Sunday, 3 April 2016

Pikey Programmer

Some of the nerds at BuildBrighton have commented on my battered old Transit van. Often it's filled with junk either on its way to, or from, some auction or other. Regularly it's carrying paving slabs, rotivator and all other kinds of allotment-related paraphernalia.

Steve even suggested I'm just a mongrel on a piece of blue nylon rope away from joining the "pikey brigade" as he so eloquently puts it (I know, I don't know what it means either).

So it seems quite appropriate to name my latest homebrew-pcb-etched project (a quick-and-dirty build just to use up some ferric chloride after I'd gone to the trouble of heating it for another project) the "Pikey Programmer". It's nothing more than a TQFP pad layout to a DIP-style breakout board.



Simply place one of those 32-pin atmega328 (or atmega168) chips with the 0.8mm pin pitch onto the pads (TQFP packaged PICs have a 0.5mm pitch and are much trickier to handle when surface-mount-soldering by hand) and line it up by eye


Then squash it down with your finger while the programming takes place!


It works surprisingly well!
I did consider making it a dedicated AVR chip programmer but eventually settled on a simple breakout board and some breadboard; this way, different chips can be programmed (in different orientations if necessary) by simply swapping a few wires on the breadboard - a permanent, fixed-layout board would limit the possible uses for our "Pikey Programmer".

After testing, we found the board works equally well for both ICSP programming, and the more traditional bootloader-over-serial approach.