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89S52 microcontroller quick tutorial

By Ibrahim Kamal
Last update: 2/5/08

Start the tutorial!

This tutorial is specially tailored to electronics and robotics hobbyists that have already realized some simple
electronics projects and want to go a step further and start using microcontrollers in their projects, more
precisely the 89S52 microcontroller, which is a famous member of the 8051 family of microcontroller. It is
straight forward, and relies on the ANSI C programming language.

The chosen 89S52 microcontroller is In System Programmable using a simple and easy to build ISP programmer.

Part 1: Introduction to 8051 microcontrollers

This first part introduce the main aspects and characteristics of the 89S52, providing to the absolute
beginners a base of knowledge, which will help them to understand more advanced issues in the
next part of the tutorial.

Part 2: C programming for 89S52 using KEIL IDE

Even if you're not very familiar with the C language, this tutorial will introduce all the basic
programming techniques that will be used along this tutorial. It will also show you how to use the
KEIL IDE to develop test and debug your projects.

Part 3: Basic Input/Output operations

In this third part of the 89s52 tutorial, we are going to study the basic structure and configuration of
I/O ports. Then we are going to apply this theory on simple experimental projects, using a LED and
switch, to experiment with the different I/O features of the microcontroller.

Part 4: Interrupts, timers and counters

Most microcontrollers come with a set of 'ADD-ONs' called peripherals, to enhance its functioning
and to give the programmer more options. This last part of the tutorial shows you how to configure
and use some of the main peripheral features of 8051 microcontrollers.
89S52 microcontroller quick tutorial
Part 1: Introduction to 8051 microcontrollers
By Ibrahim Kamal
Last update: 7/5/08

Next Part
This tutorial is specially tailored to electronics and robotics hobbyists that have already realized
some simple electronics projects and want to go a step further and start using microcontrollers in
their projects, more precisely the 89S52 microcontroller.

This first part introduce the main aspects and characteristics of the 89S52, providing to the
absolute beginners a base of knowledge, which will help them to understand more advanced
issues in the next part of the tutorial.

1.1 Introduction to microcontrollers

A micro-controller can be compared to a small stand alone computer, it is a very powerful device, which is capable
of executing a series of pre-programmed tasks and interacting with other hardware devices. Being packed in a tiny
integrated circuit (IC) whose size and weight is usually negligible, it is becoming the perfect controller for robots or
any machines requiring some kind of intelligent automation. A single microcontroller can be sufficient to control a
small mobile robot, an automatic washer machine or a security system. Any microcontroller contains a memory to
store the program to be executed, and a number of input/output lines that can be used to interact with other devices,
like reading the state of a sensor or controlling a motor.

Nowadays, microcontrollers are so cheap and easily available that it is common to use them instead of simple logic
circuits like counters for the sole purpose of gaining some design flexibility and saving some space. Some machines
and robots will even rely on a multitude of microcontrollers, each one dedicated to a certain task. Most recent
microcontrollers are 'In System Programmable', meaning that you can modify the program being executed, without
removing the microcontroller from its place.

Today, microcontrollers are an indispensable tool for the robotics hobbyist as well as for the engineer. Starting in
this field can be a little difficult, because you usually can't understand how everything works inside that integrated
circuit, so you have to study the system gradually, a small part at a time, until you can figure out the whole image
and understand how the system works.

1.2 The 8051 microcontroller architecture

The 8051 is the name of a big family of microcontrollers. The device which we are going to use along this tutorial is
the 'AT89S52' which is a typical 8051 microcontroller manufactured by Atmel™. Note that this part doesn't aim to
explain the functioning of the different components of a 89S52 microcontroller, but rather to give you a general idea
of the organization of the chip and the available features, which shall be explained in detail along this tutorial.

The block diagram provided by Atmel™ in their datasheet showing the architecture the 89S52 device can seem very
complicated, and since we are going to use the C high level language to program it, a simpler architecture can be
represented as the figure 1.2.A.

This figures shows the main features and components that the designer can interact with. You can notice that the
89S52 has 4 different ports, each one having 8 Input/output lines providing a total of 32 I/O lines. Those ports can
be used to output DATA and orders do other devices, or to read the state of a sensor, or a switch. Most of the ports
of the 89S52 have 'dual function' meaning that they can be used for two different functions: the fist one is to perform
input/output operations and the second one is used to implement special features of the microcontroller like counting
external pulses, interrupting the execution of the program according to external events, performing serial data
transfer or connecting the chip to a computer to update the software.

Each port has 8 pins, and will be treated from the software point of view as an 8-bit variable called 'register', each bit
being connected to a different Input/Output pin.

You can also notice two

different memory types: RAM
and EEPROM. Shortly, RAM is
used to store variable during
program execution, while the
EEPROM memory is used to
store the program itself, that's
why it is often referred to as the
'program memory'. The
memory organization will be
discussed in detail later.

The special features of the

89S52 microcontroller are
grouped in the blue box at the
bottom of figure 1.2.A. At this
stage of the tutorial, it is just
important to note that the
89S52 incorporates hardware
circuits that can be used to
prevent the processor from
executing various repetitive
tasks and save processing
power for more complex
calculations. Those simple tasks
can be counting the number of
external pulses on a pin, or
generating precise timing

It is clear that the CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the heart of the microcontrollers, It is the CPU that will Read the
program from the FLASH memory and execute it by interacting with the different peripherals discussed above.
Figure 1.2.B shows the pin configuration of the 89S52, where
the function of each pin is written next to it, and, if it exists, the
dual function is written between brackets. The pins are written
in the same order as in the block diagram of figure 1.2.A,
except for the VCC and GND pins which I usually note at the
top and the bottom of any device.

Note that the pin that have dual functions, can still be used
normally as an input/output pin. Unless you program uses their
dual functions, All the 32 I/O pins of the microcontroller are
configured as input/output pins.

Most of the function of the pins of the 89S52 microcontroller

will be discussed in detail, except for the pins required to
control an external memory, which are the pins number 29, 30
and 31. Since we are not going to use any external memory,
pins 29 and 30 will be ignored through all the tutorial, and pin
31 (EA) always connected to VCC (5 Volts) to enable the
micro-controller to use the internal on chip memory rather than
an external one (connecting the pin 31 to ground would indicate
to the microcontroller that an external memory is to be used
instead of the internal one).

1.3. Memory organization

A RAM stands for Random Access Memory, it has basically the same purpose of the RAM in a desktop computer,
which is to store some data required during the execution time of different programs. While an EEPROM, also
called FLASH memory is a more elaborated ROM (Read Only Memory) which is the memory where the program
being executed is stored. Even if that's not exactly true, you can compare an EEPROM to the Hard-Disk of a desktop
computer from a general point of view. The EEPROM term stands for Electronically Erasable and Programmable
Read Only Memory.

