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USB-AtmelPrg: Interface Cable Circuit

About this Design

Since I had the opportunity to have PCBs manufactured the next day (while the next chance would have been weeks later), this is pretty much a one-afternoon design:

I wanted a USB connection, so I mounted an already-designed USB8Bit board with minor modifications. In order to handle all the handshaking etc., the easiest thing was to mount another microcontroller, so I chose an ATMega8: It has 8kb of flash (which should suffice), an internal RC oscillator and can be bought in a narrow 28-pin DIL package which allows to easily put it on a socket which is done because the microcontroller is directly connected to the 9-pin SUB-D port.


Download USB-AtmelPrg Interface Cable circuit schematic:
PNG image (940x643 as seen below): usb-atmelprg.png (27kb)
High-quality PDF: usb-atmelprg.pdf (122kb)
Permission to copy and use this schematic is hereby granted provided credit is given where it is due.

USB-AtmelPrg Interface Cable circuit schematic [27kb]

USB Interface

The USB interface is a slightly unmodified version of the USB8Bit board.

The power enable (_PWREN) and send immediate/wake up (SI/WU) pins are connected to a pin header for external connection if needed; but in this case they are simply left unconnected.

The USB reset pin (USB-RESET) should be left unconnected as well. It is suitably internally biased using R13 and R16.

Power Supply

One feature design intent was versatility concerning power supply. In short, the interface cable supports USB-powered operation, 5V supply, 8-30V supply and supply by the device to be programmed. Furthermore, it can itself provide a 5V supply the device to be programmed.

The main power switch is S1 which should be an "on-off-on" type with a stable middle "off" state. Power connection to the device to be programmed is controlled via S2 which should be an "on-on" type without middle state. The main power indicators are the LEDs MAINPWR (in series with R6) which is supposed to be a green LED indicating power being applied to the programmer and DEVPWR (in series with R2) which signals power on the device side (i.e. the 9-pin SUB-D connector).

There are several power hubs/connectors (SUPPLY, EXTSUP, PWR-HUP and SUP-HUP) which are not all needed for operation but they may come handy at one point to attach external circuits or just ground returns.

This is probably the easiest and most useful operation. Just plug in the USB connector and put the switch S1 into state 3. (You can switch off everything using the middle "off" state.) If the device to be programmed is self-powered, keep S2 in state 3; otherwise you can supply the devide to be programmed using USB power by switching S2 to 1.
5V-powered (externally):
This is primarily useful if the USB port cannot deliver enough power because e.g. it is a laptop and/or the device to be programmed would draw too much current. For this mode, use the pins 1 and 2 of the EXTSUP connector to supply 5V and switch S1 into state 1. (You can switch off everything using the middle "off" state.) S2 controls powering of the device to be supplied just as in the USB-powered operation above.
8..30V-powered (externally):
There is a 5V fixed voltage regulator (IC2, an LM7805 or uA7805) mounted on the board which can be used to get 5V from a higher voltage, typically 12V, but you can use anything from 8V to 30V as long as you can provide suitable cooling for IC2. For that, use pins 3 and 2 of the EXTSUP connector and switch S1 into state 1. (You can switch off everything using the middle "off" state.) S2 controls powering of the device to be supplied just as in the USB-powered operation above.
Note that pins 9 and 5 of the 9-pin SUB-D connector give access to the 5V power lines of the device to be programmed, which is used in the above modi to allow the interface cable to supply the device to be programmed with 5V. But you can as well do it the other way: If the device to be programmed is powered by its own means (e.g. it needs a connected AC supply), you can switch S1 into the middle "off" state and supply the cable's circuit by putting S2 into state 1.

NOTE: You must not switch S2 into state 1 if both the device to be programmed and the cable itself are supplied by their own power sources. Otherwise, huge compensation currents will flow.

Interface to Device to be Programmed

The connection to the device to be programmed is all done via a 9-pin SUB-D connector. The USB-AtmelPrg interface cable should have a male connector attached and the devices to be programmed either a female SUB-D or a 6-port linear pin header (see below). The SUB-D ports can either be directly connected or using a standard 1:1 9-pin SUB-D expansion cable (I'm using 1.5 meter).

