Goldilocks Analogue – Testing 2


I’ve been working (slowly) on a new development for my ATmega1284p platform, called Goldilocks.

My initial design for the Goldilocks Analogue was flawed in several ways, so I revised the design and produced a new prototype.

Here it is:


Goldilocks Analogue – Prototype 2

Now that the new prototype for the Goldilocks Analogue is completed, it is time to test it to see how successful the design was. And interestingly, in the time that I’ve been designing the Goldilocks Analogue, Stanford University in collaboration with Texas Instruments have produced their own Analog Shield.

So this test will compare the Goldilocks Analogue with its dual channel 12bit MCP4822 DAC with the Stanford Analog Shield quad channel 16bit DAC8564 DAC. In a later test sequence, using the same test tone, I compare the Goldilocks Analogue with the Open Music Labs Audio Codec Shield using a Wolfson Micro WM8731 24 bit Codec with ADC, DAC, and signal processing capabilities.

Summary (TL;DR)

The test platform is essentially the same ATmega1284p device, clocked at 22.1184MHz. For the Goldilocks Analogue it is integrated on to the main board. For the Analog Shield I used a Goldilocks device as provided in the Pozible project.

You don’t need a lot of space to have great tools. I’m using a Red Pitaya device, configured as an oscilloscope and as a spectrum analyser, together with a Saleae Logic to capture SPI transactions.


Micro Test bench – Red Pitaya and Saleae Logic

Both Goldilocks Analogue and Analog Shield are comfortably capable of producing reasonable quality stereo signals at 44.1kHz sampling rate. Both devices output beautiful looking 43.1Hz sine waves, at 44.1kHz reconstruction rate, from a 16 bit 1024 sample Sine Wave.

The Goldilocks Analogue produces 0V to 4.096V 1:1 buffered signals from its DC outputs, and an AC amplified headphone output in parallel. The Analog Shield produces -5V to +5V balanced amplified signals from the 0 to 2.5V DAC.


Full Swing 43.1Hz Sine Wave Goldilocks Analogue – Blue 0V to +4.096V Analog Shield – Red -5v to +5V

The Analog Shield shows a lot of harmonics at high frequencies as shown. Comparing the two solutions, the Analog Shield doesn’t do justice to the extra 4 bits (theoretically 98dB SNR 16 bit DAC), over the Goldilocks Analogue (theoretically 74dB SNR 12 bit DAC). The BOM price difference between MCP4822 ($4.60) and DAC8564 ($20) is hard to justify given the performance demonstrated.

I think that using the platform of the AVR ATmega (Arduino) there is little point using a 16 bit DAC. There is too much noise (many mV) in the power supply and around Goldilocks or Arduino Uno or Mega boards to make more than 10 to 12 bits of DAC resolution (or ADC resolution) in any way relevant.


Overlaid 976kHz Spectrum – Analog Shield Red – Shows significant harmonics

Stanford – TI Analog Shield

As part of its microcontroller course, Stanford University required a platform to sample and generate analogue signals. The Standford – TI Analog Shield arose from this need.

The Analog Shield contains a Texas Instrument quad channel ADC and a quad channel DAC, together with a variable voltage supply. I have not tested the ADC.

The DAC capability is based on a Texas Instrument DAC8564 device. This device has many interesting features, including the ability to synchronise loading of updated digital outputs, and to maintain multiple power-down states. The DAC8564 has many great features, and it comes with a price tag to match its capabilities.


Analog Shield – Quad 16bit DAC & Quad 16bit ADC – Stanford University & Texas Instruments

Signals generated by the DAC8564 (from 0v to 2.5V) are biased around 0V and amplified to produce a 10V full swing output. The output exhibits some “cramping” around 0x0000 (-5V) outputs.


Analog Shield – Quad DAC Schematic – -5V to +5V full swing

Head to Head

Testing was done using a 16 bit 1024 sample Sine Wave file. Outputs were generated by a timer triggered to interrupt every 22.7us (44.1kHz), and produce a new output level. Testing should show only a main signal at 43.1Hz, and the reproduction frequency of 44.1kHz. The Goldilocks Analogue discards the lower 4 bits of the samples and only outputs the 12 most significant bits.

Theoretically, the Goldilocks Analogue MCP4822 DAC should be able to achieve 74dB SNR, with its 12 bits of resolution, based on the rule of thumb SINAD = (6.02 x BITS) + 1.76. For the Analog Shield DAC8564 the number is 98db SNR.


Head to Head Testing – Using Red Pitaya and Saleae Logic

All outputs generated by a 1024 sample 16bit Sine wave, generated with a 44.1kHz reconstruction sample rate, triggered by an interrupt timer.


Goldilocks Analogue – 43Hz Sine Wave – Two Channels – One Channel Inverted


Analog Shield – 43Hz Sine Wave – Two Channels – One Channel Inverted

In previous testing on the Goldilocks Analogue prototype I had found that my OpAmp devices were unable to achieve 0V properly. In this new prototype I have produced a stable -1.186V Vss supply for the OpAmp. The signals at 0x000 show that I’ve achieved the required result, with the output being smooth down to the 0x000 level, and up to 0xFFF as well.


Goldilocks Analogue – 0xFFF Output


Goldilocks Analogue – 0x000 Output

The Analog Shield also produces smooth signals, but it does display some compression around 0x0000 levels. Possibly because of some issues with generating the Vss rail for the OpAmps.


Analog Shield – 0xFFFF Output


Analog Shield – 0x0000 Output – Slight Clipping

Looking at the spectra generated by both implementations up to 953Hz it is possible to see harmonics from the Sine Wave, and other low frequency noise.

The spectra are not directly comparable, because the Goldilocks Analogue is producing a 4V full swing, or -4dBm, whilst the Analog Shield is producing a 10V full swing, or 3.7dBm. Distortions in the Analog Shield need to be reduced by 7.7dB to be equivalent to distortion in the Goldilocks Analogue.

The spectrum produced by the Goldilocks Analogue shows most distortion is below -70dB, and that the noise floor lies below -100dB.


Goldilocks Analogue – 43.1Hz Sine Wave – 953Hz Spectrum

The Analog Shield has a significant noise present at 50Hz, which may be caused by noise leakage through the PC USB power supply not being completely filtered before the supply is provided to the DAC8564. Other noise rises above -80dB, and is present right across the spectrum.


Analog Shield – 43.1Hz Sine Wave – 953Hz Spectrum

In the spectra out to 7.6kHz we are looking at the clearly audible range, which is the main use case for the devices.

The Goldilocks Analogue has noise carriers out to around 4.5kHz, but they are all below -80dB. After 4.5kHz the only noise remains below -100dB.


Goldilocks Analogue – 43.1Hz Sine Wave – 7.6kHz Spectrum

The Analog Shield shows noise carriers out to only 2.5kHz, but on one channel these are above -80dB. Otherwise the test shows mainly background noise below -100dB beyond 2.5kHz.


Analog Shield – 43.1Hz Sine Wave – 7.6kHz Spectrum

The spectra out to 61kHz should show a noise carrier generated by the reconstruction frequency of 44.1kHz.

The Goldilocks Analogue shows the spectrum maintains is low noise level below -90dB right out to the end of the audible range, and further out to the reconstruction carrier at 44.1kHz.


Goldilocks Analogue – 43.1Hz Sine Wave – 61kHz Spectrum

Similarly, the Analog Shield is quiet out beyond the audible range. It exhibits a strong noise carrier at the reconstruction frequency. Also, it shows some beat frequencies generated by a small noise carrier at 10kHz, and the reconstruction carrier. These noise carriers might be caused by the TPS61093 boost power supply used to generate the +ve and -ve supplies for the output buffer OpAmps, although it has a characteristic frequency at 1.2MHz, or it might be leakage from some other device.


Analog Shield – 43.1Hz Sine Wave – 61kHz Spectrum – Harmonics around 44.1kHz reconstruction frequency

The final two spectra show the signal out to 976kHz. We’d normally expect to simply see the noise floor, beyond the 44.1kHz reconstruction carrier noise.

The Goldilocks Analogue has a noise carrier at around 210kHz. This could be generated by one or both of the TPS60403 devices used to generate the negative AVss supply. These devices have a typical switching frequency of 250kHz, specified between 150kHz and 300kHz, so this is possible. Aside from the single carrier mentioned, there is no further noise out to 976kHz.


Goldilocks Analogue – 43.1Hz Sine Wave – 976kHz Spectrum

The Analog Shield shows the reconstruction carrier noise at -50dB, and then harmonics of this carrier all the way out to 976kHz. Not sure why these artifacts are appearing. There is a chance that noise derived from these signals is impacting the overall outcome for the DAC8564.


Analog Shield – 43.1Hz Sine Wave – 976kHz Spectrum

Using the Saleae Logic we can capture the SPI transactions generating the analogue result. To maintain the 44.1kHz reconstruction rate a set of samples needs to be transferred every 22.7us.

In the code I’ve used to generate the signal an interrupt timer triggers every 22.7us indicated by the rising edge of “Channel 6”. Once the interrupt has finished processing it lowers the Channel 6 line, indicating that control has returned to the main program. If required the main program has to use the remaining time to generate the required signal. Clearly the faster the SPI transaction to set up the transaction can be completed the more time available for other purposes.

The MCP4822 found in the Goldilocks Analogue has 4 control bits and 12 data bits, which are transferred in 2 8 bit transactions. To set two channels only 4 SPI transactions are required, taking 7.25us.


Goldilocks Analog SPI transaction – Interrupt duration 7.25us

The DAC8564 used in the Analog Shield has 8 control bits and 16 data bits, which are transferred in 3 8 bit transactions, or 24 SPI clock cycles. For two channels this takes 6 SPI transactions and 9.08us.

Both devices leave sufficient time for calculation of simple VCO, or other multiply based, effects in real time with 44.1kHz dual channel. Halving the sample rate to 22.05kHz would be necessary to provide more opportunity to retrieve data from uSD cards or other more complex data sources.


