Sunday, January 13, 2013

Adafruit Standalone AVR ISP Programmer Shield Kit [Review]

I've become somewhat of an Arduino guy. The popularity of the Arduino platform over the last few years makes me think that I might not be only one that’s been taken with these little development boards. Somewhere along the way I decided that making my own Arduinos is not only a decent learning experience, but it’s cost effective and allows me to integrate Arduinos directly into my projects.

One of the things that makes an Arduino an Arduino is that it interfaces with the Arduino integrated development environment (IDE). This is accomplished by a small program loaded on the Arduino’s microcontroller called a bootloader. The microcontroller that the Arduino Uno uses, the Atmel ATMega328, is readily available through a number of electronics retailers, but they don’t come preloaded with the Arduino bootloader. Some retailers sell chips with bootloaders on them, but if you’re building your Arduinos with blank chips, you’ll need something like the Adafruit Standalone AVR ISP Programmer Shield to put the bootloader on the chip.

I enjoy putting electronics kits together and Adafruit kits tend to be well documented. This kit is no different. The build instructions are clear and well presented as usual. The Standalone AVR ISP Programmer is built on a “proto-shield”  which has a breadboard like layout on an Arduino shield. Because this kit doesn't use a custom circuit board, a bit of wiring is required. I’m not a huge fan of cutting, stripping, and soldering wires but so it goes. Putting it together didn't take very long and was a fun build for the most part.

If you need to burn bootloaders onto one or two AVRs, there’s other ways to do it. For my needs, it doesn't get any better than the Adafruit Standalone AVR ISP Programmer Shield Kit. When you get down to the actual AVR programing all you have to do is drop the chip in the ZIF socket, close the bail, and push a button. The Standalone Programmer makes doing a few chips every now and then incredibly easy. Not that I’d ever need to program a ton of chips, but I’m sure I could do a thousand or so in an hour. The Standalone AVR Programmer Shield is a very handy tool to have laying around the workbench.

Metalized anti-static packaging

The Adafruit Standalone AVR ISP Programmer Kit (what a name)

Standalone programmer riding on an Arduino Uno

Proto-shield PCB

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