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Moving on up

With 64bit microcontrollers beginning to appear on the market, should you be tempted to consider designing them in? By Graham Pitcher.

There has been a debate for many years about just how powerful the microcontroller in an embedded system needs to be. The market has essentially ranged between two extremes: at one end of the spectrum are those who could be described as minimalists, advocating the use of microcontrollers which do the job and nothing else. At the other end are those who could be described as early adopters, whose rationale is to use the biggest and the best because it's there. And in between, fall the majority of design engineers.

Even two years ago, there was little interest in exploring the higher end of the microcontroller market. Many embedded systems, whatever their shape, were served very well by the 4bit controller. At a pinch, designers could be convinced of the need for an 8bit part.

But the picture is changing rapidly. Advances in technology mean microcontrollers are being produced on some of the latest processes, bringing more power at very little, if any, extra cost. Now, 16, 32 and even 64bit microcontrollers are on the market and are being designed in. If you're not one of the early adopters, should you be thinking about a bigger microcontroller?

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Graham Pitcher

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