Analog Shield SPI Transaction – Interrupt duration 9.083us

The final reality check in this Head-to-Head comparison is provided by Digikey. I must say that some of the features of the DAC8564 had convinced me to look at migrating the production Goldilocks Analogue to use this new TI DAC. However, seeing that the BOM cost for the TI DAC is approximately 4 times greater than the MCP4822 device soon cooled those thoughts.

Given the cost sensitive nature of the Arduino environment it is not practical to use a device costing nearly US$20 on the Goldilocks Analogue platform, irrespective of its performance.

And, given that the Analog Shield provides no justification in terms of signal quality over the existing Goldilocks Analogue solution there seems to be no technical merit in changing the DAC specification, either.

The Microchip MCP4822 is available from US$4.60 at Digikey.


Digikey MCP4822 Pricing

The Texas Instrument DAC8564 is available from US$18.60 at Digikey.


Digikey DAC8464 Pricing

Design Review

The remaining features and functions of the Goldilocks Analogue have been tested, and resulting from these tests I’m going to make the following redesigns and changes.

  • Revert to tri-state buffers for uSD I/O logic conversion CMOS 5v to CMOS 3v3 – Bi-directional translators pure fail! I tried both TI TXB and TXS devices and they simply didn’t work as specified.
  • Remove USART pin-out – unnecessary feature and just takes board space.
  • Move DAC pin-out to right hand edge of the prototyping space – easier to use if not covered by UNO format shield. As the Goldilocks Analogue is slightly longer than standard Arduino UNO shields, putting the DAC DC output pins outside the shield outline on the right hand end of the board will allow easier access for connections.
  • Increase prototyping space – fill in space freed by pin-out removals.
  • Use smaller packages where possible – heading for production.
  • Increase bypass capacitors on uSD 3V supply – uSD cards consume significant current, potential for instability because of long 3V3 supply
  • Use a JTAG pin for MCP4822 LDAC – to enable synchronization of the DAC channels.

Goldilocks Analogue – Testing


This post follows on from the and gives some insight into the results of the first board prototype board assembled.

Updated - Goldilocks Analogue

Updated – Goldilocks Analogue

The information will develop over the next few weeks, as I add more information and test results.

I’ve built a new Goldilocks Analogue design and I have described the changes and additions.


Well I’ve had my  Goldilocks Analogue on my desk now for a few nights, and I’m very impressed that it seems to generally meet the specification that was intended.

The code for setting the DAC levels is currently only optimised for setting two values at a time. Specifically, it is not a streaming function. Never-the-less, it is possible to achieve the stated goal for both DAC channels. The actual number achieved is 108 kSamples/second, shown below, or 18.8us to transmit 2 samples on 2 channels.

I’ve been testing the Goldilocks Analogue DAC stage and found (what I should have known) that I needed an output buffer op-amp able to do negative rail (0V) input and output to support the MCP4822 0v to 4.095V ranging DAC, so I’m going to order some soon.

Unfortunately the OPA4350 (rail to rail high current), at over $10 each, is nearly as expensive as the audiophile OPA4132 I specified previously.

There seems to be a pin compatible alternative, the TS924A, which is about $2 each, but several orders of magnitude worse in performance.

For Example: OPA4350 vs TS924A
Gain Bandwidth Product: 38MHz vs 4MHz
Slew Rate: 22V/μs vs 1.3V/μs
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0006% vs 0.005%

Is it worth the difference, when working with a 12 bit DAC in the presence of mV of power supply noise? I’ll revisit this with the next design notes.

How about 5V?

To build an effective DAC I’ve learned that we need to have an effective quiet 5V power supply, with as little noise as possible. To put this into context, the 12 bit MCP4822 generates a 1mV per level difference. I noticed there is quite a few mV of noise on the 5V supply of the Goldilocks Analogue. Not what I was hoping to see, so I’ve gone back to see how that compares with predecessors.

All measurements are taken with a 100MHz Rigol DS1102E, with 150MHz probes grounded onto the USB socket of each board respectively. The probes are directly on the regulator output capacitor, which should be the quietest point on the board, and then directly off Vcc on the MCU for the DIL boards, or a nearby test point for the SMD boards.

First stop is a reference design Arduino Uno R2 board. As a starting point the Uno shows 16mV on the power supply, and 35mV on the MCU. Let’s see how some other boards compare.


Arduino Uno

The Freetronics Eleven board also uses a linear regulator, similar (if not identical to) the Arduino Uno. However the capacitor arrangement must be somewhat more effective because the noise present on the output capacitor is less than 6mV. This is significantly better than on the Arduino Uno, and even measured against the Vcc pin the supply noise remains significantly lower than the Uno.

This Freetronics Eleven board was running at 22.1184MHz rather than the standard Arduino speed, but that doesn’t seem to affect the result.


Freetronics Eleven

Next up is the Seeed Studio ADK boards is an ATmega2560 board running at 16MHz, which also uses a linear regulator. The ADK board exhibits the same quiet supply found in the Freetronics Eleven, and has very similar characteristics on the Vcc test point as well.


Seeed Studio ADK

The Goldilocks v1.1 resulting from the Pozible project is my true point of reference. I hope to be able to do slightly better than this board, by better layout of the same SMPS circuit that is used across all of the Freetronics range of products.

In measurement, the Goldilocks v1.1 sets a very high standard to surpass. Even though there is a 500kHz SMPS running in the supply, the Vcc supply capacitor shows very low noise of only 5.29mV, and the Vcc noise on the test point is only 12.0mV.


Goldilocks V1.1

The Goldilocks Analogue Prototype 1 uses the same SMPS circuit present across the entire range of Freetronics boards, but using an optimised (for this application) layout. Shorter internal tracks should result in slightly faster smoothing, and better regulation, although the effect at normal currents would be minimal.

In comparison with the  Goldilocks v1.1, there seems to be slightly less noise at the supply capacitor with less than 5mV showing, although this effect is marginal. The noise on the Vcc line seems to be similar.


Goldilocks Analogue Prototype 1


Having looked at the power supplies at rest, and built a baseline of what to expect, here are some screenshots of the Goldilocks SMPS under load. Port D is being switched from 0x00 to 0xFF at 30kHz. The first screenshot shows one of the Port D pins on channel 1, and the Vcc (5V) line at the supply capacitor on channel 2. Note that there is 24mV of noise on the Vcc supply capacitor, even without drawing much current.


This second screenshot shows the same set up, but with 8 LEDs being driven off the Port D. Channel 2 shows the variation in supply capacitor Vcc under the increased load.


So the big question is whether the new layout of the SMPS has achieved anything. Well, based on this simple test, it would seem to have generated a fairly significant improvement.

The below two screenshots shows the trailing edge of the 8 LED power load being switched off. Note that on the supply Vcc there is some oscillation and instability as the SMPS recovers from the load reduction.

This first screenshot shows the Goldilocks V1.1 situation, with a ripple of 832mV peak to peak.


With the Goldilocks Analogue, the peak to peak ripple is reduced to under 600mV, which is a 25% improvement in this situation.


Sine Waves

I’m using my new Red Pitaya to analyse the output of the Goldilocks Analogue output state, with a 43.066Hz Sine wave (1024 samples played out at 44.1kHz) as the input to the DAC.


This shows the sine wave generated at the output of the low pass filter (23kHz -3dB single pole design). This is almost exactly as we would like to see.
Post Filter 43Hz Sine - Oscilloscope
Looking at the lower segment of the sine wave below and the image above, it is almost perfect to 0V and to 4.096V peak to peak.
Post Filter 43Hz Sine - Oscilloscope Segment
Looking at this sine wave on the spectrum analyser across the band up to 7.6kHz, we can see the noise floor is 70dB down from the signal exiting the DAC. It seems the DAC performs as advertised.
DAC 43Hz Sine - 7k6Hz
Looking across the band to 61kHz, we can see the peak at -70dbm from the 44.1kHz sampling noise. Unfortunately, the single pole filter doesn’t do much to suppress this noise source.
DAC 43Hz Sine - 61kHz
To get an idea of whether the 23kHz filter is working as expected, we need to look out to the 976kHz band. The next two images contract the signal before and after the Filter.
DAC 43Hz Sine - 976kHz

The lower image shows that noise peaks out to 200kHz have been properly suppressed, so the filter is working but it is too slow to hit the 41kHz noise.

Post Filter 43Hz Sine - 976kHz

Op Amps

The Op Amp selection was a mistake. Rather than thinking about the application correctly, I simply sought out the best “musical” Op Amp. The audiophile OPA4132 is absolutely not the right tool for this job. And these images show why.

Driving into a 1kOhm resistance, the output of the OPA4132 is shaved off as the op amp output amplifier saturates as it approaches the 0V rail (or Ground rail). The top of the waveform is OK, as we are still 1V from the Vcc rail. Under higher loading, such as headphones at 32Ohm, the signal is worse, much worse.

OpAmp 43Hz Sine - 1kOhm - Oscilloscope

Looking at this (initially as an open circuit) view and then with the 1kOhm loading imposed, we can see the difficulty the op amp has with the signal.

OpAmp 43Hz Sine OpenCircuit - 953Hz

The noise peaks (created by the flattening of the sine wave) are at least 10dB greater under a small load. As the load increases the situation gets worse.

OpAmp 43Hz Sine 1kOhm - 953Hz

OpAmp 43Hz Sine 1kOhm - 7k6Hz

OpAmp 43Hz Sine 1kOhm - 61kHz

To fix this issue, I will need to use a rail to rail high current op amp, and also make sure that I create a small negative rail (-o.23V using a LM7705) to allow the op amp to reach 0V effectively.

Amongst the Burr Brown range the best alternative seems to be the OPA2353, which can support almost 40mA of current, and can effectively drive 75Ohm loads. Unfortunately the OPA2353 (rail to rail high current) costs about $6 each,

There seems to be a pin compatible alternative, the TS922A, which is about $2 each, but several orders of magnitude worse in performance. However, it can supply 80mA and effectively drive 32Ohm headphones.