In microcontrollers, like in any digital system, memory is organized in Registers, Which is the basic unit of
construction of a memory. Each register is composed of a number of bits (usually 8) where the data can be stored. In
the 8051 family of microcontrollers for example, most registers
are 8-bit register, capable of storing values ranging from 0 to 255. In Typical register
order to use bigger values, various register can be used simultaneously.
Figure 1.3.A shows a typical 8-bit registers, where the notation D0 to D7 D7 D6 D5 D4 D3 D2 D1 D0
stands for the 8 DATA bits of the register. Figure 1.3.A

As you shall see, the RAM memory of the 89S52, which contains 256 registers, is divided into to main parts, the
GPR part, and the SFR part. GPR stands for 'General Purpose Register' and are the registers that you can use to store
any data during the execution of your program. SFRs (Special function Register) are registers used to control the
functioning of the microcontroller and to assist the processor through the various operations being executed. For
example, SFRs can be used to control Input/Output lines, to retrieve data transmitted through the serial port of a
desktop computer, or to configure one of the on-chip counters and timers.
In a memory each register has a specific address which is used by the processor to read
and write from specific memory location. Figure 1.3.B shows the memory organization
of the 256 registers of the RAM of the 89S52 microcontroller. The address is noted in
Hexadecimal format as this notation simplifies digital logic calculations for the
designers, 00 corresponds to the first location and FF which is equal to 256 corresponds
to the last location.

A programmer that would use the assembly language, have to take this memory
organization into consideration while choosing the locations where his variables are
stored, as writing general purpose data into special function registers could prevent the
microcontroller from working correctly, but since we will use the C language using the
KEIL IDE (integrated development environment), this part will be totally handled by
the compiler.

1.4 Clock concept

The clock concept is found in all modern digital electronics, it is a simple circuit that will generate pulses of
electricity at a very specific frequency. Those pulses will cadence all the events happening inside a microcontroller,
those pulses will also assure the synchronization of the events between various components inside the
microcontroller. For example, if the CPU is waiting for some result of mathematical operation from the ALU
(Arithmetic and Logic Unit), it will be known - according to very specific protocol - when and where the resulting
data will be delivered to the CPU. The synchronization of those two devices is maintained because they share the
same clock.

The clock has another very important role which is to enable the microcontroller to count timing. without a precise
clock, it would be impossible to build a 'Real Time System', or any other device that relies on time measurements. It
can be deduced that the precision of the timing of a microcontroller depends on the frequency of its clock.

In the 89S52 microcontroller, the clock can be fixed to different value by connecting a crystal to the pins 18 and 19.
Those crystals are sold with the frequency written on them in Mega Hertz. The maximum operating frequency of the
AT89S52 is 33 Mhz, however other manufacturers like philips built similar 8051 microcontrollers that can run at
frequencies up to 120 Mhz.

1.5 Life cycle of a microcontroller project

Before passing to the next part of the tutorial, is important to have a general idea of the steps that are followed to
realize a project, from the very beginning when you get an idea to the very end when you finalize your project.
As you can see in figure 1.5.A, after
you settle on the choice of your project
in the 'brain storming' part, its
imperative to imagine how it can be
implemented from the hardware point
of view, before passing to the
programming phase, because
programming is much more flexible
than the hardware design. In other
words, you start by designing the
hardware, then you work on the
programming while taking in
consideration the eventual constraints
imposed by the hardware design.

Figure 1.5.A
The hardware design includes all the aspects of the electronic connections between other devices, like the
compatibility of the voltage levels, or the required number of pins, etc...

After you're done with a first version of your program, you can transfer it to the microcontroller mounted on the
board that you realized already, resulting in a first prototype. The transfer of the code is done using a special device
called 'burner' or 'programmer' that connect to the computer, reads the HEX file generated by the compiler, and
sends it to the 'program memory' of the microcontroller. The prototype will be used to test your project, correct
eventual errors and enhance its performance, tacking in account the famous rule that states that any project never
works the first time, at least it does not work as you expected!

Your project will always stay in the prototyping cycle, even if you decide that it is functioning correctly, simply
because perfect machines or inventions do not exist, so there is always some room for little changes and updates.
89S52 microcontroller quick tutorial
Part 2: C programming for 8051 using KEIL IDE
By Ibrahim Kamal
Last update: 22/1/11

Previous Part Next Part

If not simpler, the version of the C programming language used for the microcontroller
environment is not very different than standard C when working on mathematical operations, or
organizing your code. The main difference is all about the limitations of the processor of the
89S52 microcontroller as compared to modern computers.

Even if you're not very familiar with the C language, this tutorial will introduce all the basic
programming techniques that will be used along this tutorial. It will also show you how to use the

2.1 From the C program to the machine language

The C source code is very high level language, meaning that it is far from being at the base level of the machine
language that can be executed by a processor. This machine language is basically just zero's and one's and is written
in Hexadecimal format, that why they are called HEX files.

There are several types of HEX files;

we are going to produce machine code
in the INTEL HEX-80 format, since
this is the output of the KEIL IDE that
we are going to use. Figure 2.1.A
shows that to convert a C program to
machine language, it takes several
steps depending on the tool you are
using, however, the main idea is to
produce a HEX file at the end. This
HEX file will be then used by the
'burner' to write every byte of data at
the appropriate place in the EEPROM
of the 89S52.

2.2. Variables and constants

One of the most basic concepts of programming is to handle variables. knowing the exact type and size of a variable
is a very important issue for microcontroller programmers, because the RAM is usually limited is size. There are
two main design considerations to be taken in account when choosing the variables types: the occupied space in ram
and the processing speed. Logically, a variable that occupies a big number of registers in RAM will be more slowly
processed than a small variable that fits on a single register.
For you to chose the right variable type for each one of your applications, you will have to refer to the following

Data Type Bits Bytes Value Range

bit 1 -- 0 to 1
signed char 8 1 -128 to +127
unsigned char 8 1 0 to 255
signed int 16 2 -32768 to +32767
unsigned int 16 2 0 to 65535
signed long 32 4 -2147483648 to 2147483647
unsigned long 32 4 0 to 4294967295
float 32 4 ±1.175494E-38 to ±3.402823E+38

This table shows the number of bits and bytes occupied by each types of variables, noting that each byte will fit into
a register. You will notice that most variables can be either 'signed' or unsigned 'unsigned', and the major difference
between the two types is the range, but both will occupy the same exact space in memory.

The names of the variables shown in the table are the same that are going to be used in the program for variables
declarations. Note that in C programming language, any variable have to be declared to be used. Declaring a
variable, will attribute a specific location in the RAM or FLASH memory to that variable. The size of that location
will depend on the type of the variable that have been declared.

To understand the difference between those types, consider the following example source code where we start by
declaring three 'unsigned char' variables, and one 'signed char' and then perform some simple operations:

unsigned char a,b,c;

signed char d;
a = 100;
b = 200;
c = a - b;
d = a - b;

In that program the values of 'c' will be equal to '155'! and not '-100' as you though, because the variable 'c' is an
unsigned type, and when a the value to be stored in a variable is bigger than the maximum value range of this
variable, it overflows and rolls back to the other limit. Back to our example, the program is trying to store '-100' in
'c', but since 'c' is unsigned, its range of values is from '0 to 255' so, trying to store a value below zero, will cause the
the variable to overflow, and the compiler will subtract the '-100' from the other limit plus 1, from '255 + 1' giving
'156'. We add 1 to the range because the overflow and roll back operation from 0 to 255 counts for the subtraction of
one bit. On the other hand, the value of 'd' will be equal to '-100' as expected, because it is a 'signed' variable.
Generally, we try to avoid storing value that are out of range, because sometime, even if the compiler doesn't halt on
that error, the results can be sometimes totally un-expected.

