engineering to the public with open source efforts. Or course Phillip Torrone, O’Reily, and Make Magazine deserve major credit in this area as do many others. The open source design movement will be great to watch over the next few years.

AVR Programming Kits
Limor’s online shop is called adafruit industries. This shop offers several kits and bare PCBs, many of which are AVR Programmers. I think she has every angle covered with either a bare PCB or a full parts kit.

USBtinyISP AVR Programmer Kit – $22:
usbtinyisp MED This programmer works with several free software tools including AVR Studio and AVRDude. It will program and read the AVR microcontrollers much faster then the parallel port bit banging adaptor can. You can purchase a bare PCB for $5 and the ready to install uC for $4 to run it. All the other parts you should either have in your lab or can scrounge.

Parallel port AVR programmer Kit – $7.50:
parrdongleThis is basically the same design as the parallel port programmer I used in the recent article here. With this kit you can build a nicer version with a PCB to mount the parts. You probably have all the parts you need to build it from the bare PCB which is also available for $2.50

Serial Port AVR Programmer (DASA) Kit – $7.50:
dasaDon’t have a parallel port but still want something very inexpensive to program with? Try this kit. It is very similar to the parallel port programmer kit and will likely work about the same in terms of speed. It is an inexpensive solution for anyone with a serial port and no parallel port. Of course you can get the bare PCB for $2.50 and build it with the parts you probably already have. Like the Parallel kit above it really is just a few resistors and connectors. This one has two diodes as well.

As you can see adafruit has every angle of inexpensive AVR programming covered, from the very cheap serial or parallel programmers to the fast and versatile USB interfaced programmer. I plan to purchase the full USBtinyISP and the PCBs for the serial and parallel versions to play with for a follow up article.

Limor’s adafruit industries also has a selection of inexpensive kits including the MintyBoost which is a innovative USB device charger. I am getting the PCB and the Altoids tin I need to put this together as well. I know that playing with these items will be interesting and fun and I also know that my purchases from adafruit will help fuel the open source hardware movement.

6 vrs 10 Pin ICP header:
There seems to be two “standard” ICP connectors the 6 and the 10 pin. Many (maybe all) the programmers come with 10 pin connectors. This may be because 6 pin IDC cables are hard to find. Limor plans to put up a How-To to help with the confusion.

Comments Please
Would an adafruit Parallel or Serial port AVR programming kit be a good giveaway item for uCHobby? What other inexpensive Programming kits are out there? Other Open source hardware efforts?

Posted in Development Tools, Electronics Links, Microcontroller, Workshop Tools.

5 Responses

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  1. dfowler says


    I should post something soon. I do have the SigGen1 working. Am creating a lib to control the DDS

  2. Felixe says

    dfowler: Bode plots on a scope sounds like a great idea. Any articles about it coming soon?

    And about the ScopeClock, I also thought that writing code for using it as a LCD display on a scope screen would be useful and interesting.

  3. pK says

    ieAH! another greet article!
    Keep on the hard work 🙂

  4. dfowler says


    You are right, the MiniPov is well known.

    I was just looking over the AVR Clock.

    I was thinking that something like this might be used as a general purpose text/graphic display for lab use. Much like an LCD. I plan to buy one of the kits to play with.

    I was wondering if I should try to do something like this with SigGen1 to display Bode plots on an OScope. I have SigGen1 doing Bode plots with the help of the scope now.

  5. Felixe says

    I think you forgot to mention one of her most popular kits–the Minipov– which now is in version 3. For example, v2 could be programmed using a parallel port and v3 uses rs232 so you can get going with a USB-to-serial cable.

    Maybe those are good giveaway items. I have both and they’re great.

    And as another suggestion, it could be Dutchtronix’s AVR Clock, it’s a nice kit for having an analog clock displayed in your scope using its xy mode. That has certainly drawn a lot of attention in my lab and it’s $30 USD including shipping.