For Example: OPA2353 vs TS922A
Gain Bandwidth Product: 44MHz vs 4MHz
Slew Rate: 22V/μs vs 1.3V/μs
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0006% vs 0.005%


Reset button can be moved closer to the edge.

AVcc supply capacitors are too close together, and need to have bigger pads.

Use the DAC out header spare pin to pin-out the AVcc, for testing or use on prototyping area.

AVcc inductor is not correct footprint (device much larger).

AVcc ferrite bead is not correct footprint (device much smaller).

Remove analogue potentiometers, unnecessary as DAC is extraordinarily accurate.

Put pin-out on DC output, and headphone socket on AC output 100uF capacitors.

Replace Analogue Op Am with LM7705 and TS922A. This generates 0V to 4.096V required to properly buffer the MCP4822 DAC. LM7705 can’t sustain 80mA, but for small DC signals (up to 20mA) we will have accurate buffering of the DAC, and for headphones, it is an analogue signal anyway.

Replace uSD Op Amps with TXB0104, more suitable for the purpose.

These errata have been addressed in the new Goldilocks Analogue design and I have described the changes and additions.

Gameduino 2 with Goldilocks and EVE

My Gameduino 2 was delivered just a few weeks ago, and I’ve spent too much time with it already. It is the latest Kickstarter project by James Bowman. James has written a Gameduino 2 Book too.

Sourcecode for the below examples is located at Sourceforge AVRfreeRTOS.

Recently, I’ve used the Gameduino 2 to implement a multi-oscillator audio synthesizer GUI, using many FTDI EVE GPU co-processor widgets. The use of widgets linked with the integrated touch functionality really simplifies the programming of complex GUIs.

The ability to add a large touch screen, with integrated audio and accelerometer to any Arduino project is a great thing. Previously, you had to move to 32 bit processors with LVDS interfaces to work with LCD screens, but the new FT800 EVE Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) integrates all of the graphic issues and allow you to drive it with a very high level object orientated graphics language. For example it takes just one command to create an entire clock face with hour, minute, and second-hands.

The Gameduino 2, via the FT800 EVE chip, provides the following capabilities:

  • 32-bit internal color precision
  • OpenGL-style command set
  • 256 KBytes of video RAM
  • smooth sprite rotate and zoom with bilinear filtering
  • smooth circle and line drawing in hardware – 16x antialiased
  • JPEG loading in hardware
  • audio tones and WAV audio output
  • built-in rendering of gradients, text, dials, sliders, clocks and buttons
  • intelligent touch capabilities, where objects can be tagged and recognised.

The FT800 runs the 4.3 inch 480×272 TFT touch panel screen at 60 Hz and drives a mono headphone output.

EVE Block Diagram

First off, there’s a demo of some of the capabilities of the Gameduino 2. I’ll come to the drivers later, but the Arduino compatible platform used here is the Goldilocks ATmega1284P from Freetronics. The Goldilocks is in my opinion the best platform to use with the Gameduino 2. Firstly there is the extra RAM and Flash capabilities in line with the ATmega1284p MCU. But also importantly the Goldilocks holds the Pre-R3 Arduino Uno connector standard, with the SPI pins located correctly on Pins 11, 12, and 13. And the INT0 interrupt located on Pin 2. This means that it can be used with the Gameduino 2, out of the box. No hacking required.

Thank you for pledging on the Kickstarter Project page. Closed on November 19th 2015, with 124% funding. Now that the Kickstarter Pledges have been shipped, the new Goldilocks Analogue is available on Tindie.

I sell on Tindie

Must be addicted to these touch screens. I’ve just received an Australian designed 4D Systems FT843 Screen. It has possibly an identical screen to the Gameduino 2, but is based on a R3 Arduino shield format (SPI on ICSP) called the ADAM (Arduino Display Adapter Module), which means that it will work on any current Arduino hardware, without hacking. The FT843 ADAM supports a RESET line, which resolves the only problem I’ve noted with the Gameduino 2. Unfortunately, audio is not supported by a 3.5mm jack but rather by a pin-out option. The FT843 uses Swizzle 0, unlike the Gameduino 2 which uses Swizzle 3, and has the Display SPI Select on either D9 or D4 rather than on D8 like the Gameduino 2. Other than these simple configuration options, it similar.

4D Systems FT843 on Goldilocks 1284p

4D Systems FT843 on Goldilocks 1284p


The screen shows 5 sets of demonstrations. These demos are provided by FTDI, and typically in an Arduino Uno you would have to choose which of the 5 sets you want to see. With the extra capabilities of the Goldilocks, it is possible to load all of them simultaneously in 110kB of flash.

Set 0 focusses on individual commands that are loaded into the Display List. The Display List is essentially a list of commands that is executed or rendered for each frame of display. A Display List will be rendered indefinitely, until it is swapped by another Display List. Two Display Lists are maintained in a double buffering arrangement. One is written, whilst the other is displayed.

Set 1 exhibits some of the co-processor command capabilities, that allow complex objects to be created with only one command. A clock, slider, dial, or a rows of buttons can be created easily in this manner.

Set 2 shows the JPEG image rendering capabilities in RGB and in 8 bit mono.

Set 3 demonstrates custom font capabilities. There are 16 fonts available in the ROM of the FT800 EVE, but you can add your own as is desired.

Set 4 shows some advanced co-processor capabilities, such as touch tag recognition, no touch (zero MCU activity) screensaver, capturing screen sketches, and inbuilt audio options.

The main screen shows an analogue clock that is drawn with one co-processor command. Real time is generated by a 32,768Hz Crystal driving the Goldilocks Timer 2 for a system clock. The accuracy of the clock is limited only by the accuracy of the watch crystal, and I’ve built mine with a 5ppm version, which should be enough to keep within a few seconds per month.

Sample Application

The FTDI provided sample application covers most of the available commands and options for the FT800 EVE GPU.

The FT_SampleApp.h file contains definitions of functions implemented for the main application. These code snippets are not really useful beyond demonstrations of capability of the GPU, but never the less demonstrate how each specific feature of the FT800 EVE GPU can be utilised.


Because the FT800 EVE GPU has a very capable object orientated graphics language, the FTDI drivers present a very capable high level interface to the user. FTDI have prepared an excellent starting point from which I could easily make customisations suitable for the AVR ATmega Arduino hardware that I prefer to use.

The FTDI driver set is separated into a Command Layer, and into a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL). This separation makes it easy to customise for the AVR ATmega platform, but retains the standard FTDI command language for easy implementation of their example applications, and portability of code written for their command language.

To use the FT800 EVE drivers for the Gameduino 2 it is only necessary to include the FT_Platform.h file in the main program. This file contains references to all of the other files needed.

#include "../lib_ft800/FT_DataTypes.h"
#include "../lib_ft800/FT_X11_RGB.h"
#include "../lib_ft800/FT_Gpu.h"
#include "../lib_ft800/FT_Gpu_Hal.h"
#include "../lib_ft800/FT_Hal_Utils.h"
#include "../lib_ft800/FT_CoPro_Cmds.h"
#include "../lib_ft800/FT_API.h"

The FT_DataTypes.h file contains FTDI type definitions for the specific data types needed for the FT800 EVE GPU. This is mainly used to abstract the drivers for varying MCU. For the AVR it is not absolutely necessary, but it will help when the code is used on other platforms.

The FT_X11_RGB.h file contains the standard colour set used in X11 colours and on the Web, which are stored PROGMEM. I’ve written a small macro that will insert these into commands needing 24 bit colour settings. These colours will be stored and referenced from PROGMEM when they are called from either of the X11 specific macros defined in FT_Gpu.h If they are not called from the program, they will be discarded by the linker and not waste space in the final linked program.

X11 Colours

The FT_Gpu.h file contains all the definitions for command and register setting options. I have significantly rearranged the layout and comments in this file, compared to the FTDI version. Hopefully it is arranged in a way that allows options applying to specific commands and registers to be quickly located.

By writing DL commands to the Display List which are configured by the options in the FT_Gpu.h file it is possible to control most of the low level functions in the FT800 EVE GPU. The Display List is used by the FT800 GPU to render the screen, so it is only the contents of the active Display List that appear on the screen.

In the FT_Gpu_Hal.h file the commands specific to the SPI bus (or the I2C bus if this transfer mechanism is being used) are defined.

I have simplified out some HAL options provided by FTDI for high performance MCU, that might be constrained writing to the SPI bus at only 30MHz, the maximum FT800 SPI bus rate. The Goldilocks SPI bus only runs at 11MHz, and the standard Arduino Uno SPI bus only runs at 8 MHz, so those optimisations don’t help, and they also consume RAM for streaming buffers.

But, I have integrated a multi-byte SPI transfer into the HAL, which don’t use additional RAM buffer space, as they write via a pointer. This is probably the best way to work the SPI bus in the Arduino environment. I have also implemented multi byte SPI transfer directly from the PROGMEM for Strings, and for precomputed commands.

As a preferred option, I’ve implemented PROGMEM storage of Strings for all commands. The commands utilising RAM storage of Strings are retained for compatibility, and to allow computed Strings to be used.

All of the FTDI provided commands now have optional *_P variants which take PROGMEM strings, rather than RAM strings. This saves eleven hundred bytes of RAM used for strings, just in the demonstration programs provided by FTDI and shown in the Demo!

The FT_Hal_Util.h file contains some simple utility macros.

The FT_CoPro_Cmds.h file contains definitions for all of the available co-processor commands. These command are written to the co-processor command buffer, and are used to generate low level commands that appear in the Display List and be rendered for each frame.

Many of the co-processor commands replicate functionality of setting specific registers with options via the Display List GPU commands. This is useful because it is possible to programme the co-processor to implement a task and remain at the object orientated view of the screen, even though the a individual command may be a simple GPU setting that could have been done at Display List command level. Having all the commands available at co-processor level obviates the need to switch between the two “modes” of operation and thought.