Note that in the C programming language, any code line is ended with a semicolon ';', except for the lines ending
with brackets '{' '}'.

Like in any programming language, the concept of a variables 'array' can also be used for microcontrollers
programming. an array is like a table or a group of variables of the same type, each one can be called by a specific
number, for example an array can be declared this way:
char display[10];

this will create a group of 10 variables. Each one of them is accessible by its number, example:

display[0] = 100;
display[3] = 60;
display[1] = display[0] - display[3];

where 'display[1]' will be equal to '40'. Note that 'display' contains 10 different variables, numbered from 0 to 9. In
that previous example, according to the variable declaration, there is not such variable location as 'display[10]', and
using it will cause an error in the compiler.

Sometimes, you want to store a very large amount of constant values, that wouldn't fit in the RAM or simply would
take too much space. you can store this DATA in the FLASH memory reserved for the code, but it wont be editable,
once the program is burned on your chip. The advantage of this technique is that it can be used to store a huge
amount of variables, noting that the FLASH memory of the 89S52 is 8K bytes, 32 times bigger than the RAM
memory. It is, however, your responsibility to distribute this memory between your program and your DATA.

To specify that a variable is to be stored in the FLASH memory, we use exactly the same variable types names but
we add the prefix 'code' before it. Example:

code unsigned char message[500];

This line would cause this huge array to be stored in the FLASH memory. This can be interesting for displaying
messages on an LCD screen.

To access the pins and the ports through programming, there are a number of pre-defined variables (defined in the
header file, as you shall see later) that dramatically simplifies that task. There are 4 ports, Port 0 to Port 3, each one
of them can be accessed using the char variables P0, P1, P2 and P3 respectively. In those char types variables, each
one of the 8 bits represents a pin on the port. Additionally, you can access a single pin of a port using the bit type
variables PX_0 to PX_7, where X takes a value between 0 and 3, depending on the port being accessed. For
example P1_3 is the pin number 3 of port 1.

You can also define your own names, using the '#define' directive. Note that this is compiler directive, meaning that
the compiler will use this directive to read and understand the code, but it is not a statement or command that can be
translated to machine language. For example, you could define the following:

#define LED1 P1_0

With the definition above, the compiler will replace every occurrence of LED1 by P1_0. This makes your code
much more easier to read, especially when the new names you give make more sense.

You could also define a numeric constant value like this:

#define led_on_time 184

Then, each time you write led_on_time, it will be replaced by 184. Note that this is not a variable and accordingly,
you cannot write something like:

led_on_time = 100; //That's wrong, you cannot change a constant's value in code.

The utility of using defined constants, appears when you want to adjust some delays in your code, or some constant
variables that are re-used many times within the code: With a predefined constant, you only change it's value once,
and it's applied to the whole code. that's for sure apart from the fact that a word like led_on_time is much more
comprehensive than simply '184'!

Along this tutorial you will see how port names, and special function registers are used exactly as variables, to
control input/output operations and other features of the microcontroller like timers, counters and interrupts.

2.3. Mathematical & logic operations

Now that you know how to declare variables, it is time to know how to handle them in your program using
mathematical and logic operations.

Mathematical operations:
The most basic concept about mathematical operations in programming languages, is the '=' operator which is used
to store the content of the expression at its right, into the variable at its left. For example the following code will
store the value of 'b' into 'a' :

a = b;

And subsequently, the following expression in totally invalid:

5 = b;

Since 5 in a constant, trying to store the content of 'b' in it will cause an error.

You can then perform all kind of mathematical operations, using the operators '+','-','*' and '/'. You can also use
brackets '( )' when needed. Example:

a =(5*b)+((a/b)*(a+b));

If you include 'math.h' header file, you will be able to use more advanced functions in your equations like Sin, Cos
and Tan trigonometric functions, absolute values and logarithmic calculations like in the following example:

a =(c*cos(b))+sin(b);

To be able to successfully use those functions in your programs, you have to know the type of variables that those
functions take as parameter and return as a result. For example a Cosine function takes an angle in radians whose
value is a float number between -65535 and 65535 and it will return a float value as a result. You can usually know
those data types from the 'math.h' file itself, for example, the cosine function, like all the others is declared in the top
of the math header file, and you can read the line:
extern float cos (float val);

from this line you can deduce that the 'cos' function returns a float data type, and takes as a parameter a float too.
(the parameter is always between brackets.). Using the same technique, you can easily know how to deal with the
rest of the functions of the math header file. the following table shows a short description of those functions:

Function Description
char cabs (char val); Return an the absolute value of a char variable.
int abs (int val); Return an the absolute value of a int variable.
long labs (long val); Return an the absolute value of a long variable.
float fabs (float val); Return an the absolute value of a float variable.
float sqrt (float val); Returns the square root of a float variable.
float exp (float val); Returns the value of the Euler number 'e' to the power of val
float log (float val); Returns the natural logarithm of val
float log10 (float val); Returns the common logarithm of val
float sin (float val); A set of standard trigonometric functions. They all take angles
float cos (float val); measured in radians whose value have to be between -65535 and
float tan (float val); 65535.
float asin (float val);
float acos (float val);
float atan (float val);
float sinh (float val);
float cosh (float val);
float tanh (float val);
float atan2 (float y, float x); This function calculates the arc tan of the ratio y / x, using the signs of
both x and y to determine the quadrant of the angle and return
a number ranging from -pi to pi.
float ceil (float val); Calculates the smallest integer that is bigger than val. Example:
ceil(4.3) = 5.
float floor (float val); Calculates the largest integer that is smaller than val. Example:
ceil(4.8) = 4.
float fmod (float x, float y); Returns the remainder of x / y. For example: fmod(15.0,4.0) = 3.
float pow (float x, float y); Returns x to the power y.

Logical operations:
You can also perform logic operations with variables, like AND, OR and NOT operations,
using the following operators:

Operator Description
! NOT (bit level) Example: P1_0 = !P1_0;
~ NOT (byte level) Example: P1 = ~P1;
| OR

Note that those logic operation are performed on the bit level of the registers. To
understand the effect of such operation on registers, it's easier to look at the bits of a
variable (which is composed of one or more register). For example, a NOT operation will
invert all the bit of a register. Those logic operators can be used in many ways to merge
different bits of different registers together.

For example, consider the variable 'P1', which is of type 'char', and hence stored in an 8-bit
register. Actually P1 is an SFR, whose 8 bits represents the 8 I/O pins of Port 1. It is required
in that example to clear the 4 lower bits of that register without changing the state of the 4
other which may be used by other equipment. This can be done using logical operators
according to the following code:

P1 = P1 & 0xF0; (Adding '0x' before a number indicates that it is a hexadecimal one)

Here, the value of P1 is ANDed with the variable 0xF0, which in the binary base is
'11110000'. Recalling the two following relations:

1 AND X = X
0 AND X = 0
(where 'X' can be any binary value)

You can deduce that the 4 higher bits of P1 will remain unchanged, while the 4 lower bits will
be cleared to 0.

