Unlike microprocessors, microcontrollers can be used all by themselves.

If you’re building a computer, then go ahead and use a microprocessor. But almost anything else that’s not entirely mechanical will probably need a microcontroller. Maybe even several. If it has buttons, then it can use a microcontroller. If it monitors temperature, or light, or position, then it can use a microcontroller. If it records information, or drives a display, or communicates with another device, then it can use a micro controller.

A microcontroller is really just a single chip containing a microprocessor, memory, and input and output ports. Most microcontrollers will have more components such as analog-to-digital converters, comparators, pulse-width modulation, and communications.

What you’re not going to find on a microcontroller are address lines or data lines. These are all contained inside the microcontroller. What’s exposed to the outside world is ready for you to use.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about the additional features as well as some examples of how you can use a microcontroller.