I extracted a few of the standard functions that are needed irrespective of the specific application into an API. The FT_API.h file contains these simple command sequences, for booting up the Gameduino 2, and for managing the screen brightness. It also contains precalculated simplified sin, cos, and atan functions useful when drawing circles and clocks.

The API level also contains calls on the Hardware Abstraction Layer that are simply passed through. These calls are flattened by avr-gcc to save digging ourselves into a stack wasting function call hole.

And, of course, everything is integrated into the freeRTOS v8.0.0 port that I support on Sourceforge, AVRfreeRTOS, which gives non-blocking timing, tasks, semaphores, queues, and all aspects of freeRTOS that are so great.

As an example of the power of this combination of freeRTOS and the FT800 object orientated command language we can describe the method used to create an accurate well rendered clock on the Gameduino 2 screen. Using the 3 commands below, we obtain the clock face seen in my demo video main screen.

time(&currentTime); // get a time stamp in current seconds elapsed from Midnight, Jan 1 2000 UTC (the Y2K 'epoch'), as maintained by freeRTOS.
localtime_r(&currentTime, &calendar); // converts the time stamp pointed to by currentTime into broken-down time in a calendar structure, expressed as Local time.
FT_GPU_CoCmd_Clock(phost, FT_DispWidth - (FT_DispHeight/2), FT_DispHeight/2, FT_DispHeight/2 - 20, OPT_3D, calendar.tm_hour, calendar.tm_min, calendar.tm_sec, 0); // draw a clock in 3D rendering.

I’ve updated the clock function to include a touch screen time setting interface. Using the FT800 Touch Tags, and Button generation, this process is really incredibly easy.


I’ve taken the liberty of borrowing some of James’ pictures for this story. They can originally be found here.

Gameduino 2 Pinout

Note that because of the wrap around connector and cable for the LCD screen, it is not possible to use the Arduino R3 pin out. The SPI bus pins are located at the traditional location on Pin 11 though Pin 13. Unless you want to hack your board, you’re limited to using Arduino Uno style boards.

Gameduino 2 Shield

Unfortunately, the FTDI FT800 Reset pin has not been implemented by the Gameduino 2. Using an ISP to programme the Arduino usually “accidentally” puts the FT800 EVE GPU into an unsupported state. This means that the Gameduino 2 and Arduino usually have to be power-cycled or hard Reset following each programming iteration. It would have been good to tie the FT800 Reset pin to the Arduino Reset pin via a short (ms) delay chip, to obviate the need to remove power to generate the hard Reset for the FT800.

Hello World & other examples

I thought it might be interesting to compare the code required to achieve the demonstration outcomes that James Bowman provides on the Gameduino2 site, with the code required to achieve the same result using freeRTOS and the FTDI style driver. So I’ve implemented three simple examples, “Hello World”, “Sprites”, and “Blobs” from his library.

All of the examples have been built using an Arduino Uno ATmega328p as the MCU hardware platform.


The Hello World application simply initialises the Gameduino2, sets the colour to which the screen shall be cleared, and then writes text with the OPT_CENTER option to center it in the X and Y axis. As there is no delay, this is written as often and as fast as the MCU can repeat the loop.

#include <SPI.h>
#include <GD2.h>

void setup()

void loop()
  GD.cmd_text(240, 136, 31, OPT_CENTER, "Hello world");

The same result can be generated in C using freeRTOS and the FTDI Drivers. I have commented extensively within the code below.

/* freeRTOS Scheduler include files. */
/* these four header files encompass the full freeRTOS real-time OS features,
   of multiple prioritised tasks each with their own stack space, queues for moving data,
   and scheduling tasks, and semaphores for controlling execution flows */
#include "FreeRTOS.h"
#include "task.h"
#include "queue.h"
#include "semphr.h"

/* Gameduino 2 include file. */
#include "FT_Platform.h"

/*------Global used for HAL context management---------*/
extern FT_GPU_HAL_Context_t * phost;           // optional, just to make it clear where this variable comes from.
                                               // It is automatically included, so this line is actually unnecessary.

/*--------------Function Definitions-------------------*/

int main(void) __attribute__((OS_main));       // optional, just good practice.
                                               // Saves a few bytes of stack because the return from main() is not implemented.

static void TaskWriteLCD(void *pvParameters);  // define a single task to write to Gameduino 2 LCD.
                                               // typically multiple concurrent tasks are defined,
                                               // but in this case to replicate the Arduino environment, just one is implemented.

/* Main program loop */
int main(void)
  xTaskCreate(            // create a task to write on the Gameduino 2 LCD
    ,  (const portCHAR *)"WriteLCD"
    ,  128                // number of bytes for this task stack
    ,  NULL
    ,  3		  // priority of this task (1 is highest priority, 4 lowest).
    ,  NULL );

  vTaskStartScheduler();  // now freeRTOS has taken over, and the pre-emptive scheduler is running.


/* Tasks                                                     */

static void TaskWriteLCD(void *pvParameters) // A Task to write to Gameduino 2 LCD
  (void) pvParameters;

  FT_API_Boot_Config();  // initialise the Gameduino 2.

  while(1)               // a freeRTOS task should never return
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CMD_DLSTART );                       // initialise and start a Display List
//  FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CLEAR_COLOR_RGB(0x10, 0x30, 0x00) ); // set the colour to which the screen is cleared (using RGB triplets) as in GD2 library OR
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CLEAR_COLOR_X11(FORESTGREEN) );      // set the colour to which the screen is cleared (using X11 colour definitions)
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CLEAR(1,1,1) );                      // clear the screen

    FT_GPU_CoCmd_Text_P(phost,FT_DispWidth/2, FT_DispHeight/2, 31, OPT_CENTER, PSTR("Hello world"));
      // write "Hello World" to X and Y centre of screen using OPT_CENTER  with the largest font 31
      // The string "Hello world" is stored in PROGMEM
      // Functions with *_P all use PROGMEM Strings (and don't consume RAM)
      // FT_DispWidth and FT_DispHeight are global variables set to orientate us in a flexible consistent way,
      // without hard coding the screen resolution.

    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( DISPLAY() );                         // close the Display List (DL) opened by CMD_DLSTART()
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CMD_SWAP );                          // swap the active Display List (double buffering), to display the new "Hello World" commands written to the Display List


The Sprites application is similar to the original one built for the Gameduino, but here each sprite is rotating around a random point. The 2001 random points are stored in a PROGMEM array sprites. This takes 8K of flash. A second PROGMEM array circle holds the 256 XY coordinates to make the sprite move in a circle. The only RAM used is a single byte t used to keep track of the current rotation position, by counting iterations.

#include <EEPROM.h>
#include <SPI.h>
#include <GD2.h>

#include "sprites_assets.h"

void setup()
  GD.copy(sprites_assets, sizeof(sprites_assets));

static byte t;

void loop()
  byte j = t;
  uint32_t v, r;

  int nspr = min(2001, max(256, 19 * t));

  PROGMEM prog_uint32_t *pv = sprites;
  for (int i = 0; i &lt; nspr; i++) {
    v = pgm_read_dword(pv++);
    r = pgm_read_dword(circle + j++);
    GD.cmd32(v + r);

  GD.LineWidth(28 * 16);
  GD.Vertex2ii(240 - 110, 136, 0, 0);
  GD.Vertex2ii(240 + 110, 136, 0, 0);


  GD.cmd_number(215, 110, 31, OPT_RIGHTX, nspr);
  GD.cmd_text( 229, 110, 31, 0, "sprites");


The code in freeRTOS is similar. I have commented within the code.

/* freeRTOS Scheduler include files. */
#include "FreeRTOS.h"
#include "task.h"
#include "queue.h"
#include "semphr.h"

/* Gameduino 2 include file. */
#include "FT_Platform.h"

// The include file containing the sprite graphics, and the special command sequence
#include "sprites_assets.h

/*------Global used for HAL context management---------*/
extern FT_GPU_HAL_Context_t * phost;           // optional, just to make it clear where this variable comes from

/*--------------Function Definitions-------------------*/

int main(void) __attribute__((OS_main));       // optional, just good practice

static void TaskWriteLCD(void *pvParameters);  // define a single task to write to Gameduino 2 LCD


/* Main program loop */
int main(void)
  xTaskCreate(             // create a task to write on the Gameduino 2 LCD
    ,  (const portCHAR *)"WriteLCD"
    ,  128                 // number of bytes for this task stack
    ,  NULL
    ,  3                   // priority of task (1 is highest priority, 4 lowest).
    ,  NULL );

  vTaskStartScheduler();   // now freeRTOS has taken over, and the pre-emptive scheduler is running


/* Tasks                                                     */

static void TaskWriteLCD(void *pvParameters) // A Task to write to Gameduino 2 LCD
  (void) pvParameters;

  uint8_t t = 0;         // iterate over the code for 255 times, before restarting with 256 sprites where t = 0

  FT_API_Boot_Config();  // initialise the Gameduino 2.
  FT_GPU_HAL_WrCmdBuf_P(phost, sprites_assets, sizeof(sprites_assets));
    // Copy James' magic list of commands into the command buffer.
    // These co-processor commands are "compiled" into their 4 byte equivalents, and I haven't decoded them in detail.
    // But, since the FT800 is reading the same double word codes, it doesn't really matter how they're generated.

  while(1)               // a freeRTOS task should never return
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CMD_DLSTART );       // initialise and start a Display List (DL)
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CLEAR(1,1,1) );      // clear the screen

    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( BEGIN(BITMAPS) );    // start to write BITMAPS into the DL
    uint8_t j = t;
    uint32_t v;
    uint32_t r;
    int16_t nspr = min(2001, max(256, 19 * t));
    ft_prog_uint32_t * pv = sprites;         //  pv is the sprite BITMAP pointer

    for (uint16_t i = 0; i < nspr; ++i) {
      v = pgm_read_dword(pv++);              // determine which sprite we're controlling
      r = pgm_read_dword(circle + j++);      // circle is the rotation control
      FT_GPU_HAL_WrCmd32(phost, v + r);      // the sprite address and the location are written here to the co-processor
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( END());              // finish writing BITMAPS into the Display List

    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( BEGIN(LINES) );      // start to write LINES into the Display List
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( COLOR_RGB(0x00, 0x00, 0x00) );  // set the line colour to black 0x000000
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( COLOR_A(140) );                 // set alpha channel transparency
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( LINE_WIDTH( 28 * 16) );
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( VERTEX2II(240 - 110, 136, 0, 0) );  // start to draw an alpha transparency background line
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( VERTEX2II(240 + 110, 136, 0, 0) );  // finish the line
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( END() );             // finish writing LINES into the Display List

    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( RESTORE_CONTEXT() ); // With no prior SAVE_CONTEXT() command, this restores the default colours and values.