The pinout of the SUB-D connector is fixed and includes the 3 SPI lines (serial programming interface of the Atmel AVR RISC controllers: MOSI, MISO, SCK), the RESET line to be able to control the reset from the programmer and 2 supply lines (see above).
In JTAG mode, the 3 SPI lines and RESET change their meaning but their direction remains the same as shown in the table below.
The Sub-D pinout is as follows:

8(D8)(D8)(in/out) (open-drain reset used e.g. by OpenOCD)

The pins D6, D7, D8 are general-purpose diagnosis I/O lines which do not have to be connected at all. They can, however, to ease debugging of microcontroller-based circuits.

The RESET pin in the 9-pin SUB-D connector normally controls the RESET line to the AVR-RISC controller to be programmed. This line should be pulled high in the device using a 100k resistor so that the device is running (and not reset) in normal operation when no programmer is connected. You can also (although this is not recommended) use an "externally controlled" RESET pin, i.e. control the RESET line using some other means (e.g. by a switch in the device). In this case, the programmer must be informed to keep the RESET line in High-Z state. (The software supports that.) In JTAG mode, the RESET pin changes its meaning to TDO and D8 is an additional open-drain-like microcontroller reset used by OpenOCD.

The common 6-pin SPI or JTAG connector (pin header style) used by me has the following fixed pinout:


About the Controller in the Circuit and How To Program It

Apart from the low-level USB handling, all work is done by the Atmega8 AVR RISC mounted on the USB-AtmelPrg board. I chose a 28-pin DIL package mounted on a socket so that the chip can easily be replaced in case it gets destroyed due to improper use of the programming interface (i.e. the 9-pin SUB-D connector).

The connection to the USB controller is done via a 4-bit "nibble" bus. This means that in order to transmit one byte from the host to the ATMega8, 2 nibbles need to be transferred and hence there are also 2 bytes on the USB wire. Only the bits 4,5,6,7 from each byte transferred via the USB are used. There are 2 reasons for that: Firstly, the ATMega8 simply does not have enough free pins to connect all 8 bits. And secondly, I wanted to have the option to directly program the firmware onto the ATMega8 wihtout an external programmer device ("bitbang self-programming"), see below.

Additionally, I mounted a (red) LED (LEDRED) and a push button (SW-PRESS) to be used arbitrarily by the firmware. In order to provide a clock for the programmer, the internal RC oscillator (at 1,2,4 or 8 MHz) can be used. Optionally, one can mount the crystal and its 2 ancillary capacitors near pins 9 and 10 of the ATMega8. Note that if you do so, you need to program the CKSEL fuse bits accordingly and note also that the firmware needs to be designed specifically for the chosen clock. The current firmware requires the external 16MHz crystal and fuse settings which make the ATMega8 run at its full speed (16MHz).

The ATMega8 must be programmed with suitable firmware before the programmer can operate. Initially, the plan was to allow the ATMega8 to be programmed directly from the USB by putting the FT245BM into "bit-bang" mode at a suitable baud rate and use the bits 0,1,2 of the USB data bus (UD) connected to the SPI interface of the ATMega8. Since the FT245BM even has the possibility to query the status of all its pins, one can do status readback as well. It is supposed to be quite slow but should work in theory. Unfortunately (since I did have a parport-based programmer initially and two USB-AtmelPrg cables nowadays), I went the easier way to get the firmware onto the ATMega8. Hence, this approach has not been tested yet and there is no software for that purpose. (If you succeeded, please let me know! You need to put a jumper between pins 4 and 5 of the 6-pin SPI pin header.)

The 6 pins of the SPI connector provide all the lines which are necessary to do in-system programming of the ATMega8. The pinout is the same as that of the "common 6-pin SPI connector" described above. A second USB-AtmelPrg can easily be used to program the ATMega8 on the first one.

Interface Cable Board

Testing the USB-based programmer [12kb]
[click to enlarge: 191kb JPG]

Testing the USB-based programmer [11kb]
[click to enlarge: 144kb JPG]

Top and bottom view of the USB-AtmelPrg interface cable board, fully connected with the 9-pin SUB-D connector to the device to be programmed (right) and the USB connector (top/bottom).

In the right image, the LEDs from left to right are: MAINPWR, LEDRED, DEVPWR.
The switches from left to right: S1, S3, S2.

The red and black cables are connected to the PWR-HUB but not needed in normal operation.

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Last modified: 2007-07-20 17:16:25