By the way, note that you could also perform the same operation using a decimal variable
instead of a hexadecimal one, for example, the following code will have exactly the same
effect than the previous one (because 240 = F0 in HEX):

P1 = P1 & 240;

A similar types of operations that can be performed on a port, is to to set some of its bits to
1 without affecting the others. For example, to set the first and last bit of P1, without
affecting the other, the following source code can be used:

P1 = P1 | 0x81;

Here, P1 is ORed with the value 0x81, which is '10000001' in binary. Recalling the two
following relations:

1 OR X = 1
0 OR X = X
(where 'X' can be any binary value)

You can deduce that the first and last pins of P1 will be turned on, without affecting the state
of the other pins of port 1. Those are just a few example of the manipulations that can be
done to registers using logical operators. Logic operators can also be used to define very
specific conditions, as you shall see in the next section.

The last types of logic operation studied in this tutorial is the shifting. It can be useful the
shift the bit of a register the right or to the left in various situations. this can be done using
the following two operators:

Operator Description
>> Shift to the right
<< Shift to the left

The syntax is is quite intuitive, for example:

P1 = 0x01; // After that operation, in binary, P1 = 0000 0001

P1 = (P1 << 7) // After that operation, in binary P1 = 1000 0000

You can clearly notice that the content of P1 have been shifted 8 steps to the left.
2.4. Conditions and loops
In most programs, it is required at a certain time, to differentiate between different situations, to make decision
according to specific input, or to direct the flow of the code depending on some criteria. All the above situation
describe an indispensable aspect of programming: 'conditions'. In other words, this feature allows to execute a block
of code only under certain conditions, and otherwise execute another code block or continue with the flow of the

The most famous way to do that is to use the 'if' statement, according to the following syntax.

if (expression) {
code to be executed

It is important to see how the code is organized in this part. The 'expression' is the condition that shall be valid for
the 'code block' to be executed. the code block is all delimited by the two brackets '{' and '}'. In other words, all the
code between those two brackets will be executed if and only if the expression is valid. The expression can be any
combination of mathematical and logical expressions, as you can see in the following example:

if ( (P1 == 0) & (a <= 128) ){

code to be executed

Notice the use of the two equal signs (==) between two variables or constants, In C language, this means that you
are asking whether P1 equals 0 or not. writing this expression with only one equal sign, would cause the the
compiler to store 0 in P1. This issue is a source of logical error for many beginners in C language, this error wont
generate any alert from the compiler and is very hard to identify in a big program, so pay attention, it can save you
lot of debugging time. Otherwise it is clear that in that previous example, the code block is only executed if both the
two expressions are true. Here is a list of all the operators you can use to write an expression describing a certain

Operator Description
== Equal to
<, > Smaller than, bigger than.
<=, >= Smaller than or equal to, bigger than or equal to.
!= Not equal to

The 'If' code block can get a little more sophisticated by introducing the 'else' and 'else if' statement. Observe the
following example source code:

if (expression_1) {
code block 1
}else if(expression_2) {
code block 2
}else if(expression_3) {
code block 3
code block 4

Here, There are four different code blocks, only one shall be executed if and only if the corresponding condition is
true. The last code block will only be executed if none of the previous expression is valid. Note that you can have as
many 'else if' blocks as you need, each one with its corresponding condition, BUT you can only have one 'else'
block, which is completely logical. However you can chose not to have and 'else' block at all if you want.

There are some other alternatives to the 'if...else' code block, that can provide faster execution speeds, but also have
some limitations and restrictions like the '' code block. For now, it is enough to understand the 'if...else'
code block, whose performance is quite fair and have a wide range of applications.

Another very important tool in the programming languages is the loop. In C language like in many others, loops are
usually restricted to certain number of loops like in the 'for' code block or restricted to a certain condition like the
'while' block.

Let's start with the 'for' code block, which is a highly controllable and configurable loop. consider the following
example source code:


P0 = i;

Here the code between the the two brackets '{' '}' will be be executed a certain number of times, each time with the
counting variable 'i' increasing by 1 according to the statement 'i++'. The code will keep looping as long as the
condition 'i<10' is true. Usually the counting value 'i' is reused in the body of the loop, which makes the particularity
of this loop. The 'for' loop functioning can be recapitulated by the following syntax:

code block

Where start represents the start value assigned to the count value before the loop begins. The condition is the
expression that is is to remain true for the loop to continue; as long as this conditions is satisfied, the code will keep
looping. Finally, step is the increase or decrease of the counting variable, it can be any statement that changes its
value, whether by an addition or subtraction.

The second type of loop that we are going to study is the 'while' loop. the syntax of this one is simpler than the
previous one, as you can observe in the following example source code, that is equivalent to the previous method:

while(i < 10){

P0 = i;
i = i +1;

Here there is only one parameter to be defined, which is the condition to keep this loop alive, which is 'i < 10' in our
example. Then, it is the responsibility of the programmer to design the software carefully to provide an exit for that
loop, or to make it an infinite loop. Both techniques are commonly used in microcontroller programs, as you shall
see later on along this tutorial.

2.5. Functions
Functions are way of organizing your code, reducing its size, and increasing its overall performance, by grouping
relatively small parts of code to be reused many times in the same program. A new function can be created
according to the following syntax:

Function_name(parameter_1, Parameter_2, Parameter_3){

function body
return value (optional)

This is the general form of a function. The number of parameters of the function can be more than the three
parameters of the examples above, as it can be zero, all depends on the type and use of the function. The function's
body is usually a sub program that implies the parameters to produce the required result. some functions will also
generate an output, like the cos() function, through the 'return' command, which will output the value next to it.
Usually the 'return' command is used at the end of the function.

A very common use of functions without return value is to create delays in a software, consider the following

delay(unsigned int y){

unsigned int i;

In this last piece of code a function named 'delay' is created, with an unsigned integer 'y' as a parameter, and
implying a locally defined unsigned int 'i'. the function will repeat a loop for a couple hundreds or thousand of times
to generate precise delays in a program. A function like this can be called from anywhere in the program according
to the following syntax:


this line of code would cause the program to pause for approximately one second on a 12 MHz clock on a 8051

A common example of a function with a return value, is a function that will calculate the angle in radian of a given
angle in degrees, as all the trigonometric functions that are included by default take angles in radians. This function
can be as the following:

deg_to_rad(float deg){
float rad;
rad = (deg * 3.14)/180;
retrun rad;

This function named 'deg_to_rad' will take as a parameter an angle in degrees and output an angle in radians. It can
be called in your program according to this syntax:
angle = deg_to_rad(102,18);

where angle should be already defined as a float, and where will be stored the value returned by the function, which
is the angle in radians equivalent to 102.18°

Another important note about functions in the 'main' function. Any C program must contain a function named 'main'
which is the place where the program's execution will start. more precisely, for microcontrollers, it were the
execution will start after a reset operation, or when a microcontroller circuit is turned ON. The 'main' function has
no parameters, and is written like this:

code of the main functions

2.6. Organization of a C program

All C programs have this common organization scheme, sometimes it's followed, sometimes it's not, however, it is
imperative for this category of programming that this organization scheme be followed in order to be able to develop
your applications successfully. Any application can be divided into the following parts, noting that is should be
written in this order:

a. Headers Includes and constants definitions

In this part, header files (.h) are included into your source code. those headers files can be system headers to declare
the name of SFRs, to define new constants, or to include mathematical functions like trigonometric functions, root
square calculations or numbers approximations. Header files can also contain your own functions that would be
shared by various programs.