    FT_GPU_CoCmd_Number(phost, 215, 110, 31, OPT_RIGHTX, nspr);    // write a number.
    FT_GPU_CoCmd_Text_P(phost, 229, 110, 31, 0, PSTR("sprites"));  // write using a PROGMEM stored string function, to save RAM
      //  phost is a pointer to the context for the Gameduino2.
      //  Mainly used where there may be multiple screens present, but in this case several state and semaphore items are maintained.

    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( DISPLAY() );          // close the active Display List (DL) opened by CMD_DLSTART()
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CMD_SWAP );           // Do a DL swap to render the just written DL

    t++;    // t will roll over and will restart the number of sprites to the minimum of 256


blobs is a sketching demonstration, as you paint on the touch screen a trail of circles follows.
The code keeps a history of the last 128 touch positions, and draws the transparent, randomly coloured circles.

#include <EEPROM.h>
#include <SPI.h>
#include <GD2.h>

#define NBLOBS      128
#define OFFSCREEN   -16384

struct xy {
  int x, y;
} blobs[NBLOBS];

void setup()

  for (int i = 0; i < NBLOBS; i++) {
    blobs[i].x = OFFSCREEN;
    blobs[i].y = OFFSCREEN;

void loop()
  static byte blob_i;
  if (GD.inputs.x != -32768) {
    blobs[blob_i].x = GD.inputs.x << 4;
    blobs[blob_i].y = GD.inputs.y << 4;
  } else {
    blobs[blob_i].x = OFFSCREEN;
    blobs[blob_i].y = OFFSCREEN;
  blob_i = (blob_i + 1) & (NBLOBS - 1);


  for (int i = 0; i < NBLOBS; i++) {
    // Blobs fade away and swell as they age
    GD.ColorA(i << 1);
    GD.PointSize((1024 + 16) - (i << 3));

    // Random color for each blob, keyed from (blob_i + i)
    uint8_t j = (blob_i + i) & (NBLOBS - 1);
    byte r = j * 17;
    byte g = j * 23;
    byte b = j * 147;
    GD.ColorRGB(r, g, b);

    // Draw it!
    GD.Vertex2f(blobs[j].x, blobs[j].y);

The code in freeRTOS is similar, but the touch functionality is derived directly from the FT800 register containing the most recent screen touch location. I have commented within the code.

/* freeRTOS Scheduler include files. */
#include "FreeRTOS.h"
#include "task.h"
#include "queue.h"
#include "semphr.h"

/* Gameduino 2 include file. */
#include "FT_Platform.h"

#define NBLOBS       128
#define OFFSCREEN   -16384

/*----------Global used for HAL management-------------*/
extern FT_GPU_HAL_Context_t * phost;           // optional, just to make it clear where this comes from

struct xy {										// somewhere to store all the blob locations
  int16_t x, y;
} blobs[NBLOBS];

/*--------------Function Definitions-------------------*/

int main(void) __attribute__((OS_main));       // optional, just good practice

static void TaskWriteLCD(void *pvParameters);  // define a single task to write to Gameduino 2 LCD


/* Main program loop */
int main(void)
  xTaskCreate(            // create a task to write on the Gameduino 2 LCD
    ,  (const portCHAR *)"WriteLCD"
    ,  128                // number of bytes for the task stack
    ,  NULL
    ,  3                  // priority of task (1 is highest priority, 4 lowest).
    ,  NULL );

  vTaskStartScheduler();  // now freeRTOS has taken over, and the scheduler is running


/* Tasks                                                     */

static void TaskWriteLCD(void *pvParameters) // A Task to write to Gameduino 2 LCD
 (void) pvParameters;

  FT_API_Boot_Config();     // initialise the Gameduino 2.
  FT_API_Touch_Config();    // initialise the FT800 Touch capability.

  for (uint8_t i = 0; i < NBLOBS; ++i)   {     blobs[i].x = OFFSCREEN;     blobs[i].y = OFFSCREEN;   }   while(1)                  // a freeRTOS task should never return   {     static uint8_t blob_i;  // the blob we're currently processing     uint32_t readTouch;     // xy coordinates of a touch are stored in uint32_t     // this is the touch interface stuff     readTouch = FT_GPU_HAL_Rd32(phost, REG_TOUCH_SCREEN_XY);// the screen location of the last touch is stored in REG_TOUCH_SCREEN_XY     if (readTouch != NIL_TOUCH_XY)                          // if there was a touch     {       blobs[blob_i].x  = (int16_t)((readTouch >> 16) & 0xffff) << 4; // read where x axis touch occurred, and scale it
      blobs[blob_i].y = (int16_t)(readTouch & 0xffff) << 4; // read where y axis touch occurred, and scale it
    } else {
      blobs[blob_i].x = OFFSCREEN;         // if there was no touch, draw the blob OFFSCREEN
      blobs[blob_i].y = OFFSCREEN;
    blob_i = (blob_i + 1) & (NBLOBS - 1);  // increment to the next blob for touch interaction

    // this is the display interface stuff
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CMD_DLSTART );      // initialise and start a display list (DL)

    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CLEAR_COLOR_RGB(0xe0, 0xe0, 0xe0) );// set the colour to which the screen will be cleared
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CLEAR(1,1,1) );     // clear the screen

    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( BEGIN(POINTS) );    // start to write POINTS into the Display List (DL)

    for (uint8_t i = 0; i < NBLOBS; ++i)
      // Blobs fade away and swell as they age
      FT_API_Write_CoCmd( COLOR_A(i << 1) ); // set an alpha transparency
      FT_API_Write_CoCmd( POINT_SIZE((1024 + 16) - (i << 3)) );

      // Random colour for each blob, keyed from (blob_i + i)
      uint8_t j = (blob_i + i) & (NBLOBS - 1);
      uint8_t r = j * 17;
      uint8_t g = j * 23;
      uint8_t b = j * 147;
      FT_API_Write_CoCmd( COLOR_RGB(r, g, b) );

      // Draw it!
      FT_API_Write_CoCmd( VERTEX2F(blobs[j].x, blobs[j].y) );

    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( END() );            // finish writing POINTS into the active DL

    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( DISPLAY() );        // close the active Display List (DL)
    FT_API_Write_CoCmd( CMD_SWAP );         // Do a DL swap to render the just written DL

I intend to build a few more demonstrations of the code, and to copy some games that James has already implemented, because I’m not a game designer.

Goldilocks Analogue – Prototyping

Last time I designed a Goldilocks board, it was because I was unhappy about the availability of a development platform that was within my reach; a tool to enable me to continue to learn about coding for micro-controllers.

This Goldilocks, let us call it Goldilocks Analogue, it is not about what I think is necessary, but more about what I’d like to have. The focus is not so much about the basics of SRAM and Flash, but much more on what functions I would like to have, and using my own means to get there.

Also, as the original Goldilocks is sold out, Freetronics are considering making their own version. Please add your wishes here.

Test results are in. Check out the detailed post on Goldilocks Analogue – Testing. Following the testing, I’ve redesigned the analogue output section to make it much more capable. It now support simultaneous AC and DC outputs, with an application specific headphone amplifier device to provide AC output, and high current OpAmp to provide DC output.

The Goldilocks Analogue Prototype 4 has been designed, and is now being produced.


The Goldilocks Project was specifically about getting the ATmega1284p MCU onto a format equivalent to the Arduino Uno R3. The main goal was to get more SRAM and Flash memory into the same physical footprint used by traditional Arduino (pre-R3) and latest release Uno R3 shields.

Goldilocks Arduino 1284p

Original – Goldilocks Version 1.1

I also tried to optimally use the co-processor ATmega32U2, (mis)utilised by Arduino purely for the USB-Serial functionality, by breaking out its pins, and creating a cross-connect between the two MCU to enable them to communicate via the SPI bus.

Whilst the Goldilocks achieved what it set out to do, there were some problems it created for itself.

Firstly, the ATmega family of devices is really very bad a generating correct USART baud rates when their main frequency doesn’t match a multiple of the standard USART rates. Engineers in the know select one of these primary clock rates (for example 14.7456MHz, 18.432MHz, or 22.1184MHz) when they’re planning on doing any real Serial communications. Unfortunately, the 16MHz clock rate chosen by the Arduino team generates about the worst USART timing errors possible.

This means that the Arduino devices can only work at 16MHz while programming them with the Serial Bootloader, otherwise programming is bound to fail, due to losing a bit or two due to the clock rate error.

Arduino had serial programming completely solved in the old days by using a real USB-USART chip, the FTDI FT232R, but for some reason they stopped doing the right thing. This might have been the perfect solution, but they abandoned it. Who knows why…

Secondly, although having an integrated uSD card cage on the platform is a great thing, using a resistor chain to do the voltage conversion is nominally a bit problematic. The output pins (SCK, MOSI, CS) are permanently loaded by 3k2 Ohm and an input pin (MISO) high signal generates only 0.66 of Vcc, which only just clears the minimum ATmega signal high level of 0.6 Vcc. Neither of these issues prevent the uSD card from working, and the voltage divider resistor chain takes almost no space on the board. But still it is not perfect.

