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I have received a number of emails from readers who are learning about microprocessors in their course of study.
I cannot give a single, complete, answer to this question but here are a few points to remember:
In many instances, microprocessor-designs have been superseded by microcontroller designs.
Microcontrollers are quite often cheaper to implement, take up less board space and deliver much more kudos as the project is more "up-to-date."
After all, the courses you are studying now must be up-to-the-minute as the market is changing very rapidly.
There is nothing more antiquated than seeing a microprocessor in a project, with all its ancillary chips, whereas a microcontroller is now capable of replacing a board full of components.
I would seriously question the need to study "old-technology" as new devices are half the size, half the price, double the speed and double the capability.
Don't forget, anything you are studying should still be "in-focus" in a few years time.
Broadly speaking, any course you are undertaking should include a coverage of microcontrollers, starting from the simplest and including some of the more-complex types.
I cannot speak too strongly for the miracle of the microcontroller. It is an incredible concept. Everything you need for most projects is contained within a single chip and is one of the most rewarding areas you can pursue.
has developed a program to show you how to start in this field.
TEI contains many microcontroller projects and the subscriber section continues with a course called PIC Microcontroller Course.
There are literally hundreds of applications for control-circuits. We see them around us in every-day use.  Garage-door openers, alarms, toys, lighting sequencers, etc. But there are lots of new areas, especially in the home-care medical field. With the advancement of the internet it is possible to connect between patient and doctor on a daily or hourly basis to monitor all forms of activity. This is where new interfacing devices are needed.
The same applies to timers and controllers in industry. Even automatic timers in shops for cooking, heating and frying.
The problem is: "where to start?"
Our course starts you with the smallest re-programmable microcontroller on the market - the PIC16F84A. It's a single chip that can take the place of up to 6-10 individual chips and and once you see what we have done with it, you will be able to put your own ideas into a design.
For designs requiring only a few input/output lines (up to 6), a smaller microcontroller (PIC12C508A) is available. Both chips come in a surface-mount version so that really small credit-card size projects can be created, using lithium cells that virtually slip into the edge of the PC board.
You could create an automatic parking-meter card that sits on the dashboard and pays the fee. Interrogation can be preformed by the parking officer via a transmitting feature to confirm the device is operating. Payment is made via a "top-up fee" at any convenience store.
You could create an automatic timer-controller-sequencer for the Lego train system. Just think of an application you need and consider that hundreds of others may have the same need.
Who would think that the "super soaker" would sell 10,000,000. It's just a nozzle on the end of a hose to let your children play in the "rain" during summer-time.
We have chosen the PIC microcontroller as there is a lot of information on the internet and in text books. But nothing has been aimed at the "starting-point."
Our course gets you started. The PIC MICROCONTROLLER COURSE explains all you need to know. See the first 6 pages in the PIC COURSE on the left and you will see how clearly we have laid everything out.

In the next Discussion, we have outlined how to design a project around a PIC12C508A. This is a small version of the PIC16F84A.

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