Program an ATtiny with an Arduino Nano

Many sites already described how to use the Arduino as a programmer for the ATtiny series, but as some people still have some problems with it, it won’t hurt to share my experience in doing this with an Arduino Nano.

The connection between the Arduino and the ATtiny is in essence the same, regardless of what Arduino one has. One needs to connect the ISP hearder between both chips. But for the UNO and the Nano there is a little addition in the form of a capacitor between  ground and the reset pin:
arduino_prog

Most circuits will show a 10uF electrolytic capacitor, but I used a 33uF elco and that worked perfectly.

In order to use the ATtiny 45 or 85 you need to download some software. For the Attiny13 there are other cores. If you are using the Attiny13 core you also need to create a boot.txt file
You will also find a core for the Attiny here. and a number of them here.

Now create a folder called ‘Hardware’ in the folder where your Arduino IDE saves it’s sketches. Unzip this file to the newly created hardware folder. If you had your Arduino IDE running, you need to close it and restart it so it can read the proper files.

Now do the following:

  • Connect Arduino Nano and Attiny85 as described above, but do not connect the capacitor yet.
  • Load the ‘Arduino as ISP sketch’
  • Disconnect USB
  • Insert capacitor
  • Reconnect USB
  • Load Attiny sketch of your choosing in the Arduino IDE (e.g. the ‘blink’ sketch)
  • Choose ‘ATtiny85 with Arduino as ISP’ in yr ‘Tools->boards’
  • Upload
  • Ignore the errors about PAGEL and BS2
  • Remove USB
  • Remove capacitor and at least the line to the reset of the Attiny (the one from pin 1)

Your sketch should now be correctly in your ATtiny.

Configuring the ATtiny to run at 8 MHz (for SoftwareSerial support)

By default, the ATtiny’s run at 1 MHz (the setting used by the unmodified “ATtiny45″, etc. board menu items). You need to do an extra step before the programming to configure the microcontroller to run at 8 MHz – necessary for use of the SoftwareSerial library. Once you have the microcontroller connected, select the appropriate item from the Boards menu (e.g. “ATtiny45 (8 MHz)”). Then, run the “Burn Bootloader” command from the Tools menu. This configures the fuse bits of the microcontroller so it runs at 8 MHz. Note that the fuse bits keep their value until you explicitly change them, so you’ll only need to do this step once for each microcontroller. (Note this doesn’t actually burn a bootloader onto the board; you’ll still need to upload new programs using an external programmer.)

With regard to writing a sketch for the ATtiny85, there is only a limited instruction set:

See also:

Programming an Attiny with Arduino 1.01.

TinyWireM & TinyWireS: Wire (I2C / TWI) library for the ATtiny85 (using USI)

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Timer interrupts

This article will discuss AVR and Arduino timers and how to use them in Arduino projects or custom AVR circuits.

What is a timer?

Like in real life, in microcontrollers a timer is something you set to trigger an alert at a certain point in the future. When that point arrives, that alert interrupts the microprocessor, reminding it to do something, like run a specific piece of code.

Timers, like external interrupts, run independently from your main program. Rather than running a loop or repeatedly calling millis(), you can let a timer do that work for you while your code does other things.

So suppose you have a device that needs to do something –like blink an LED every 5 seconds. If you are not using timers but just conventional code techniques, you’d have to set a variable with the next time the LED should blink, then check constantly to see if that time had arrived. With a timer interrupt, you can set up the interrupt, then turn on the timer. The LED will blink perfectly on time, regardless of what your main program was just doing

How do timers work?

Timers work by incrementing a counter variable known as a counter register. The counter register can count to a certain value, depending on its size (usually 8 bits or 16 bits). The timer increments this counter one step at a time until it reaches its maximum value, at which point the counter overflows, and resets back to zero. The timer normally sets a flag bit to let you know an overflow has occurred. This flag can be checked manually, or you can have the timer trigger an interrupt as soon as the flag is set. And as with any other interrupt, you can specify an Interrupt Service Routine (ISR) to run your own code when the timer overflows. The ISR will automatically reset the overflow flag, so using interrupts is usually your best option for simplicity and speed.