Thirdly, there are some minor oversights in the V1 build that I would like to correct if possible.

New Directions

I’ve been toying with the idea of building an Xmega board, in Arduino Uno R3 format, because of the significantly enhanced I/O capabilities of this MCU including true DAC capabilities, but I’ve not followed up for two reasons; the Xmega has no history of use by hobbyists as there is with the ATmega devices, and it doesn’t bring any advantage that an ARM MCU wouldn’t otherwise do better and faster.

Never the less, the ATmega platform still lacks one thing that I believe is necessary; a high quality analogue capability. The world is analogue, and having an ADC capability, without having a corresponding DAC capability, is like having a real world recorder with no means to playback these real world recordings.

A major initiative of the Goldilocks is to bring an analogue capability to the Arduino platform. So this device will be called the Goldilocks Analogue.

Updated - Goldilocks Analogue

Updated – Goldilocks Analogue

There have been music shields and audio shields built before, and the design used is closely aligned to the original Adafruit Wave Shield, but I’ve not seen dual high quality DACs with both AC and DC capability, integrated onto the main board of an Arduino previously. So that’s where I’m going.

The goal is to be able to produce a DC referenced signal, from 0Hz up to around 100kHz, that can provide a binary-linear representative voltage (with sufficient current) to enable a control system, as well as to produce the highest quality audio, with very low noise and THD buffer amplifiers, that the basic AVR platform is capable of producing.

Using Eagle

I used to look at Eagle (Kicad, etc) with healthy scepticism. Yeah, not something that I’d be able to learn, but in the process of realising the Goldilocks Analogue, I have learned that it is far easier to learn a new skill than it is to guide someone in India or Malaysia, who doesn’t even get the start of what I want. The old idiom, if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.

There is a “Fremium” version of Eagle available, which is enough to get started. I’m going to try to get a “Hobbyist” version as soon as the paperwork is through.

So all this below is my first Eagle project.

The Schematic

I’ll talk through each item in the schematic, particularly those things which are novel in the Goldilocks Analogue. The schematics for the Goldilocks V1 can be found in the User Manual.


The FT232R is the same device used in countless earlier Arduinos, such as the Duemilanove, and in USB-Serial adapters everywhere. The drivers for all major operating systems are widespread and there is no magic required. Importantly, the FT232R chip generates a real USART baud rate, at any speed from 300 baud to 3 Mbaud.

Unlike in the Duemilanove I’m using the FT232RQ chip, which is in the QFN package. There is too much going on to take up the board space with the larger package.

FT232RQ - Goldilocks Analogue

I’ve added a switch to disable the DTR Reset functionality of the Arduino and Wiring Bootloaders. Often, I would like a running device NOT to be reset by plugging the USB cable, but then I’ll be using the Goldilocks in another thing where I do want this to happen. Having a switch, like Seeed often do, is the best answer.

Also, I’ve added a 6 pin connector replicating the standard FTDI pin-out, to enable the FT232RQ to communicate with other devices, should this be necessary. It would be a shame to lock it into the board, with no option for extension.

uSD Buffer

In designing the buffer for the uSD, I was trying to achieve two things. Firstly, isolate the uSD card entirely from the SPI bus when it was not in use. By isolate, I mean over 1MOhm resistance. This isolation ensures that the uSD card doesn’t load up the SPI pins at all, when the uSD is not being used.

Secondly, I was trying to ensure that each end of the SPI bus receives the correct voltages and currents to ensure maximum throughput.

uSD Buffer - Goldilocks Analogue

The two devices selected achieve both goals as desired.

For the MCU to uSD direction (SCK, MOSI, and CS) I’m using a 74LVC125 in quad package. This package is tolerant of inputs at 5V rising above its Vcc of 3V3. The output enable on low, is connected to the Chip Select line, which means that the uSD card will not be driven unless the CS line is low. It always presents a high impedance to the MCU.

As a quad package the 74LVC125 has one spare gate, which can be used to drive the Arduino LED. This is neat no cost result that entirely removes any loading on Arduino Pin13.

For the uSD to MCU direction the buffer has to effectively produce a 5v CMOS high when receiving a 3V3 CMOS high. The best way to do this is to use a device that is TTL signal compatible. The TTL minimum high signal is only 2V, much lower than the CMOS minimum high signal of 2/3 of Vcc, and importantly below the worst case of 2/3 of 3V3 CMOS.

The only device I could find with the required characteristic of accepting TTL inputs with a low output enable, is the MC74VHC1GT125. I’m sure there are other options though.

DAC and Buffer

This is the fun stuff. Analogue… the real world. As noted above, the goal is to produce two binary-linear signals with enough buffering that they can drive a reasonable load (such as small headphones or an audio amplifier) and produce a constant voltage under a number of power supply options.

The inspiration for the circuit came from the Adafruit Wave Shield, but there are a number of significant improvements that are worth noting, not least the use of a dual DAC, for two channels of output.

DAC and Buffer - Goldilocks Analogue

Firstly, if you want to get a very low noise output, whilst using a high current Switch Mode Power Supply, it is necessary to filter the supply voltage. I’ve utilised the dual steps of an L-C primary filter, followed by a ferrite core bead secondary filter. I’m not sure whether this is all necessary, and I’ll be testing the circuit later with various components removed to check their efficacy in the role, but if they’re not designed in now they never will be added later.

I’m using the Microchip MCP4822 DAC to produce the raw output voltage. This is an SPI device which will be selected using the other “spare” Goldilocks digital pin PB1. Using PB1 to signal the DAC means that none of the Arduino R3 pins are used for on-board Goldilocks functions, and as both CS lines (PB0 and PB1) are tied high they will ensure that all these on-board devices stay off the SPI bus during system reboot.

The MCP4822 takes 16 bits to set a signal level, this is two SPI bus transactions. The maximum SPI rate is SCK/2. Therefore, if my Goldilocks is doing nothing else, it can generate 691,200 SPI transactions per second. If both DACs are being driven we can generate a square wave of 172,800Hz. This is an unreachable figure. More likely, the best case will be around 50kHz for both channels, or 100kHz if only one DAC is being used.

Optionally, the LDAC pin-out can be used to synchronise the transfer of digital inputs to the analogue output buffers across the two DACs or to a specific clock with low jitter.

Unlike the Adafruit solution, the MCP4822 generates its own internal 4.096V reference voltage Vref. This means that irrespective of whether the Goldilocks Analogue is being powered by a battery, by USB, or by the barrel connector and the SMPS, the output voltage for a particular digital input will be constant.

The op-amp configuration with dual op-amps, in a quad package, designed to double the current capability of the output, has raised concern from all who see it. Concern was my initial thought too. However after some research, I found it to be a recommended configuration for current doubling. The only difference to the Adafruit example circuit is to add low value output resistors which allow each op-amp to find its own offset level without consuming excess current.

I have added the option to bridge the output capacitors to provide a DC output. The output capacitors are necessary for audio use, as headphones or audio amplifier inputs require an AC connection, with no DC offset.

The Layout

It takes many hours to layout even a small board the size of an Arduino Uno. Luckily, I had a completed and fully functioning example to use as a platform, thanks to Jon’s prior work on Goldilocks V1.

The final prototype board layout is now done, and the board design sent off for manufacturing.

Goldilocks Analogue BoardIn this layout, I’ve been able to retain most of what makes a Goldilocks; the ATmega1284p, the complete dual rows of header pins arranged in pin-logical order 0-7, bridging of the I2C pins to A4/A5, JTAG, and a high current power supply. Added to this now are the three items described above; the FT232RQ and Reset switch, buffers for the uSD card, and the analogue platform.

Starting in the bottom left, the SMPS has been relaid to significantly shorten the high current paths around pins 2, 3, and 4. This will reduce the circuit noise, and taken togther with the effort to create solid ground planes, and specific AVcc filtering, will help to ensure the minimum of power supply noise in the analogue platform.

On the right we can see the uSD buffers, which have eaten into the prototyping space significantly. Although the signals will be much nicer than with a resistor bridge, the cost is clearly on space. If the Goldilocks Analogue ever goes into production the SOIC package buffer chip will be replaced by a QFN package, and some space should be recoverable.

Finally, the analogue platform is implemented in the top left of the board, to the left of the pin-outs for the analogue platform and the FTDI interface. Below the pin-outs the analogue supply voltage filtering is implemented, with exception to the chip decoupling capacitors which are tied directly to their supply pins.

Keeping the analogue lines as short, as balanced, as fat, and as well shielded as possible was a key focus of my design. There are a few USART lines running under the chips, but they are unlikely to produce noise as they are under the first ground plane.

Goldilocks Analogue TopThe top layer of the board is pretty crowded. Some tricks such as bridging my lines to get a solid ground plan under the crystal, were passed to me.

Goldilocks Analogue Route2The Route2 or second layer is the ground plane of the board. As such it needs to provide a stable and solid path for currents to return to the origin. I have been able to provide almost solid copper under the entire area from MCU to power supply, and also from the analogue platform back to the central ground point.

Goldilocks Analogue Route15In the Goldilocks Analogue (as in Goldilocks V1) the Route15 layer is wholely at 5v and is a massive supply line. I’ve used this layer to transport the 3v3 supply around the lower edge of the board, to provide power to the uSD card, and its input buffer. The other thick tracks are the USB input line and the analogue AVcc supply line.

Goldilocks Analogue BottomOn the back of the board, mirrored here, things look as we expect. The previously noted bridge capability for the I2C bus to A4/A5 is there, as is the capability to bridge the DAC A and DAC B output capacitors to enable DC output.

Next Steps

The Goldilocks Analogue prototype board design has been sent to Seeed Studio for conversion into a PCB. While this is happening I’ll be sourcing components to solder to the PCB. I think the next post will be on this stage of the process.

Well I have everything finished and in the interim, until I write a new post, here’s the photos of the final assembly of the prototype at Jon’s SuperHouse.

