ELEC 201 Hardware


The Microprocessor and Memory
Multiplexing Data and Address Signals
Memory Mapping
Memory-Mapping the RAM
Memory-Mapping with the PAL16L8 Chip
System Memory Map
Digital Inputs
Digital Outputs
68HC11 and Memory Schematic
The Motor Drivers
The H-Bridge Circuit
The H-Bridge with Enable Circuitry
The SGS Thompson L298N Motor Driver Chip
Power Considerations
Current Handling and Spike Protection
Power Supply Isolation
Analog Inputs
Motor Current Monitoring Circuit
Analog Input Multiplexing on the RoboBoard
The Serial Line Circuit
High Speed Serial Peripheral Interface
Introduction to the SPI
RoboBoard SPI Configuration
Suggested Protocols
Non-Volatile Static RAM
The Infrared Transmission Circuit
The IR Beacon
The LCD Display

ELEC 201 Hardware   


This chapter is partly tutorial and partly technical reference: in additional to documenting the Rice ELEC 201 RoboBoard hardware, it explains the design in a way that assumes minimal background in digital electronics. Additional explanatory material can be found in the Glossary (Appendix B) and in Chapter  12.

The information presented here should be considered optional, as it is not strictly necessary to know it to build a robot.  Hopefully though, this chapter will satisfy most readers' curiosity about how the ELEC 201 hardware works.

The Microprocessor and Memory   

At the most primitive level, a computer consists of a microprocessor, which executes instructions, and a memory, for storing those instructions (as well as other data).


Figure 5.1: Diagram of Microprocessor and Memory

Figure 5.1 is a block diagram of the microprocessor and memory, showing four types of wires that connect the two:

Address Bus.
These wires are controlled by the microprocessor to select a particular location in memory for reading or writing. The RoboBoard uses a memory chip that has 15 address wires. Since each wire has two states (it can be a digital one or a zero), 2 to the 15th power locations are possible.  215 is precisely 32,768 locations; thus, the system is said to have "32K" of memory (1K = 1024 bytes).
Data Bus.    
These wires are used to pass data between the microprocessor and the memory. When data is written to the memory, the microprocessor drives the data bus; when data is read from the memory, memory drives the bus.

In our example (and in the RoboBoard), there are eight data wires (or bits). These wires can transfer one of 28 , or 256, different values per transaction. The data size of 8 bits is commonly referred to as a byte. (This jargon gets worse; a data size of 4 bits is frequently referred to as a nybble.)

Read/Write Control Line.
This single wire is driven by the microprocessor to control the function of the memory. If the read/write control line is asserted as a logical one, i.e., ``true'', then the memory performs a ``read'' operation. If it is asserted as a logic zero, i.e., ``false'' then the memory performs a ``write'' operation. (The relationship between logic level and voltage level can vary, depending on the implementation. For example, with the exception of some of the serial port circuitry, a logical ``zero'' on the RoboBoard corresponds to a voltage level near 0 volts, and a logical ``one'' on the RoboBoard corresponds to a voltage level near 5 volts.)
Memory Enable Control Line.
This wire, also called the E clock, connects to the enable circuitry of the memory. When the memory is enabled, it performs either a read or write operation as determined by the read/write line.

Multiplexing Data and Address Signals 



Figure 5.2: Block Diagram of Microprocessor and Memory with Latch

Things are a little more complex with the particular microprocessor that is used in the RoboBoard, the Motorola 68HC11. On the 68HC11, the eight data bus wires take turns acting as address wires as well.

When a memory location is accessed (for reading or writing), the data wires act first as address wires, transmitting the eight lower-order bits of the address. Then they function as data wires, either transmitting a data byte (for a write cycle) or receiving a data byte (for a read cycle). All of this happens very fast -- 2 million times per second on the RoboBoard.

This kind of split-personality bus is referred to as a multiplexed address and data bus. The memory needs help to deal with a multiplexed address/data bus, provided by an 8-bit latch. This chip (the 74HC373) performs the function of latching, or storing, the 8 address values so that the memory will have the full 15-bit address available for reading or writing data.

Figure 5.2 shows how the latch is wired. The upper 7 address bits are normal, and run directly from the microprocessor to the memory. The lower 8 bits are the multiplexed address and data bus. These wires connect to the inputs of the latch and also to the data inputs of the memory.

An additional signal, the Address Strobe output of the microprocessor, tells the latch when to grab hold of (latch) the address values from the address/data bus.

When the full 15-bit address is available to the memory (7 bits direct from the microprocessor and 8 bits from the latch), the read or write transaction can occur. Because the address/data bus is also wired directly to the memory, data can flow in either direction between the memory and the microprocessor.

The entire process -- transmitting the lower address bits, latching these bits, and then the read or write transaction with the memory -- is orchestrated by the microprocessor. The E clock, the Read/Write line, and the Address Strobe line perform in tight synchronization to make sure these operations happen in the correct sequence and within the timing capacities of the actual chip hardware.

Memory Mapping   


Figure 5.3: RoboBoard System Block Diagram

So far we have seen how a memory can be connected to the address space of a microprocessor. In a circuit like the one of the RoboBoard, the microprocessor must interact with other devices besides the memory -- for example, motors and sensors.

A typical solution uses 8-bit latches for input and output. These latches are connected to the data bus of the microprocessor so that they appear like a location in memory. Then, the act of reading or writing from one of these memory locations causes data to be read from or written to a latch -- to which the external devices are connected.

Figure 5.3 is a block diagram of the ELEC 201 RoboBoard system. Notice that chips marked "574" are connected to the data bus. The '574s have outputs that control the motors (through other chips marked "L298N", which will be discussed later). The digital sensors are driven onto the data bus by a chip marked "245." Another '574 chip is used for eight bits of digital output.

These interface chips are used in a technique called memory mapping. The chips are "mapped" to a particular address in the microprocessor's memory.

The following discussion will show how both the 32K RAM memory and the digital input and output interface chips share the address space of the microprocessor.

Memory-Mapping the RAM   


Figure 5.4: Enabling the Memory

The 68HC11 has a total of 16 address bits, yielding 65536 ("64K") bytes of addressable locations. Half of this space will be taken up by the 32K memory chip (also known as a RAM chip, for "Random Access Memory").

The 68HC11 has a bank of interrupt vectors, which are hardware-defined locations in the address space where the microprocessor expects to find pointers to driver routines. When the microprocessor is reset, it finds the reset vector to determine where it should begin running a program.

These vectors are located in the upper 32K of the address space. Thus, it is logical to map the RAM into this upper block, so that the RAM may be used to store these vectors.

The technique used to map the memory to the upper 32K block is fairly simple. Whenever the 68HC11's A15 (the highest-order address