b. Variables declarations
More precisely, this part is dedicated to 'Global Variables' declarations. Variables declared in this place can be used
anywhere in the code. Usually in microcontroller programs, variables are declared as global variables instead of
local variables, unless your are running short of RAM memory and want to save some space, so we use local
variables, whose values will be lost each time you switch from a function to another. To summarize, global variables
as easier to use and implement than local variables, but they consume more memory space.

d. functions' body
Here you group all your functions. Those functions can be simple ones that can be called from another place in your
program, as they can be called from an 'interrupt vector'. In other words, the sub-programs to be executed when an
interrupt occurs is also written in this place.

e. Initialization
The particularity of this part is that it is executed only one time when the microcontroller was just subjected to a
'RESET' or when power is just switched ON, then the processor continue executing the rest of the program but never
executes this part again. This particularity makes it the perfect place in a program to initialize the values of some
constants, or to define the mode of operation of the timers, counters, interrupts, and other features of the

f. Infinite loop
An infinite loop in a microcontroller program is what is going to keep it alive, because a processor have to be allays
running for the system to function, exactly like a heart have to be always beating for a person to live. Usually this
part is the core of any program, and its from here that all the other functions are called and executed.
2.7. Simple C program for 89S52
Here is a very simple but complete example program to blink a LED. Actually it is the source code of the example
project that we are going to construct in the next part of the tutorial, but for now it is important to concentrate on the
programming to summarize the notions discussed above.

#include <REGX52.h>
#include <math.h>

delay(unsigned int y){

unsigned int i;

P1_0 = 0;
P1_0 = 1;

After including basic headers for the SFR definitions of the 8952 microcontroller (REGX52.h) and for mathematical
functions (math.h), a function named 'delay' is created, which is simple a function to create a delay controlled via the
parameter 'y'. Then comes the main function, with an infinite loop (the condition for that loop to remain will always
be satisfied as it is '1'). Inside that loop, the pin number 0 of port 1 is constantly turned ON and OFF with a delay of
approximately one second.

As you will see in the next part, A simple circuit can be constructed and a LED can be connected to the pin P1_0 to
see how software and hardware adjustments can affect the behavior of you circuits.

2.8. Using the KEIL environment

KEIL uVision is the name of a software dedicated to the development and testing of a family of microcontrollers
based on 8051 technology, like the 89S52 which we are going to use along this tutorial. You can can download an
evaluation version of KEIL at their website: Most versions share merely the same
interface, this tutorial uses KEIL C51 uVision 3 with the C51 compiler v8.05a.

To create a project, write and test the previous example source code, follow the following steps:

Open Keil and start a new project:

Figure: 2.8.a

You will prompted to chose a name for your new project, Create a separate folder where all the files of your
project will be stored, chose a name and click save. The following window will appear, where you will be asked to
select a device for Target 'Target 1':
Figure: 2.8.b

From the list at the left, seek for the brand name ATMEL, then under ATMEL, select AT89S52. You will notice
that a brief description of the device appears on the right. Leave the two upper check boxes unchecked and click
OK. The AT89S52 will be called your 'Target device', which is the final destination of your source code. You will
be asked whether to 'copy standard 8051 startup code' click No.

click File, New, and something similar to the following window should appear. The box named 'Text1' is where
your code should be written later.
Figure: 2.8.c

Now you have to click 'File, Save as' and chose a file name for your source code ending with the letter '.c'. You can
name is 'code.c' for example, and click save. Then you have to add this file to your project work space at the left as
shown in the following screen shot:
Figure: 2.8.d

After right-clicking on 'source group 1', click on 'Add files to group...', then you will be prompted to browse the
file to add to 'source group 1', chose the file that you just saved, eventually 'code.c' and add it to the source group.
You will notice that the file is added to the project tree at the left.

In some versions of this software you have to turn ON manually the option to generate HEX files. make sure it is
turned ON, by right-clicking on target 1, Options for target 'target 1', then under the 'output' tab, by checking the
box 'generate HEX file'. This step is very important as the HEX file is the compiled output of your project that is
going to be transferred to the microcontroller.

You can then start to write the source code in the window titled 'code.c' then before testing your source code, you
have to compile your source code, and correct eventual syntax errors. In KEIL IDE, this step is called 'rebuild all
targets' and has this icon: .
Figure: 2.8.e

You can use the output window to track eventual syntax errors, but also to check the FLASH memory occupied by
the program (code = 49) as well as the registers occupied in the RAM (data = 9). If after rebuilding the targets, the
'output window' shows that there is 0 error, then you are ready to test the performance of your code. In keil, like in
most development environment, this step is called Debugging, and has this icon: . After clicking on the debug
icon, you will notice that some part of the user interface will change, some new icons will appear, like the run icon
circled in the following figure:
Figure: 2.8.f

You can click on the 'Run' icon and the execution of the program will start. In our example, you can see the
behavior of the pin 0 or port one, but clicking on 'peripherals, I/O ports, Port 1'. You can always stop the execution
of the program by clicking on the stop button ( ) and you can simulate a reset by clicking on the 'reset' button

You can also control the execution of the program using the following icons: which allows you to
follow the execution step by step. Then, when you're finished with the debugging, you can always return to the
programming interface by clicking again on the debug button ( ).

There are many other features to discover in the KEIL IDE. You will easily discover them in first couple hours of
practice, and the more important of them will be presented along the rest of this tutorial.
This concludes this second part of the 89S52 tutorial. I now invite you to start building a real hardware project in the
next part.

89S52 microcontroller quick tutorial

Part 3: Basic Input/Output Operations
By Ibrahim Kamal
Last update: 27/10/10

Previous Part Next Part

In this third part of the 89s52 tutorial, we are going to study the basic structure and
configuration of I/O ports. Then we are going to apply this theory on simple experimental
projects, using a LED and switch, to experiment with the different I/O features of the

At this point of the tutorial, we are going to transfer programs to the microcontroller, using an
ISP (In System Programmer). If you don't have one, you can build one here. Along all the
tutorial, we are going to use our ISP connector

3.1. I/O port detailed structure

It is important to have some basic notions about the structure of an I/O port in the 8051 architecture. You will notice
along this tutorial how this will affect our choices when it comes to connect I/O devices to the ports. Actually, the
I/O ports configuration and mechanism of the 8051 can be confusing, due to the fact that a pin acts as an output pin
as well as an input pin in the same time.

Figure 3.1.A shows the internal diagram of a single I/O pin of port 1. The first thing you have to notice, is that there
are two different direction for the data flow from the microcontroller's processor and the external pin: The Latch
value and the Pin value. The latch value is the value that the microcontroller tries to output on the pin, while the pin
value, is the actual logic state of the pin, regardless of the latch value that was set by the processor in the first place.
The microcontroller reads the state of a pin through the Pin value line, and writes through the latch value line. If you
imagine the behavior of the simple circuit in figure 3.1.A, you'll notice that the I/O pin should follow the voltage of
the Latch value, providing 5V through the pull-up resistor, or 0V by connecting the pin directly to the GND through
the transistor.