Goldilocks Analogue - 3Here Jon is assembling the first prototype, using several faulty Goldilocks v1.1 devices as donor boards. Only two components didn’t fit correctly, and we didn’t have a uSD card cage so that was left off.

Goldilocks Analogue - 1Out of the toaster oven, and final assembly finished. Just checking that the voltages are as expected across the board.

Well I’ve had it on the desk now for two nights, and I’m very impressed that it seems to generally meet the specification that was intended. The code for setting the DAC levels is currently only optimised for setting two values at a time. Specifically, it is not a streaming function. Never-the-less, it is possible to achieve the stated goal for both DAC channels. The actual number achieved is 108 kSamples/second, shown below, or 18.8us to transmit 2 samples on 2 channels.

The trace below shows the signals for both DACs at 0x0000, then both DACs set to 0x0FFF.

Goldilocks Analogue Max DAC Rate

Therefore, we’ll be able to achieve the 44.1kHz sample rate for CD audio, but only 12 bit resolution, with some time time to spare. If there is a need to read a uSD card, or do some other processing then it is likely that this rate will be more than halved, as the data would then need to to be read over the SPI bus (the same bus the DAC is using) for example. Also, there is a single pole filter between the DACs and the OpAmp buffer, with a 3dB cut-off frequency of 23kHz, which will limit the maximum output frequency but will help to reduce sampling alias issues.

Looking at the board from the top left the MCP4822 can be seen in the SIOC8 package, with the Burr Brown OPA4132 quad op-amp in a SOIC14 package just near the POWER selection jumper. The FTDI FT232RQ USART in QFN package takes up much less space than its FT232RL peer.

Goldilocks Analogue - Top Left

Goldilocks Analogue – Top Left

Now the prototype is finished, it is easy to see what needs to be improved. Actually there’s not too much wrong. The inductors for the Analogue Vcc have the wrong footprint, so they will need to be fixed. The inductor is too large for the footprint and is snuggled up to the POWER jumper, and the ferrite bead is somewhat too small. I didn’t source the very small 15 turn potentiometers, so they are just shorted out. As is the DTR (RESET) disable switch located near the USB connector. As a final issue, the footprint for the 1/8″ jack was wrong for the supplied connectors, so I’ve just added a short set of jumpers to achieve the same outcome.

Goldilocks Analogue - Bottom Right

Goldilocks Analogue – Bottom Right

Here is a short video demonstrating a Voltage Controlled Oscillator running at 44.1kHz sampling into dual channels. It sounds a little odd, because one of the channels is inverted, generating an out of phase effect.


Well, things are good, and bad.

I’ve been testing the DAC stage and found (what I should have known) that I needed an output buffer op-amp able to reach the negative rail (0V) on input and output to support the MCP4822 0v to 4.095V ranging DAC. The OPA4132 exhibits noise and instability issues around 0.3V output.

Unfortunately the OPA4350 (rail to rail high current), which looks like it will be the right pin compatible device, costs over $10 each, which is nearly as expensive as the audiophile OPA4132 I specified previously.

There seems to be a pin compatible alternative, the TS924A, which is about $2 each, but it is several orders of magnitude worse in performance.

For Example: OPA4350 vs TS924A
Gain Bandwidth Product: 38MHz vs 4MHz
Slew Rate: 22V/μs vs 1.3V/μs
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0006% vs 0.005%

Is it worth the difference, when working with a 12 bit DAC in the presence of mV of power supply noise?
Personally, I doubt it.

Using my new Red Pitaya to analyse the output, with a 43.066Hz Sine wave (1024 samples at 44.1kHz) the noise floor is 70dB down from the signal ex DAC. It seems the DAC performs as advertised.


43.066Hz 12bit Sine wave, 1024 samples output at 44.1kHz.

More in part two of Goldilocks Analogue – Testing.


avrdude 6.0.1, avr-gcc 4.8, and keestux Eclipse AVR Plugin 2.4.1

Always looking for the latest and greatest code for AVR, I scan the debian Sid repositories every few months for updated packages to use. Recently debian Sid included the latest gcc-avr 4.8 package, binutils-avr and the new avrdude 6.0.1 package. So I had to install them all to test.

Updated and Local

Updated and Local

The new avrdude 6.0.1 is the first release in two years, so it has a lot of good stuff, including a fix for the long standing chip delay bug affecting the AVRmega1284p used in the Goldilocks and Pololu SVP platforms.

Unfortunately, there is a new device format used in the avrdude.conf file which breaks the standard Eclipse AVR Plugin, rendering the MCU choice ineffective.

Asking a question on found the answer. keestux has fixed the problem and has released an interim AVR Plugin 2.4.1 which incorporates a fix for the change in avrdude.conf file format.

keestux Eclipse AVR Plugin 2.4.1 is at:

Add his update site to your software sources, and life is good again.

AVR Plugin 2.4.1

ArduSat SD Card Prototyping

Since my last post on the ArduSat and the idea I had to use the Supervisor node, an ATmega2561, as the core of a centralised eXtended RAM system for the Client nodes, ATmega328p “Arduino” devices, I’ve been thinking and working on a solution for building a centralised non-volatile SD Card based storage solution.

With design, sometimes it is necessary to let an idea stew for a while before the right answer just sort of distils out of the soup. For the solution for this problem, this was the case. There was some thinking space required…

thinking space

The Question

There are 16 Client nodes in the ArduSat platform. Each and any of them may wish to use the central SD Card to store information at the same, or at different times. How would it be possible to allow more than 16 files to be open on the one SD Card (connected to the Supervisor node) whilst maintaining consistency in the file system? How would access to the file system be scheduled?

The Tools

I have been using the ChaN FatFs file system libraries now for some time. They are fully featured and have a very clean design, fully separating the file system layer from the underlying physical media access layer (the drivers). This means that the file system tools can be implemented on many different architectures, with only changes to the driver layer (DiskIO) needed for each platform.

The Thought Process

My initial thought was that the Supervisor node should maintain the file system, and that I should write packaging for the FatFs file system commands to allow them to be remotely implemented across the SPI bus, in a similar manner as described in the XRAMFS post.

The idea of writing these “remote controls” for the file system commands was scary, as I recognised that there are 33 commands in the interface, and each of them has their own characteristics. Also, maintaining these interfaces would likely be problematic, as I would have to test each command extensively to ensure that there were no “thick thumb” errors introduced into the stable and proven FatFs library.

Some weeks passed…

Then at about 3am, I realised that the right answer was to write a “shim” between the standard FatF file system commands and the standard physical media drivers, and to have this shim operate across the SPI bus in exactly the same manner as the XRAMFS solution.

So, I wrote it.

The Solution

The solution separates the ChaN libraries into two parts. The file system part is resident on the Client node. Each Client node maintains its own view of the file system on the Supervisor SD Card. As the ChaN FatFs library is written for low memory devices, the file directory tree is refreshed each time a change in the working file is done. The Supervisor node only does the DiskIO under the command of each of the Clients.

There are only 5 relevant driver layer DiskIO commands. These commands are used in the Supervisor node to execute requests sent over the SPI bus from the individual Clients. Since there are only a small number of commands, and they are static and dependent on the architecture of the machine they’re running on, their functionality is quite constant. The Supervisor has no knowledge of the file system at all. It simply implements DiskIO commands on sectors of the SD Card as requested, one a time, as requested by Clients.

The Supervisor implementation simply expands on the existing Task loop established for the XRAMFS system, by adding in the 5 additional DiskIO commands. The added complexity, that the SD Card is accessed over the SAME SPI bus as the communications between Client and Supervisor, means that I had to introduce an interim “Pending” state for commands to allow the Client to wait for confirmation that a task has been completed or, in the case of disk_read or disk_ioctl, to recover the waiting data from the Supervisor.

The Client implementation inserts different shim DiskIO commands for the FatF system to call. These commands use the SPI bus to call the Supervisor, and enter a request. Some commands return immediately, allowing the Supervisor to continue with the command, once the command and any required data has been transferred. Other commands wait until they can retrieve information from the Supervisor, before returning to the FatF file system layer of the library.

In this solution, the XRAMFS was instrumental in simplifying the transfer of information. The exclusive availability of 16kB of RAM for each Client meant that disk_write or disk_read commands could cache their data in XRAMFS whilst it was actually written to or read from the SDCard. Because the RAM is available exclusively, there is no consideration that another Client may overwrite the results of a command, or that memory exhaustion may corrupt data.

The code is available at Sourceforge in the usual location.

How does it work?

When a Client program calls one of the FatFs library commands, it in turn calls one of the special ArduSat SPI DiskIO shim routines. These routines signal the Supervisor in the normal manner, and transfer any data associated with the command into the Page of XRAMFS assigned to the Client.

The Supervisor will then undertake the standard DiskIO command, retaining the result of the command and any data resulting from the command in XRAMFS.

Both Client DiskIO routines, and the Task running in the Supervisor are aware of the “Pending” state, which is where a DiskIO command has been completed on the Supervisor and there is data waiting in the XRAMFS for the Client to recover.

Once the Client DiskIO command completes, it returns the normal interface information to the calling FatFs command.

Here a monitor program on a Client is initialising the SD Card. If the Supervisor notices that the SD Card is not initialised, it will return Error, and then undertake to initialise the card. The second call for initialisation will then be successful. This decoupling method ensures that Clients cannot reinitialise the card, whilst other Clients may be using the Card.

The file system (on the Client) is then initialised Then, the SD Card status is read. Finally, the current working directory is read and printed.


In this screenshot, a file is opened for reading, and the file pointer set to the start of the file. A dump of the first 64 Bytes of the file is read and printed. Then the file is closed.


Here, the same file as above is opened for writing, and 45 bytes of 0x10 (16) are being written. The result is checked by opening the file for reading, and dumping the relevant bytes to the screen. Success!