To increment the counter value at regular intervals, the timer must have a clock source.  The clockprovides a consistent signal.  Every time the timer detects this signal, it increases its counter by one.

Since timers are dependent on the clock source, the smallest measurable unit of time will be the period of the clock.  If you provide a 16 MHz clock signal to a timer, the timer resolution (or timer period) is:

T = 1 / f  (f is the clock frequency)
T = 1 /(16* 10^6)
T = (0.0625 * 10^-6) s

The timer resolution thus is 0.0625 millionth of a second.

For 8 MHz this would be 0.125 millionth of a second

and for 1 MHz exactly one millionth of a second

You can supply an external clock source for use with timers, but usually the chip’s internal clock is used as the clock source. The 16 MHz crystal that is usually part of a setup for an Atmega328 can be considered as part of the internal clock.

Different timers

In the standard Arduino variants or the 8-bit AVR chips, there are several timers at your disposal.

The ATmega8, ATmega168 and ATmega328 have three timers: Timer0, Timer1, and Timer2. They also have a watchdog timer, which can be used as a safeguard or a software reset mechanism. The Mega series has 3 additional timers.

Timer0

Timer0 is an 8-bit timer, meaning its counter register can record a maximum value of 255 (the same as an unsigned 8-bit byte). Timer0 is used by native Arduino timing functions such as delay() and millis(), so unless you know what you are doing, timer 0 is best left alone.

Timer1

Timer1 is a 16-bit timer, with a maximum counter value of 65535 (an unsigned 16-bit integer). The Arduino Servo library uses this timer, so keep that in mind if you use this timer in your projects.

Timer2

Timer2 is an 8-bit timer that is very similar to Timer0. It is used by the Arduino tone() function.

Timer3, Timer4, Timer5

The AVR ATmega1280 and ATmega2560 (found in the Arduino Mega variants) have an additional three timers.  These are all 16-bit timers, and function similarly to Timer1.

Configuring the timer register

In order to use these timers the built-in timer registers on the AVR chip that store timer settings need to be configured.  There are a number of registers per timer.  Two of these registers –the Timer/Counter Control Registers- hold setup values, and are called TCCRxA and TCCRxB, where x is the timer number (TCCR1A and TCCR1B, etc.).   Each register holds 8 bits, and each bit stores a configuration value.  The ATmega328 datasheet specifies those as follows:

TCCR1A
Bit 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 TCCR1A
0x80 COM1A1 COM1A0 COM1B1 COM1B0 WGM11 WGM10
ReadWrite RW RW RW RW R R RW RW
Initial Value 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TCCR1B
Bit 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 TCCR1B
0x81 ICNC1 ICES1 WGM13 WGM12 CS12 CS11 CS10
ReadWrite R/W R/W R R/W R/W R/W R/W R/w
Initial Value 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

The most important settings are the last three bits in TCCR1B, CS12, CS11, and CS10.  These determine the timer clock setting.  By setting these bits in various combinations, you can make the timer run at different speeds.  This table shows the required settings:

Clock Select bit description
CS12 CS11 CS10 Description
0 0 0 No clock source (Timer/Counter stopped)
0 0 1 clki/o/1 (No prescaling)
0 1 0 clki/o/8 (From Prescaler)
0 1 1 clki/o/64 (From Prescaler)
1 0 0 clki/o/256 (From Prescaler)
1 0 1 clki/o/1024 (From Prescaler)
1 1 0 External clock source on T1 pin. Clock on falling edge
1 1 1 External clock source on T1 pin. Clock on rising edge

By default, these bits are set to zero.  Suppose you want to have Timer1 run at clock speed, with one count per clock cycle.  When it overflows, you want to run an Interrupt Service Routine (ISR) that toggles a LED tied to pin 13 on or off. Below you will find the Arduino code for this example, for completeness I use avr-libc routines wherever they don’t make things overly complicated.

