8051/PIC > Architecture and programming of 8051 MCU's - Chapter 6 : Examples

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BASIC4MCU | 8051/PIC | 8051 | Architecture and programming of 8051 MCU's - Chapter 6 : Examples

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Chapter 6 : Examples


The purpose of this chapter is to provide basic information about microcontrollers that one needs to know in order to be able to use them successfully in practice. This is why this chapter doesn't contain any super interesting program or device schematic with amazing solutions. Instead, the following examples are better proof that program writing is neither a privilege nor a talent issue, but the ability of simply putting puzzle pieces together using directives. Rest assured that design and development of devices mainly consists of the following method “test-correct-repeat”. Of course, the more you are in it, the more complicated it becomes since the puzzle pieces are put together by both children and first-class architects...

6.1 Basic connecting

Basic connecting - Power Supply

As seen in the figure above, in order to enable the microcontroller to operate properly it is necessary to provide:

  • Power supply:
  • Reset signal: and
  • Clock signal.

Clearly, it is about very simple circuits, but it does not have to be always like that. If the target device is used for controlling expensive machines or maintaining vital functions, everything gets increasingly complicated. However, this solution is sufficient for the time being...

Power supply

Even though this microcontroller can operate at different power supply voltages, why to test “Murphy’s low”?! A 5V DC is most commonly used. The circuit, shown in the figure, uses a cheap integrated three-terminal positive regulator LM7805, and provides high-quality voltage stability and quite enough current to enable the microcontroller and peripheral electronics to operate normally (enough current in this case means 1Amp).

Reset signal

In order that the mucrocontroller can operate properly, a logic 0 (0V) must be applied to the reset pin RS. The push button connecting the reset pin RS to power supply VCC is not necessary. However, it is almost always provided because it enables the microcontroller safe return to normal operating conditions if something goes wrong. 5V is brought to this pin, the microcontroller is reset and program starts execution from the beginning.

Clock signal

Even though the microcontroller has a built-in oscillator, it cannot operate without two external capacitors and quartz crystal which stabilize its operation and determines its frequency (operating speed of the microcontroller).

Clock signal

Of course, it is not always possible to apply this solution so that there are always alternative ones. One of them is to provide clock signal from a special source through invertor. See the figure on the left.

6.2 Additional components

Regardless of the fact that the microcontroller is a product of modern technology, it is of no use without being connected to additional components. Simply put, the appearance of voltage on its pins means nothing if not used for performing certain operations (turn something on/off, shift, display etc.).

Switches and Push buttons

There are no simpler devices than switches and push-buttons. This is the simplest way of detecting appearance of a voltage on the microcontroller input pin.

Switches and Pushbuttons

Nevertheless, it is not so simple in practice... It is about contact bounce- a common problem with m e c h a n i c a l switches. When the contacts strike together, their momentum and elasticity act together to cause bounce. The result is a rapidly pulsed electrical current instead of a clean transition from zero to full current. It mostly occurs due to vibrations, slight rough spots and dirt between contacts. This effect is usually unnoticeable when using these components in everyday life because the bounce happens too quickly. In other words, the whole this process does not last long (a few micro- or miliseconds), but it is long enough to be registered by the microcontroller. When using only a push-button as a pulse counter, errors occur in almost 100% of cases!

RC Debounce

The simplest solution to this problem is to connect a simple RC circuit to suppress quick voltage changes. Since the bounce period is not defined, the values of components are not precisely determined. In most cases, it is recomended to use the values shown in figure below.

If complete stability is needed then radical measures should be taken. The output of the circuit, shown in figure (RS flip-flop), will change its logic state only after detecting the first pulse triggered by contact bounce. This solution is expensive (SPDT switch), but effecient, the problem is definitely solved. Since the capacitor is not used, very short pulses can also be registered in this way.

Filp Flop Debounce

In addition to these hardware solutions, there is also a simple software solution. When a program tests the state of an input pin and detects a change, the check should be done one more time after a certain delay. If the change is confirmed, it means that a switch or push button has changed its position. The advantages of such solution are obvious: it is free of charge, effects of noises are eliminated and it can be applied to the poorer quality contacts as well. Disadvantage is the same as when using RC filter, i.e. pulses shorter than program delay cannot be registered.



An optocoupler is a device commonly used to galvanically separate microcontroller’s electronics from any potentially dangerous current or voltage in its surroundings. Optocouplers usually have one, two or four light sources (LED diodes) on their input while on their output, opposite to diodes, there is the same number of elements sensitive to light (phototransistors, photo-thyristors or photo-triacs). The point is that an optocoupler uses a short optical transmission path to transfer a signal between the elements of circuit, while keeping them electrically isolated. This isolation makes sense only if diodes and photo-sensitive elements are separately powered. In this way, the microcontroller and expensive additional electronics are completely protected from high voltage and noises which are the most common cause of destroying, damaging or unstable operation of electronic devices in practice. The most frequently used optocouplers are those with phototransistors on their outputs. When using the optocoupler with internal base-to-pin 6 connection (there are also optocouplers without it), the base can be left unconnected. An optional connection which lessens the effects of noises by eliminating very short pulses is presented by the broken line in the figure.



