PICs are now one of the most widely used microcontrollers. Like
all micros, they greatly simplify many electronic designs, are reconfigurable in
the field and allow projects that would be unwieldy or overly complex without
them. In addition, extra features can often be added retrospectively to the
Although the PIC family of microcontrollers is well known (we
have published many projects that employ PICs), Microchip also manufactures the
lesser-known dsPIC30F series of microcontrollers.
These are microcontrollers with similar peripherals to those
found on standard PICs but which have an enhanced instruction set augmented with
DSP (digital signal processing) type operations. They are 16-bit
microcontrollers and are surprisingly powerful, running at speeds in the tens of
MIPs (millions of instructions per second).
Dedicated single-cycle DSP operations like MAC (multiply and
accumulate) allow them to perform real-time signal processing using multiple
40-bit accumulators. They also incorporate hardware multiplication and division
and have surprisingly fast ADC acquisition modes. These features make them
well-suited to many digital signal processing applications.
One such device, the dsPIC30F4011, will feature in a new
digital Musicolour lightshow project to be published soon in SILICON
CHIP. This particular device can perform a real-time FFT (Fast Fourier
Transform) on audio-band signals with ADC acquisition modes that can operate at
up to 1MS/s (1 million samples per second). It runs at close to 30MIPs and has
48kB of program memory.