First, initialize the timer:

// avr-libc library includes
#include <avr/io.h>
#include <avr/interrupt.h>
#define LEDPIN 13

void setup()
{
pinMode(LEDPIN, OUTPUT);
// initialize Timer1
cli();         // disable global interrupts
TCCR1A = 0;    // set entire TCCR1A register to 0
TCCR1B = 0;    // set entire TCCR1B register to 0 
               // (as we do not know the initial  values) 

// enable Timer1 overflow interrupt:
TIMSK1 | = (1 << TOIE1); //Atmega8 has no TIMSK1 but a TIMSK register

// Set CS10 bit so timer runs at clock speed: (no prescaling)
TCCR1B |= (1 << CS10); // Sets bit CS10 in TCCR1B
// This is achieved by shifting binary 1 (0b00000001)
// to the left by CS10 bits. This is then bitwise
// OR-ed into the current value of TCCR1B, which effectively set
// this one bit high. Similar: TCCR1B |= _BV(CS10);

// enable global interrupts:
sei();
}

The register TIMSK1 is the Timer/Counter1 Interrupt Mask Register. It controls which interrupts the timer can trigger. Setting the TOIE1 bit (=Timer1 Overflow Interrupt Enable) tells the timer to trigger an interrupt when the timer overflows. It can also be set to other bits to trigger other interrupts. More on that later.

When you set the CS10 bit, the timer is running, and since an overflow interrupt is enabled, it will call the ISR(TIMER1_OVF_vect) whenever the timer overflows.

Next define the ISR:

ISR(TIMER1_OVF_vect)
{

digitalWrite(LEDPIN, !digitalRead(LEDPIN));
// or use: PORTB ^= _BV(PB5);// PB5 =pin 19 is digitalpin 13
}

Now you can define loop() and the LED will toggle on and off regardless of what’s happening in the main program. To turn the timer off, set TCCR1B = 0 at any time.

How fast will the LED blink with this code?

Timer1 is set to interrupt on an overflow, so if you are using an ATmega328 with a 16MHz clock. Since Timer1 is 16 bits, it can hold a maximum value of (2^16 – 1), or 65535. At 16MHz, we’ll go through one clock cycle every 1/(16*10^6) seconds, or 6.25*10-8 s. That means 65535 timer counts will pass in (65535 * 6.25*10-8s) and the ISR will trigger in  about 0.0041 seconds. Then again and again, every four thousandths of a second after that. That is too fast to see it blink. If anything, we’ve created an extremely fast PWM signal for the LED that’s running at a 50% duty cycle, so it may appear to be constantly on but dimmer than normal. An experiment like this shows the amazing power of microprocessors – even an inexpensive 8-bit chip can process information far faster than we can detect.

Timer prescaling and preloading

To control this you can also set the timer to use a prescaler, which allows you to divide your clock signal by various powers of two, thereby increasing your timer period.  For example, if you want the LED blink at one second intervals. In the TCCR1B register, there are three CS bits to set a better timer resolution.  If you set CS10 and CS12 using:

TCCR1B |= (1 << CS10); and TCCR1B |= (1 << CS12);, the clock source is divided by 1024. This gives a timer resolution of 1/(16*10⁶ / 1024), or 0.000064 seconds (15625 Hz). Now the timer will overflow every (65535 * 6.4*10-5s), or 4.194s.

If you would set only CS12 using TCCR1B |=(1<<CS12); (or just TCCR1B=4), the clock source is divided by 256. This gives a timer resolution of 1/(16*10⁶/256), or 0.000016 sec (62500 Hz) and the timer will overflow every (65535 *0.000016=) 1.04856 sec.

Suppose you do not want an 1.04856 sec interval but a 1 sec interval. It is clear to see that if the counter wasn’t 65535 but 62500 (being equal to the frequency), the timer would be set at 1sec. The counter thus is 65535-62500=3035 too high. To have more precise 1 second timer we need to change only one thing – timer’s start value saved by  TCNT1 register (Timer Counter ). We do this with TCNT1=0x0BDC; BDC being the hex value of 3035. A Value of 34286 for instance would give 0.5 sec ((65535-34286)/62500)

The code looks as follows:

// avr-libc library includes
#include <avr/io.h> //  can be omitted
#include <avr/interrupt.h> // can be omitted
#define LEDPIN 13
/* or use
DDRB = DDRB | B00100000;  // this sets pin 5  as output                       // without changing the value of the other
                         // pins 
*/
void setup()
{
pinMode(LEDPIN, OUTPUT);

