How do they program toys’ microchips?



How do they program toys’ microchips?

In: Engineering

In the development of embedded software like this, the designer will use a *development board* which breaks out all the chip’s pins and peripherals to write and test the microcontroller software, once it does everything it needs to do and the custom circuit board in the toy is designed, the microcontroller program is loaded onto the chip either via a debug port on the board (uncommon) or by a separate machine before it’s even put onto the board.

The kind of chip you’re asking about is a *microcontroller*. A microcontroller is actually a tiny computer, including CPU, RAM, and permanent storage in the form of on-chip Flash memory.

To program the Flash memory, you connect the pins of the chip to an external circuit that lets you overwrite the Flash with a new program. Usually you’ll be able to get a development board to make it easy to do this during testing.

Then once you’re ready for production, a lot of microcontroller manufacturers actually let you upload your code and order pre-programmed chips from the factory. Especially if you order in bulk.

If you don’t get them pre-programmed from the factory, you have to do the programming yourself. This could be a step that temporarily plugs the microcontroller into another circuit to do the programming, or you could break out the pins on the final production board to allow it to be programmed after installation. (“Break out the pins” means “solder the pins on the chip to a trace that leads to an external connector.” The word “trace” means “a copper path for electricity inside the circuit board”).