A relays is an electrical switch that opens and closes under control of another electrical circuit. It is therefore connected to ouput pins of the microcontroller and used to turn on/off high-power devices such as motors, transformers, heaters, bulbs, antenna systems etc. These are almost always placed away from the board sensitive components. There are various types of relays but all of them operate in the same way. When a current flows through the coil, the relay is operated by an electromagnet to open or close one or many sets of contacts. Similar to optocouplers, there is no galvanic connection (electrical contact) between input and output circuits. Relays usually demand both higher voltage and current to start operation, but there are also miniature ones which can be activated by a low current directly obtained from a microcontroller pin.

The figure shows the solution specific to the 8051 microcontroller. A darlington transistor is used here to activate relays because of its high current gain. This is not in accordance with “rules”, but is necessary in the event that logic one activation is applied since the output current is then very low (pin acts as an input).

Basic connecting of the microcontroller - Relays

In order to prevent the appearance of self-induction high voltage, caused by a sudden stop of current flow through the coil, an inverted polarized diode is connected in parallel to the coil. The purpose of this diode is to “cut off” the voltage peak.

Light-emitting diode (LED)

Light-emitting diodes are elements for light signalization in electronics. They are manufactured in different shapes, colors and sizes. For their low price, low power consumption and simple use, they have almost completely pushed aside other light sources, bulbs at first place. They perform similar to common diodes with the difference that they emit light when current flows through them.

Light-emitting diode

It is important to limit their current, otherwise they will be permanently destroyed. For this reason, a conductor must be connected in parallel to an LED. In order to determine value of this conductor, it is necessary to know diode’s voltage drop in forward direction, which depends on what material a diode is made from and what colour it is. Typical values of the most frequently used diodes are shown in table below. As seen, there are three main types of LEDs. Standard ones get ful brightness at current of 20mA. Low Current diodes get ful brightness at ten times lower current while Super Bright diodes produce more intensive light than Standard ones.

RedSuper Bright20301.85
RedLow Current2301.7
GreenLow Current2202.1
Low current LED

Since the 8051 microcontroller can provide only low output current and since its pins are configured as outputs when voltage provided on them is 0V, direct connecting to LEDs is performed as shown in figure on the right (Low current LED, cathode is connected to the output pin).

LED displays

Basically, an LED display is nothing more than several LEDs moulded in the same plastic case. There are many types of displays composed of several dozens of built in diodes which can display different symbols.

LED displays

Most commonly used is a so called 7-segment display. It is composed of 8 LEDs, 7 segments are arranged as a rectangle for symbol displaying and there is an additional segment for decimal point displaying. In order to simplify connecting, anodes and catodes of all diodes are connected to the common pin so that there are common anode displays and common catode displays, respectively. Segments are marked with the latters from A to G, plus dp, as shown in the figure on the left. On connecting, each diode is treated separtely, which means that each must have its own current limiting resistor.

Displays connected to the microcontroller usually occupy a large number of valuable I/O pins, which can be a big problem especially if it is needed to display multy digit numbers. The problem is more than obvious if, for example, it is needed to display two 6-digit numbers (a simple calculation shows that 96 output pins are needed in this case). The solution to this problem is called MULTIPLEXING. This is how an optical illusion based on the same operating principle as a film camera is made. Only one digit is active at a time, but they change their state so quickly making impression that all digits of a number are simultaneously active.

Basic connecting of the microcontroller - LED displays

Here is an explanation on the figure above. First a byte representing units is applied on a microcontroller port and a transistor T1 is activated at the same time. After a while, the transistor T1 is turned off, a byte representing tens is applied on a port and a transistor T2 is activated. This process is being cyclically repeated at high speed for all digits and corresponding transistors.

The fact that the microcontroller is just a kind of miniature computer designed to understand only the language of zeros and ones is fully expressed when displaying any digit. Namely, the microcontroller doesn't know what units, tens or hundreds are, nor what ten digits we are used to look like. Therefore, each number to be displayed must be prepared in the following way:

First of all, a multy digit number must be split into units, tens etc. in a particular subroutine. Then each of these digits must be stored in special bytes. Digits get familiar format by performing “masking”. In other words, a binary format of each digit is replaced by a different combination of bits in a simple subroutine. For example, the digit 8 (0000 1000) is replaced by the binary number 0111 111 in order to activate all LEDs displaying digit 8. The only diode remaining inactive in this case is reserved for the decimal point. If a microcontroller port is connected to the display in such a way that bit 0 activates segment “a”, bit 1 activates segment “b”, bit 2 segment “c” etc., then the table below shows the “mask” for each digit.

Masking LED displays

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