What are 3-cent microcontrollers good for?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/08/13/what-are-3-cent-microcontrolle.html

Can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of these?


The PMS150C seems like it has enough brains to run a simple sensor with a tiny bit of I/O. Probably perfect for smart switches or integrating into your security product at all of the endpoints. By pushing the smarts out to the edge you can simplify the protocol between the sensors and the controller, meaning potentially fewer wires and less energy loss.

The kind of people buying these chips are the ones who are planning to use literally a million of them in parts that cost the end user $2 or so.


It has limited use, but its cheap.

Three cents for a transistor is good, here you get a much more complex circuit. You could use this fir all kinds if things rathet than discrete transistors, flashers, timers, reset on power up. Not good for complicayed things, but useful for simple things.

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Dave at EEVBlog did a whole series of videos on this. Here is the first one. Really neat little device!

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Small, basically-free components like this make me think that it should be possible to order PCBs with the die embedded directly into the board. PCB places would just have a dozen or so stock parts (a tiny MCU, a shift register, etc) which you’d mark on your layout just like a drill hole or a via. Or at least, that seems like it would be neat from a hobbyist perspective.

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I can’t find an unencumbered link to the full document; but IPC-7092 suggests that there is some interest in this concept; albeit among parties who probably order boards for themselves by the zillion rather than sell them in small lots to hobbyists.


Well, the Surface Mount Technology Association and I have always shared a deep emotional bond, even if we haven’t really spoken since that whole Chad thing.

Yeah, that’s where I became aware of them. Never expected to see them here of all places.

More interesting I think are the sub $0.10 ones: https://cpldcpu.wordpress.com/2019/08/12/the-terrible-3-cent-mcu/

There’s a PIC12C509 clone in there. I’ve used a lot of those (well, 12F509), so I may just need to buy some of those. Never bought from LCSC before, but a lot of the electronics hobbiests that I watch on youtube have been using them recently. Along with JLPCB–who I think is related to LCSC somehow.

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What’s the reliability like?

Replying via email, so sorry if the formatting is poor.

I have never used them, but if you follow that link, the fellow has another article where he compares $0.10 and lower parts. It’s a really in depth write-up. I don’t remember the summary as it was very detailed.

Unless you mean microchip 12F509 chips. Those have been completely reliable as one would suspect. Microchip is very serious about having reliable parts. Their development tools are not so great.

More on the story elsewhere: https://www.cnx-software.com/2019/08/14/padauk-pms150c-3-cents-mcu-supports-sdcc-open-source-toolchain/

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