When the pin is pulled high by the pull-up resistor, the pin can output
5V but can also be used as an input pin, because there is no any risk
of short-circuit due to the presence of a resistor. This can be easily
verified by connecting the pin to 0V or to 5V, the two possible
outcomes are both unharmful for the microcontroller, and the PIN
value line will easily follow the value imposed by the external

Now imagine the opposite configuration, where the latch value would
be low, causing the pin to provide 0V, being directly connected to
GND through the transistor. If in this situation, an external device
tries to raise the pin's voltage to 5V, a short circuit will occur and
some damage may be
figure 3.1.A: Basic I/O pin internal diagram
made to the microcontroller's port or to the external device connected to that pin.

To summarize, in the 8051 architecture, to use a PIN as an input pin, you have to output '1', and the pin
value will follow the value imposed by the device connected to it (switch, sensor, etc...). If you plan to use the
pin as an output pin, then just output the required value without taking any of this in consideration.
Even if some ports like P3 and P0 can have a slightly different internal composition than P1, due to the dual
functions they assure, understanding the structure and functioning of port 1 as described above is fairly enough to
use all the ports for basic I/O operations.

3.2 Simple output project: Blinking a led.

A first simple project to experiment with the output operations is to blink a LED. Assuming you have successfully
written and compiled the code as explained in the previous part of the tutorial, now we are going to transfer the HEX
file corresponding to that code on the 89s52 microcontroller. Let us recall that the HEX file is a machine language
file, generated by the compiler, originally from a C code.

The code for blinking a LED is as follow:

#include <REGX52.h>
#include <math.h>

delay(unsigned int y){

unsigned int i;

P1_0 = 0;
P1_0 = 1;

Before transferring the HEX file to the target microcontroller, the hardware have to be constructed. First you have to
provide a clean (noiseless) 5V power supply, by connecting the Vcc pin (40) to 5V and the GND pin (20) to 0V.
Then you have provide a mean of regulating or generating the clock of the processor. The easiest and most efficient
way to do this is to add a crystal resonator and 2 decoupling capacitors of approximately 30pF (see the crystal X1
and the capacitors C1 and C2 on figure 3.1). Then, you have connect pin 31 (EA) to 5V. The EA pin is an active
low' pin that indicate the presence of an external memory. Activating this pin by providing 0V on it will tell the
internal processor to use external memories and ignore the internal built-in memory of the chip. By providing 5V on
the EA pin, its functionality is deactivated and the processor uses the internal memories (RAM and FLASH). At last,
you have to connect a standard reset circuitry on pin 9 composed of the 10Kohm resistor R2 and the 10 uF capacitor
C3, as you can see in the schematic. You can also add a switch to short-circuit pin 9 (RST) and 5V giving you the
ability to reset the microcontroller by pressing on the switch (the processor resets in a high level is provided on the
RST pin for more than 2 machine cycles).

Those were the minimum connections to be made for the microcontroller to be functional and able to operate
correctly. According to the fact that we are going to use an ISP programmer, A connector is added by default to
allow easy in system programming.

For our simple output project, a LED is connected to P1.0 through a 220 ohm resistor R1, as you can see in figure
3.2.A below. Note that there are other ways to connect the LED, but now that you understand the internal structure
of the port, you can easily deduce that this is the only way to connect the LED so that the current is fully controlled
by the external resistor R1. Any other connection scheme would involve the internal resistor of the port, which is

figure 3.2.A LED blinking project hardware

In order get rid of any confusion, a picture of the implementation of this simple project on a bread board is provided
to help you visualize the hardware part of the project:
figure 3.2.B: LED blinking project hardware implementation
Note that the reset switch and R/C filter are not present on this breadboard, the reset functionality of the ISP cable
was used instead.

At this stage, you can finally connect your ISP programmer, launch the ISPprog software, browse the HEX file for
programming the FLASH, and transfer it to the microcontroller, as described in the ISP page. You can eventually
use any other available programming hardware and/or software.

If all your connections are correct, you should see the LED blinking as soon as the programming (transfer) is
finished. You can experiment with different delay in the code to change the blinking frequency. Don't forget that for
any change to take place, you have to rebuild your source code, generating a new hex file (replacing the old one) and
retransfer the freshly generated HEX file to the microcontroller.

3.3 Simple Input/Output project

The most simple input operation you can implement to the previous project is a push button, to control the LED. The
schematic below (figure 3.3) shows how a switch is added on another pin of Port 1. We could have connected the
switch on another port, but i preferred to stress on capability of the 8051 architecture to share input and output pins
on the same port. Notice how the switch is connected to ground, and without a pull up resistor. recalling the internal
structure of a pin, you'll notice that this is the simplest way to connect a switch, and also the most adapted to the
8051 architecture, making use of the internal pull up resistor, and preventing any eventual short circuits if the port is
not well configured.
figure 3.3: LED blinking project hardware implementation

Now, that the hardware is finalized, an adequate software have to be designed and written to assure the correct
functioning of the system. To control a led, there are many possible solutions. The first one I propose is the simplest
one: a software that turns on the LED as long as the push button is pressed and turn it off otherwise and whose
source code would be as the following:

#include <REGX52.h>
#include <math.h>

delay(unsigned int y){

unsigned int i;

P1_3 = 1; //Setup P1_3 as input pin
if(P1_3 == 0){
P1_0 = 0; //Turn ON the LED
P1_0 = 1; //Turn OFF the LED

The other solution I propose is a software that turns ON the LED for a couple of seconds each time the switch is
pressed, then turn it off automatically. The source code would be as the following:

#include <REGX52.h>
#include <math.h>

unsigned long time, ON_time; //Global Variables

void main(){
P1_3 = 1; //Set up P1_3 as input pin
ON_time = 100000;
if (time < ON_time){
time++; // start or continue counting
P1_0 = 0; //Turn ON the LED
P1_0 = 1; // Turn OFF the LED
if (P1_3 == 0){ // if the switch is pressed,
time = 0; // reset 'time' to 0

The source code above may need some explanation: First you can notice that there is no 'delay' function, as it is not
needed anymore. Two variables are defined 'time' and 'ON_time', they are both 'usigned long' type, so that they can
manage relatively huge numbers, required to generate dozens of seconds delays. The variable 'time' will be used to
count the elapsed time (in number of code cycles), while the 'ON_time' is used to store the fixed time period which
the LED should stay ON after the push button is released. Then those two variables as constantly compared, and as
soon as the elapsed time reaches the required 'ON_time', the led switches off, and the 'time' counting stops, to
prevent eventual overflow. A push on the button would set the 'time' back to 0, and the whole process can start

You can try on your own to figure out other ways of optimizing the control of a LED or a number of LEDs.

