Microchip Technology Inc. formed from a group that stemmed from a semiconductor division of General Instruments in 1989. The focus was on developing a series of controllers that would be programmable, allow for high output current and include input/output capabilities. The " PIC® " MCU was based on RISC (reduced instruction set code) architecture, allowing for an efficient one instruction per clock cycle at 20 Mhz. These fast, 8-bit microcontrollers outscored the competitors with 20 ma of source and sink current on each I/O pin. Microchip tested the market by pricing these 8-bit microcontrollers at a very low price for production. That gamble paid off and Microchip was able to continue development on new processors to include features like interrupts, on-board A/D and comparators.
By 1992, Microchip Technology's microprocessor line had six chips that had limited features and an unconventional banking system for memory. The baseline family for 12-bit op-codes had four chips (PIC16C5x) that were compact in size with 12-28 pins for I/O. The PIC16C71 was the only device for the midrange family of a 14-bit op-code. This device expanded PIC microcontrollers to include an A/D converter and interrupts. The last chip for Microchip included the PIC17C42 to represent the high-end family for 16-bit wide instructions. The architecture of the PIC17 family was not an easy migration from the mid-range parts and this series of chips was never fully embraced.
It was at this same time that software development tools such as the PICMASTER emulator, PIC Pro II programmer, and third-party C Compilers emerged. Low-cost OTP (one-time programmable parts) kept Microchip's sales rising from manufacturers, but it was the development of the electrically erasable parts that made PIC® MCUs popular with developers. Engineers could now serially, in-circuit program and debug without having to remove the chip from the target board. The first chip out was the very popular 16C84. A few years later, the 14-bit PIC16F877 part that included Flash debugging would become one of Microchip's best-sellers and most-widely used chip for development.
The need for 16-bit op-code chips was proving true and Microchip re-developed the high-end family with the introduction of the PIC18 family in 2000. The architecture was true to Microchip's desire to make an engineer's migration to new parts easy and efficient. Developers that required more memory, I/O and speed could move from the popular PIC16F877 to the new PIC18F452 with ease.
However, this is not the last endeavor by Microchip, as they take on a new market and new competitors by developing the dsPIC® and PIC24 family of 16-bit data processors (24-bit instructions). With the cost and availability we have come to expect, Microchip is simplifying the engineering process by continuing with similar packages and pin-outs as the previous families of microcontrollers. The PIC24 family is compatible with the dsPIC® family for easy migration when DSP capability is required.
Microchip was selective in market focus by pursuing users with advanced designs, a progressive technology process, and industry-leading performance needs. The company positioned themselves to be a dominant supplier for embedded control applications, such as automotive, telecommunication and industrial controls. Microchip's success resulted in the need to purchase a second wafer fabrication facility in 1994, in Tempe, just miles outside of the Chandler, Arizona headquarters. Microchip not only expanded domestically, but internationally as well. They opened sales and application offices throughout the U.S. and in key cities in Europe, Japan and Asia/Pacific. The expanded market reach led to design improvements of new microcontrollers.
PIC® microcontrollers are some of the smallest in their class, but they remain fast and robust for almost any embedded application. Microchip Technology is leading the industry as the number one supplier of 8-bit microcontrollers since 2002.
PIC® MCU, PICmicro®, MPLAB® IDE and dsPIC® are registered trademarks of Microchip Technology, Inc. in the U.S. and other countries.