I got my Adafruit USBTinyISP AVR programmer/SPI Interface/USB Bitbang Device kit today, and was compelled to immediately assemble and test it. The USBTinyISP is an excellent product; it is considerably cheaper than the official Atmel AVR programmer, just as functional, and supports a fellow qualified hobbyist. I’ve been meaning to pick up my own AVR programmer for a while, as having a programmer and a stock of cheap microcontrollers (I also recently picked up half a dozen adorable ATTiny13 chips to use with it to give my SmartLEDs idea a shot) enables all kinds of cool projects, that do not involve “find one of the programmers on campus” or “Use the department’s Arduino Dieciemilia that I haven’t returned.”
The USBTinyISP comes as a very nice kit, which includes all the component parts including a nice case and well-made PCB.
In the picture, in addition to the included parts, you can see my trusty Xytronic 379 Soldering Station, for which I have nothing but praise (if you think you need one of those classic blue Weller WES51 stations, you really need one of these, its a better station and costs half as much). In the left of the frame you can see my Leatherman Wave, which I cooed about a few days ago. It just happened to be in the picture, I use an ancient pair of thin-profile pliers (now sold as the Xcelite 378, highly, highly recommended) I inherited from my mother when I am working on electronics at home.
I consider myself reasonably competent with a soldering iron, and it took me a little under an hour to go from holding a mailer pouch to programming a chip, with no fuckups in between, which speaks well for the quality of the instructions, the kit, and the thinking that went into them. There are a few interesting quirks in the design; several resistors mount vertically to the PCB, the large electrolytic capacitor is intentionally mounted so it rests on top of the TTL buffer. These are both space-saving measures, and anyone who has ever seen most of the things I throw together on perfboard knows I have a high esteem for nifty tight designs.
Using the completed programmer is just the same as all the other models of AVR programmer. For software I use AVRDude, since it is well-supported on all common platforms. Below is a shot of my first successful program (or actually, readout) of a chip.
That tiny black thing on the breadboard surrounded by the brightly colored wires is one of the aforementioned ATTiny13 chips; I paid $1.95ea for those, and it really is an entirely capable little microcontroller. The incessant march of technological progress never ceases to amaze me. Sometime soon I’ll need to make a little target board that can socket the ATTiny13s and has a plug for the 6-pin connector so I don’t have to muck about with loose wires every time.

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1 Response to USBTinyISP

  1. Megan Gray says:

    I am always really impressed when I see something like this since I am not that good in constructing things. Nice done!

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