// initialize Timer1
cli();         // disable global interrupts
TCCR1A = 0;    // set entire TCCR1A register to 0
TCCR1B = 0;    // set entire TCCR1A register to 0

// enable Timer1 overflow interrupt:
TIMSK1 |= (1 << TOIE1);
// Preload with value 3036
//use 64886 for 100Hz
//use 64286 for 50 Hz
//use 34286 for 2 Hz
TCNT1=0x0BDC;
// Set CS10 bit so timer runs at clock speed: (no prescaling)
TCCR1B |= (1 << CS12); // Sets bit CS12 in TCCR1B
// This is achieved by shifting binary 1 (0b00000001)
// to the left by CS12 bits. This is then bitwise
// OR-ed into the current value of TCCR1B, which effectively set
// this one bit high. Similar: TCCR1B |= _BV(CS12);
//  or: TCCR1B= 0x04;

// enable global interrupts:
sei();
}

ISR(TIMER1_OVF_vect)
{
digitalWrite(LEDPIN, !digitalRead(LEDPIN));
TCNT1=0x0BDC; // reload the timer preload
}

void loop() {}

CTC

But there’s another mode of operation for AVR timers. This mode is called Clear Timer on Compare Match, or CTC. Instead of counting until an overflow occurs, the timer compares its count to a value that was previously stored in a register. When the count matches that value, the timer can either set a flag or trigger an interrupt, just like the overflow case.

To use CTC, you need to figure out how many counts you need to get to a one second interval. Assuming we keep the 1024 prescaler as before, we’ll calculate as follows:

(target time) = (timer resolution) * (# timer counts + 1)

and rearrange to get

 

(# timer counts + 1) = (target time) / (timer resolution)
(# timer counts + 1) = (1 s) / (6.4e-5 s)
(# timer counts + 1) = 15625
(# timer counts) = 15625 - 1 = 15624

You have to add the extra +1 to the number of timer counts because in CTC mode, when the timer matches the desired count it will reset itself to zero. This takes one clock cycle to perform, so that needs to be factored into the calculations. In many cases, one timer tick isn’t a huge deal, but if you have a time-critical application it can make all the difference in the world.

Now the setup() function to configure the timer for these settings is as follows:

void setup()
{

pinMode(LEDPIN, OUTPUT); // you have to define the LEDPIN as say 13
                         // or so earllier in yr program
// initialize Timer1
cli();          // disable global interrupts
TCCR1A = 0;     // set entire TCCR1A register to 0
TCCR1B = 0;     // same for TCCR1B

// set compare match register to desired timer count:
OCR1A = 15624;

// turn on CTC mode:
TCCR1B |= (1 << WGM12);

// Set CS10 and CS12 bits for 1024 prescaler:
TCCR1B |= (1 << CS10);
TCCR1B |= (1 << CS12);

// enable timer compare interrupt:
TIMSK1 |= (1 << OCIE1A);
sei();          // enable global interrupts
}

And you need to replace the overflow ISR with a compare match version:

 

ISR(TIMER1_COMPA_vect)
{
digitalWrite(LEDPIN, !digitalRead(LEDPIN));
}

The LED will now blink on and off at precisely one second intervals. And you are free to do anything you want in loop(). As long as you don’t change the timer settings, it won’t interfere with the interrupts. With different mode and prescaler settings, there’s no limit to how you use timers.

Here’s the complete example in case you’d like to use it as a starting point for your own project.

// Arduino timer CTC interrupt example
//
// avr-libc library includes
#include <avr/io.h>
#include <avr/interrupt.h>
#define LEDPIN 13
void setup()
{
pinMode(LEDPIN, OUTPUT);
// initialize Timer1
cli();          // disable global interrupts
TCCR1A = 0;     // set entire TCCR1A register to 0
TCCR1B = 0;     // same for TCCR1B

// set compare match register to desired timer count:
OCR1A = 15624;

// turn on CTC mode:
TCCR1B |= (1 << WGM12);

// Set CS10 and CS12 bits for 1024 prescaler:
TCCR1B |= (1 << CS10);
TCCR1B |= (1 << CS12);

