MicroControllers are a bit (pun intended) abstract to most people. What can you do with them? An unconventional and not too serious approach to this topic.

“What do you do for a living?”
“I am an electronic engineer and I am working with MicroControllers”
Sometimes – but only sometimes – people care and are brave enough to respond: “?”.

Sounds familiar? Even though this question has been asked endless times, I never know how to break it down and explain. Most of the time I just point to the mobile phone – and let the Siri discussion start.

Serious: How do you respond and explain to a non engineer? All the excitement we have for our profession – it’s bits and bytes, layout and MIPS. Talking to an engineer is easy and you can go on and on about the beauty of electronics. But with a novice it’s hard to convey the message.

Let’s look at Leonardo Da Vinci. He was far ahead of his time, constructing all this machines and theories in his head, describing them on paper. Revolutionary! But what is he famous for? Mona Lisa, a painting that does not do anything. Nothing to understand. It has not brought humans a step closer to the moon or solved any problem on this world. But it is beautiful. It is art. It can make your day brighter just by looking at it.

So, how about explaining electronics by showing it in a form that does not need to be understood?

A while back I took some 16 bit MSP430 MicroControllers in PDIP packages. Those bugs sat on the desk for a while and got arranged and rearranged in sort of an meditative phase while on a phone call. At the end of the call a soldering iron put it all in a more permanent state. The 430man [pronounced Four-Thirty-Man] was born, here are the details.


I put “him” on my desk, next to a bunch of really cool and complex stuff I am working on. Guess what: No one asked me a question about the cool stuff anymore. Everyone wants to talk about the 430man.

Sad? Maybe. It could also prove to be an exciting different approach. Time to take the concept one step further – keep reading!