To conclude this part of the tutorial, i suggest this simple exercise:

"Using the same schematic (figure 3.3), build a software that would allow you to toggle the state of a led on simple
button press. A press on the button to turn the LED ON or OFF, depending on its initial state"

You can try your source code by simulating it in KEIL IDE, or by testing it directly on your breadboard. IF you can't
find the solution, you can seek for help in the forums.
89S52 microcontroller quick tutorial
Part 4: Interrupts, timers and counters
By Ibrahim Kamal
Last update: 27/10/10

Previous Part
Most microcontrollers come with a set of 'ADD-ONs' called peripherals, to enhance the
functioning of the microcontroller, to give the programmer more options, and to increase the
overall performance of the controller. Those features are principally the timers, counters,
interrupts, Analog to digital converters, PWM generators, and communication buses like UART,
SPI or I2C. The 89S52 is not the most equipped micro-controller in terms of peripherals, but
never the less, the available features are adequate to a wide range of applications, and it is one of
the easiest to learn on the market.

4.1. Introduction to 89S52 Peripherals

Figure 4.1 below shows a simplified diagram of the main peripherals present in the 89S52 and their interaction with
the CPU and with the external I/O pins. You can notice that there are 3 timers/Counters. We use the expression
"Timer/Counter" because this unit can be a counter when it counts external pulses on it's corresponding pin, and it
can be a timer when it counts the pulses provided by the main clock oscillator of the microcontroller. Timer/Counter
2 is a special counter, that does not behave like the two others, because it have a couple of extra functionality.

The serial port, using a UART (Universal Asynchronous Receive Transmit) protocol can be used in a wide range of
communication applications. With the UART provided in the 89S52 you can easily communicate with a serial port
equipped computer, as well as communicate with another microcontroller. This last application, called Multi-
processor communication, is quite interesting, and can be easily implemented with 2 89S52 microcontrollers to build
a very powerful multi-processor controllers.

If all the peripherals described above can generate interrupt signals in the CPU according to some specific events, it
can be useful to generate an interrupt signal from an external device, that may be a sensor or a Digital to Analog
converter. For that purpose there are 2 External Interrupt sources (INT0 and INT1).
figure 4.1: 89s52 Peripherals

This was a presentation of the available peripheral features in a 89S52 microcontroller. Through this tutorial, we
are going to study how to setup and use external interrupts and the 2 standard timers (T0 and T1). For
simplicity, and to keep this tutorial a quick and straight forward one, The UART and the Timer/Counter 2 shall be
discussed in separate tutorials.

4.2 External Interrupts

Let's start with the simplest peripheral which is the external interrupt, which can be used to cause interruptions on
external events (a pin changing its state from 0 to 1 or vice-versa). In case you don't know, interruption is a mean of
stopping the flow of a program, as a response to a certain event, to execute a small program called 'interrupt routine'.

As you noticed in figure 4.1, in the 89S52, there are two external interrupt sources, one connected to the pin P3.2
and the other to P3.3. They are configured using a number of SFRs (Special Function Registers). Most of those
SFRs are shared by other peripherals as you shall see in the rest of the tutorial.

The IE register

figure 4.2.A: IE Register

The first register you have to configure (by turning On or Off the right bits) is the IE register, shown in figure
4.2.A. IE stands for 'Interrupt Enable', and it is used to allow different peripherals to cause software interruption. To
use any of the interrupts, the bit EA (Enable ALL) must be set to 1, then, you have enable each one of the interrupts
to be used with its individual enable bit. For the external interrupts, the two bits EX0 and EX1 are used for External
Interrupt 0 and External Interrupt 1.
Using the C programming language under KEIL, it is extremely simple to set those bits, simply by using their name
as any global variables, Using the following syntax:

EA = 1;
EX0 = 1;
EX1 = 1;

The rest of the bits of IE register are used for other interrupt sources like the 3 timers overflow (ETx) and the serial
interface (ES).

The TCON register

figure 4.2.B: TCON Register

Similarly, you have to set the bits IT0 and IT1 in the TCON register, shown in figure 4.2.B. The bits IT0/IT1 are
used to configure the type of signal on the corresponding pins (P3.2/P3.3) that generated an interrupt according to
the following table:

IT0/IT1 = 1 External interrupt caused by a falling edge signal on P3.2/P3.3

IT0/IT1 = 0 External interrupt caused by a low level signal on P3.2/P3.3

If IT0 or IT1 is set to 0, an interruption will keep reoccurring as long as P3.2 or P3.3 is set to 0. This mode isn't easy
to mange, and most programmers tends to use external interrupts triggered by a falling edge (transition from 1 to 0).

Again, this register is 'bit addressable' meaning you can set or clear each bit individually using their names, like in
the following example:

IT0 = 1;
IT1 = 1;

Example Program
Here is an example program to demonstrate the External Interrupt peripheral feature of the 89s52. We are going to
build a simple digital low pass filter.

External Interrupt 0 is set in 'Falling Edge' mode, and is used to check for noise on a signal and reset a counter in
case noise is detected. Since the noise is interpreted by digital devices as a succession of high and low levels, any
'high to low' level transition is easily detected in the 'Falling edge' mode.

If the counter reaches a pre-calibrated value, then the signal is considered to be stable, and can be sampled,
otherwise, if the signal bounces between 0 and 1 before the counter reaches the pre-defined value, the external
interrupt resets the counter, and the signal is not taken in account.

Since we will be using External Interrupt 0, the signal to be checked for noise and sampled is imperatively
connected to pin P3.2, and the clean, filtered output signal is to be generated on P1.0.

// Include standard headers

#include <REGX52.h>
#include <math.h>

unsigned int counter; //Variable used for our counter

setup_interrupts () // Function to setup the External interrupt 0 in the required mode
EA = 1;
EX0 = 1;
IT0 = 1;

filter () interrupt 0 //The function the be executed when external interrupt occurs
counter = 0; //Reset the counter to 0

time_constant = 40000; //Define the response time of our filter
setup_interrupts (); //setup the External interrupt
if (counter < time_constant) // Count until the pre-defined time_constant

if (counter == time_constant) // if the counter was not interrupted by any noise,

P1_0 = P3_2; // output the valid signal on P1_0

To make sure you've correctly assimilated the functioning of the external interrupts, try to build a program that
decodes the pulses coming from an incremental encoder to determine an
absolute position.

Incremental encoder are rotational encoder that generate 2 square

waves, shifted by 90 degrees (or by a quarter of a period), as you can
see in figure 4.2.C. The main idea of operation is that for a same
direction of rotation, the falling edges of signal A will occur at the same
time with respect to the signal B.

In other words, during clockwise rotation, the falling edge of signal will
always occur while signal B is at high level. On the other hand, during
counterclockwise rotation, the falling edges of signal A will always
occur while signal B is at a low level.

This mechanism can be used to detect the 'quantity' of rotation in

number of pulses as well as direction of the rotation

Using this method, build a program to decode the signals coming from
an incremental encoder, and update the position of the encoder at each
falling edge. You will need

figure 4.2.C: Incremental Encoders wave forms

only one External interruption.

You can try your source code by simulating it in KEIL IDE, or by testing it directly on your breadboard. IF
you can't find the solution, you can seek for help in the forums.

4.3 Timer/Counter
For this part, I'll often use the notation 1/0 adjacent to a register name, which means that there are two of that
register, one of them for timer/counter 0, and the other for timer/counter 1, and that the description applies to
both of them.

