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Trying out the Program-O-Tron

Posted by Matthew Little on

The Program-O-Tron was a Kickstarter product from Proto-Pic, an online microcontroller and kit supplier. It costs £54 to buy now and is available from their online store.

I thought it would be really useful for programming the microcontrollers included in some of my kits (mainly the ATTiny85 and the ATMega328).

It comes as an almost complete board (SMD has all been done) with just the switches and ZIF socket to solder in.

Getting started, I first went to the main page for this device on the Proto-Pic website.

The main user guide is available here. The unit was dead easy to get started. It needs an SD card to save the hex and fuse files to. I thought I'd try out programming the code for the TV-B-Gone kit. I put in a blank ATTiny85 and pressed 'copy'. I then checked out the files stored to the SD card.

It had created two files one called 'file.HEX' and one called 'file.FUS'. As you might be able to figure out, the .HEX file holds the HEX file of the program code and the .FUS file contains the fuse bits and lock settings.

There are six buttons and, when pressed, they upload the .HEX and .FUS files stored as '1.HEX' and '1.FUS' for button 1 and so on.

I put the TV-B-Gone hex file onto the SD card and re-named it 1.HEX.

I needed to know the fuse settings for the ATTiny85 TV-B-Gone code. To do this I used my AVR Dragon to set the fuses and figure out the high, low and extended fuse settings and the lock settings. This can also be calculated using an online calculator such as this. The settings for an ATTiny85 with an external 3-8MHz oscillator and no divide by 8 on the clock settings were: Extended: FF, High: DF, Low: FD, Lock: FF. These were put into the 1.FUS file in the correct order (high, low, extened, lock).

The above is from the user guide.

This is an example .FUS text file (NOT my settings!).

This was saved onto the SD card and returned to the Program-A-Tron. I put in a blank ATTin85 and pressed button 1. It flashed green to say it was uploading and then to say success. I then put it into my test TV-B-Gone and it all worked well! Really quite and easy way of doing bulk uploads to AVR microcontrollers. This will save me loads of time!

I also created a base plate that can be cut out of acrylic on a laser cutter. This is available as a .svg here and as a .dxf here. I'll upload a photo when I've cut one out and put it together.

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