A Guide To PIC Microcontroller Documentation

Datasheets for semiconductor products can be baffling even for the most experienced engineers and programmers, but those written for microcontroller or digital signal processing products are even more so. One of the challenges of writing a datasheet for such products is that, due to their programmable nature, diversity and flexibility, it is difficult to successfully separate out the raw data about the product and its peripherals from programming them and ultimately developing functioning applications based upon them.

Even those with several years experience on one family of products from one silicon manufacturer may have difficulty finding the information they are accustomed to in the documentation of an alternative silicon supplier. This is due to each manufacturer writing their documents in differing ways and even using varying terminology or acronyms for the same terms.

This guide aims to explain what type of information is split over which documents for the Microchip PIC family of microcontrollers and digital signal controllers from Microchip Technology which should help those making their first tentative steps with this broad range of controller products.

Who is this written for?

This guide is written primarily for professional embedded developers who are moving to the Microchip range of controller products for the first time and need guidance on where to find the information they need to make informed decisions on the products' capabilities or how to program and use them.

It is also ideal for those in higher education (both learning and teaching) to gain an insight into how technical information on complex silicon products is written and which details are to be found where. For those who take a personal interest in these products, but do not necessarily work in the embedded system profession, enlightenment may also be found as to why certain information is documented as it is and where.

How this book is constructed

This book is split into three sections; the first is recommended reading for all those reading this book for the first time and ensures that basic knowledge required to understand the rest of the book is clarified; the second section examines the documentation available for the different products on a controller family and sub-family basis, ideal for those making a start with a particular Microchip PIC device; the third and final section is a terms-based guide to documentation allowing those with previous knowledge (either with these products or those from an alternative supplier) to get quickly to the information they need, based upon the knowledge they already have.

The sections and their contents are:

Recommended prior knowledge

This book assumes the reader has a grounding in electronics, microcontroller architecture and programming, embedded systems or a combination of all three. Terminology common to these areas will be used without further definition or explanation.