Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Learning from Datasheets

As a computer engineer, one of the most important things to learn is how to read a datasheet for every piece of information it can offer. Everything in a datasheet outlines, quite literally, every detail of its subject. By now you've probably gone through quite a few datasheets for various ICs to pull out some quick information like the pin-out or basic circuit configurations. But there's more information there. Take the 555 chip for example. In its datasheet, not only does it have several basic circuit configurations examining different modes of operation, it also has example values, timing formulas and waveform outputs for each of them. There are also notes detailing what you should be cognizant of, and general suggestions.

The real skill of reading a datasheet is being able to sift through something as dense as a controller datasheet. The sort of thing that details the operation of microcontrollers,  processors, LCD devices and sensors. A lot of information about how to get started with, or how to implement is contained within these documents. Microcontrollers and processors will often have example code, or something close to, specific to various components of the device. LCD controllers will have timing information for how to communicate with the device and what output that will result in. Sensor datasheets will often have formulas for calculating real life units from data, and what will produce certain output.

Datasheets are a powerful tool, but it takes patience to realize their true potential.

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