The timer is a very interesting peripheral, that is imperatively present in every microcontroller. It can be used in two
distinct modes:

Timer: Counting internal clock pulses, which are fixed with time, hence, we can say that it is very precise timer,
whose resolution depends on the frequency of the main CPU clock (note that CPU clock equals the crystal
frequency over 12).

Counter: Counting external pulses (on the corresponding I/O pin), which can be provided by a rotational encoder,
an IR-barrier sensor, or any device that provide pulses, whose number would be of some interest.

Sure, the CPU of a microcontroller could provide the required timing or counting, but the timer/counter peripheral
relieves the CPU from that redundant and repetitive task, allowing it to allocate maximum processing power for
more complex calculations.

So, like any other peripheral, a Timer/Counter can ask for an interruption of the program, which - if enabled - occurs
when the counting registers of the Timer/Counter are full and overflow. More precisely, the interruption will occur
at the same time the counting register will be reinitialized to its initial value.

So to control the behavior of the timers/counters, a set of SFR are used, most of them have already been seen at the
top of this tutorial.

The IE register
First, you have to Enable the corresponding interrupts, but writing 1's to the corresponding bits in the IE register.
The following table shows the names and definitions of the concerned bits of the IR register (you can always take a
look at the complete IE register in figure 4.2.A):
EA Enable All interrupts
ET2 Enable Timer 2 interrupts (will not be treated in this tutorial)
ET1 Enable Timer 1 interrupts
ET0 Enable Timer 0 interrupts
You can access those special bits by their names, as simply as it seems, example:
ET0 = 1;

The TCON register

The TCON register is also shared between more than one peripherals. It can be used to configure timers or, as you
saw before, external interrupts. The following table shows the names and definitions of the concerned bits of the
TCON register (available in figure 4.2.B):
TF1 Overflow interrupt flag, used by the processor.
TR1 Timer/counter 1 RUN bit, set it to 1 to enable the timer to count, 0 to stop counting.
TF0 Overflow interrupt flag, used by the processor.
TR0 Timer/counter 0 RUN bit, set it to 1 to enable the timer to count, 0 to stop counting.
As the IE register, TCON is also bit-addressable, so you can set its bit using its names, like we did before. Example
TR0 = 1;

The TMOD register

Before explaining the TMOD register, let us agree and make it clear that the register IS NOT BIT-ADDRESSABLE,
meaning you have to write the 8 bits of the register in a single instruction, by coding those bits into a decimal or
hexadecimal number, as you shall see later.

So, as you can see in figure 4.2.C, the TMOD register can be divided into two similar set of bits, each group being
used to configure the mode of operation of one of the two timers.

figure 4.2.C: TCON Register

For the a given Timer/Counter, the corresponding bits of TMOD can be defined as in the following table:
Gate signal. For normal operation clear this bit to 0.

If you want to use the timers to capture external events's length, set it to 1, and the timer 1/0 will
stop counting when External Interrupt 1/0 pin is low (set to 0 V). Note that this feature involves
both a timer and an external interrupt, It you're responsibility to write the code to manage the
operation of those two peripherals.
Set to 1 to use the timer/counter 1/0 as a Counter, counting external events on P3_4/P3_5,
cleared to 0 to use it as timer, counting the main oscillator frequency divided by 12.
M1 Timer MODE: Those two last bits combine as 2 bit word that defines the mode of operation,
M0 defined as the table below.

Timer/counter modes of operation

Each timer/counter has two SFR called TL0 and TH0 (for timer/counter0) and TL1 and TH1 (for timer/counter 1).
TL stands for timer LOW, and is used to store the lower bits of the number being counted by the timer/counter. TH
stands for TH, and is used to store the higher bits of the number being counted by the timer/counter.
M1 M0 Mode Description
Only TH0/1 is used, forming an 8bit timer/counter.
Timer/counter will count up from the value initially stored in TH0/1 to 255, and then overflow
back to 0.
0 0 0 If an interrupt is enabled, an interrupt will occur upon overflow.
If used as timer, pulses from the processor are divided by 32 (after being divided by 12). The
result is the main oscillator frequency divided by 384.
If used as counter, external pulses are only divided by 32.
Both TH0/1 and TL0/1 are used, forming a 16 bit timer/counter.
Timer/counter will count up from the 16 bit value initially stored in TH0/1 and TL0/1 to
65535, and then overflow back to 0.
0 1 1 If an interrupt is enabled, an interrupt will occur upon overflow.
If used as timer, pulses from the processor are only divided by 12.
If used as counter, external pulses are not divided, but the maximum frequency that can be
accurately counted equals the oscillator frequency divided by 24.
TL0/1 is used for counting, forming an 8 bit timer/counter. TH0/1 is used to hold the value to
be restored in TL upon overflow.
Timer/counter will count up from the 8 bit value initially stored in TL0/1 and to 255, and then
overflow, setting the value of TH0/1 in TL0/1. This is called the auto-reload function.
1 0 2
If an interrupt is enabled, an interrupt will occur upon overflow.
If used as timer, pulses from the processor are only divided by 12.
If used as counter, external pulses are not divided, but the maximum frequency that can be
accurately counted equals the oscillator frequency divided by 24.
1 1 3 This mode is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

Timer modes 1 and 2 are the most used in 8051 microcontroller projects, since they offer a wide range of possible

4.3 Exercise project

To conclude this tutorial, a simple project is proposed, to help you assimilate the functioning of the timers, counter
and interrupts.

Consider the following problem. A motor is being operated by an outdated motor controller. We want to add some
security to the system, by stopping the whole system in case the motor heats up too much, or turns too fast. A
temperature sensor is already set up and give a low signal 0 when the temperature is too high, and an optical encoder
output a pulse for each revolution of the motor. We need to write the code to stop the motor incase it heats up or in
case it reached 10 000 r.p.m.

Considering that the temperature sensor is connected to P3.2 (External interrupt 0), the encoder is connected
to P3.5 (Timer/Counter 1), that the system can be stopped by a high level signal on P1_0, and that we are
using a 24MHz crystal oscillator, the software for that controller would be like the following:

// Include standard headers

#include <REGX52.h>
#include <math.h>

#define limit 12
#define stop_signal P1_0

unsigned char sub_counter;

//setup external interrupt
EA = 1;
EX0 = 1;
IT0 = 1;

TMOD = 0x52; // timer 0 mode 2, counter 1 mode 1

//setup timer 0
TR0 = 1;
TH0 = 5; //makes the timer to overflow every 125 uS (divide by 250).
ET0 = 1;

//setup timer 1
TR1 = 1 ;

timer_0 () interrupt 1{
sub_counter++ ;
if (sub_counter == 10){ // divide the overflow frequency further more by 10
sub_counter = 0;
// this part is executed every 1.25 mS
if ((TL1 + (TH1 * 256)) > limit){ // 12/0.00125 = 9600 (~ 10000)s
//Stop the motor
stop_signal = 1;
TL1 = 0;
TH1 = 0;

over_heat_alarm () interrupt 0{
stop_signal = 1;

void main(){
stop_signal = 0; // the motor runs normally
// Do nothing, the whole program is carried out by interrupts!

You should be able to understand and calculate all the choices of timings in that source code, especially the values
related with the timer 0 that have to be executed at a very precise time. For more information about RPM
measurements, see this project: Contact less digital tachometer.