// enable timer compare interrupt:
TIMSK1 |= (1 << OCIE1A);

// enable global interrupts:
sei();
}

void loop()
{
// main program
}

ISR(TIMER1_COMPA_vect)
{
digitalWrite(LEDPIN, !digitalRead(LEDPIN));
}

Remember that you can use the built-in ISRs to extend timer functionality. For example, if you wanted to read a sensor every 10 seconds, there’s no timer set-up that can go this long without overflowing. However, you can use the ISR to increment a counter variable in your program once per second, then read the sensor when the variable hits 10. Using the same CTC setup as in our previous example, the ISR would look something like this:

 

ISR(TIMER1_COMPA_vect)
{
seconds++;
if(seconds == 10)
{
seconds = 0;
readSensor();
}
}

For a variable to be modified within an ISR, it is good custom to declare it as volatile. In this case, you need to declare volatile byte seconds; or similar at the start of the program.

A word on the Atmega8

The Atmega8 seems to give people problems with use of the timers, one reason is that it doesn’t have a TIMSK1 register (in fact it doesnt have a TIMSKn register), it does have a TIMSK register though that is shared amongst the 3 timers. As I do not have an Atmega8 (like the early Arduino NG) I can not test it, but if you encounter problems, the following programs will help:

// this code sets up counter0 with interrupts enabled on an Atmega8
// beware, it may generate  errors in Arduino IDE 
// as 'milis' uses timer0 
#include <avr/io.h>
#include <avr/io.h>

void setup()
{
DDRD &= ~(1 << DDD4); // Clear the PD4 pin
// PD0 is now an input

PORTD |= (1 << PORTD4); // turn On the Pull-up
// PD4 is now an input with pull-up enabled

TIMSK |= (1 << TOIE0); // enable timer interrupt

TCCR0 |= (1 << CS02) | (1 << CS01) | (1 << CS00);
// Turn on the counter, Clock on Rise

sei();
}
void loop()
{
// Stuff
}


ISR (TIMER0_OVF_vect)
{
// interrupt just fired, do stuff
}

A 1 sec flasher using the timer 1 CTC mode for the Atmega 8 would look like this:

 

void setup()
{     
pinMode(13,OUTPUT);
/* or use:
DDRB = DDRB | B00100000;  // this sets pin 5  as output
                       // without changing the value of the other pins 
*/
// Disable interrupts while loading registers
cli();
// Set the registers
TCCR1A = 0; //Timer Counter Control register
// Set mode
TCCR1B = (1 << WGM12); // turn on CTC mode
// Set prescale values (1024). (Could be done in same statement
// as setting the WGM12 bit.)
TCCR1B |= (1 << CS12) | (1 << CS10);
//Enable timer compare interrupt===> TIMSK1 for ATmega328, 
//TIMSK for ATmega8
TIMSK |= (1 << OCIE1A);
// Set OCR1A
OCR1A = 15624;
// Enable global interrupts
sei();
}
void loop(){}
ISR (TIMER1_COMPA_vect) {
   digitalWrite(13, !digitalRead(13));
   //PORTB ^= _BV(PB5); // as digitalWrite(13,x) is an Arduino 
   //function, direct writing to the port may be preferable
}

It is obvious that this is very akin to the CTC program presented earlier for the Atmega328 and in fact will work on the Atmega238 as well by renaming ‘TIMSK’ to ‘TIMSK1’

Other Atmega chips:

TCCR0 should be TCCR0A in ATmega164P/324P/644

Attiny

The Attiny series has timer interrupts too. This code sets up a 50uS timer in CTC mode on the Attiny85 (pag 79 datasheet)

TCCR0A = (1 << WGM01);   //CTC mode. set WGM01
TCCR0B = (2 << CS00);    //divide by 8  sets 
OCR0A = F_CPU/8 * 0.000050 - 1;    // 50us compare value
TIMSK |= (1<<OCIE0A);              //set interrupt

ISR(TIMER0_COMPA_vect)
{
                                   // code of choice!
}

More on timers here

here

here

here

here

here

here

 

pwm generation by timers

here (Atmega8)

Atmega8 Datasheet

Atmega328 Datasheet