The Client (Arduino) ATmega328p has so little Flash and RAM that implementing the FatFs consumes a significant proportion of the available resources. From the ChaN FatFs web site, at least 13 kByte of Flash (of 32 kByte on the Arduino), and 600 Bytes of RAM (of 2048 Bytes on the Arduino) are consumed by the library alone. This is excluding the working buffers necessary to prepare or process data for storage.

I was unable to fully test the FatFs solution, because of RAM and Flash limitations. I simply couldn’t turn on all the features. However, I have some confidence that the solution fully works, because the actual FatFs library is unchanged from the working solution that I’ve tested on the Arduino Mega platform. It is only the DiskIO routines that have been tampered with, and since they produce reliable results for some of the FatFs functions, there is every reason to believe they would work for all of the functions.

Thank you

Jon for providing a new Freetronics EtherMega, so that I could complete the prototyping work.

ArduSat and NanoSatisfi for running a great project, which inspired this thought process. Possibly, this work might be useful for one of the launches over the coming years.

“Goldilocks” 1284p Arduino UNO Clone

The Pozible project for Goldilocks boards is funded and closed.
Pozible Goldilocks

As featured in Make.

Freetronics Goldilocks is now sold out.
Freetronics Goldilocks

But, Freetronics are considering making a new version.
Please add your wish list here.

Also, I’m working on a new version, Goldilocks Analogue with an integrated dual channel DAC. Now a second prototype of the Goldilocks Analogue has been designed and tested. It has taken a year, because I’ve been using the existing Goldilocks boards for a number of projects. Now I’m designing (hopefully) the final iteration of the Goldilocks Analogue before it goes into production.

I have a Kickstarter project to get the Goldilocks Analogue into production. The project was successfully funded.

I sell on Tindie

Updated Firmware for Goldilocks (Pozible & Freetronics)

  •  LUFA 140928 for ATmega32u2 DFU and for U2duino (USB to USART).
  • Increased bootloader timeout for ATmega1284p.
  • Updated IDE file structure to provide support for Arduino IDE 1.6.x.
  • Renumbered I/O pins for greater commonality with Arduino core.
  • Also added a Goldilocks Analogue Bootloader, running at 24.576MHz

Look for Goldilocks in the Unofficial Boards Support List, and follow the instructions in the Goldilocks Analogue User Manual.


This proposal is to implement an Arduino clone using the ATmega1284p MCU, as replacement for the normal ATmega328p MCU, bringing significant improvements and longevity into the existing Arduino platform.

The current Arduino Uno and Leonardo devices cater for many applications, but they are becoming limited for some modern applications, such as Ethernet networking, SD Card storage, and USB based systems. The limitation in SRAM in the 328p and 32u4 is the most apparent issue, and this is the most difficult to supplement with external components. The Uno R3 platform is too small for demanding applications, and therefore not the right solution.

Arduino Mega devices are available which provide more RAM (but still less than Goldilocks) and many more interface pins, but unfortunately many of the standard Arduino Shields will not work with the Mega, unless you are prepared to hack them. The Mega platform is too big for the standard Shields, and therefore not the right solution.

Arduino and others are moving towards 32 bit MCU devices, including ARM Cortex based platforms such as the Arduino Due, which brings significantly more resource into play, but these platforms will require a major re-education of  users, and may actually fragment the Arduino user group. Also, these ARM processor based devices must be operated at 3.3V and can only supply 4mA per I/O, which makes them incompatible with many of the existing Arduino Shields.

I believe the Goldilocks solution is to use the Arduino Uno / Leonardo R3 physical format, for 100% Arduino Shield compatibility at 5V and with the standard pin layout. But using the ATmega1284p processor to provide significant improvements in RAM, FLASH, EEPROM, interfaces, and other factors.

I’ve been working with Arduino devices now for some years, and have found that my interest remains in fully understanding the way the “bare metal” processor is working. The Arduino platform gives me that opportunity.

Whilst many argue that the days of 8 bit processors are numbered, and that devices such as the Raspberry Pi are the future, I would say that there remains a need for very simple, but very capable platforms, such as the “Goldilocks” platform proposed here. Raspberry Pi and others are essentially Linux machines, and are addressing different needs to this platform.

The 1284p MCU has already been used by the RepRap project as a platform in their minimalist Arduino platform, as a result of them experiencing similar resource limitation issues. The RepRap 1284p platform maintains Arduino code compatibility (boot-loader, board descriptions, avrdude) but abandons physical compatibility, as theirs is a special purpose application and has no need to support Arduino Shields.

Similarly Pololu use the 1284p in their Orangutan SVP platform, but again theirs is a special application, which incorporates many robotics interfaces, and deviates from both the Arduino physical and software platform. Pololu also implement an on-board ISP, which removes the need for the Arduino serial bootloader freeing more space for program code.

Recently, others are starting to use the 1284p as the “Goldilocks” solution between 328p and 2560. This helps with establishing the precedent for the “Goldilocks” with the Arduino IDE and its hardware descriptions.,64612.0.html

This is the final Goldilocks v1.1 board, that was prepared for Pozible Supporters.

Goldilocks 20MHz PCB

Here are some screenshots of the prototype board design.

Goldilocks Front Side

Differences between 328p and 1284p

The ATmega1284p has a number of significant differences from the 328p that make it a great MCU for the Arduino platform. Some are listed below, in no particular order.

  • 16kByte SRAM = 8x Uno SRAM

The 1284p has 8x more SRAM than the 328p, and also has double the SRAM of the 2560. There is no other AVR ATmega MCU with this much SRAM.

For Ethernet, video, and USB applications where large frame buffers need to be maintained or manipulated, the flexibility of having 16kByte of SRAM will change the kind of applications that can be implemented.

  • 4x Uno Flash & 2x Uno EEPROM

The 1284p has 4x more Flash and 2x more EEPROM than the 328p and therefore can store larger programs and non-volatile data. 

  • 2x Programmable USART

The 1284p has 2 programmable USARTs. These appear on Digital pin 0,1 and 2,3. This allows users to maintain the serial monitor connection with the Arduino IDE, whilst addressing another application, such as a GPS device. For new users and experienced alike having two serial interfaces will be a big improvement. 

  • Independent Analogue Platform (separate I2C bus pins)

Using the SMD package for the 1284p allows the board layout to implement a fully independent analogue platform. This is because the I2C bus pins are on a separate port to the ADC pins, and the ADC pins have no “alternate function” except for the PCINT function. Also separate AVCC and GND pins allow the analogue PA Port to be powered and grounded separately from the digital section of the MCU.

  • Timer 3 (Extra 16bit timer)

The 1284p has an extra 16bit timer, Timer 3, that is not present on any other ATmega MCU. Timer 3 does not have PWM outputs (unlike Timer 0, Timer 1, and Timer 2), and therefore is free to use as a powerful internal Tick counter, for example in a RTOS. freeRTOS has already been modified to utilise this Timer 3. Timer 3 (Extra 16bit timer)

  • Timer 2 (Real Time Clock Oscillator)

The 1284p has a 32.768 kHz capable timer, that can be fitted with an accurate watch crystal to enable real time keeping. Use of the avr-libc time.h functionality (present only in upstream release currently) allows an efficient SystemTick to match with advance time and date functions.

  • JTAG Interface

The 1284p implements a JTAG functionality which will allow advanced developers the option to debug their code.

  • Better PWM access

The 1284p brings additional 8bit Timer 2 PWM outputs onto PD, which creates the option for 2 additional PWM options on this port. It also removes the sharing of the important 16bit PWM pins with the SPI interface, by moving them to PD4 & PD5, thus simplifying interface assignments. 

  • Extra I/O pins (e.g. for internal SS pins)

The 1284p has additional digital I/O pins on the PB port. These pins could be utilised for on-board Slave Select pins (for example), without stealing on-header digital pins and freeing the Arduino Pin 10 for Shield SPI SS use exclusively.

Design Improvements on “Uno”

  • Add through-holes for all I/O

The existing Freetronics 2011 has space for prototyping, but doesn’t make any allowance for connecting pins to the prototyping space. Trying to solder jumpers between the I/O pins on the board backside is not very pretty, and also not robust for permanent prototyping. The Arduino Uno or Leonardo doesn’t have any prototyping space at all.

Suggest to include a row of through-holes inside the each of the pin headers to allow a header or jumper to be soldered to the I/O lead effectively.

Align the rows of through-holes to the 1/10” pitch, and to prototyping area pin pitch, to allow “Goldilocks” to have header pins soldered on the bottom, and be inserted into a standard breadboard.

  • Replicate SPI and I2C  to through-holes (with additional 1284p Alternate SS I/O).

The SPI and I2C interfaces are used for many daughter card options (from Sparkfun for example). Some examples include RTC, acceleration & magnetic sensors.

These mini-cards need access to the SPI or I2C interfaces which are shared with I/O pins. Bringing these SPI and I2C pins with Vcc and GND onto through-holes in the standard order (of Sparkfun cards, for example) at the left and right ends (respectively) of the prototyping area would simplify prototyping with these interfaces.

This is now implemented on the Arduino Uno Rev 3. as additional pins for I2C.

But, the additional through-holes remain valuable for the prototyping area.

  • Add JTAG Interface

Adding a standard JTAG interface at the edge of the card would allow in circuit debugging to be implemented. Whilst there may not be sufficient space to implement a standard JTAG connector, there would be space to bring the JTAG pins onto through-holes for headers.

  • Add a Micro SD Cage

There is space to add the long term storage capability brought by an integral Micro SD Card cage. Many projects require logging of sensor data, or capturing or playback of information, and the Micro SD card format is the easiest way to get data onto and off of any format of PC or Smartphone. The ATmega1284p also has plenty of SRAM to allow large buffers for reading and writing to the Micro SD card, so it makes sense to include it as a most needed option.

  • Link ATmega32u2 and ATmega1284p SPI interfaces

The USB-serial interface on the Uno is implemented by a ATmega16u2 device, but its SPI bus is only connected to the SPI programming header, and the SS pin is not even brought out. The Goldilocks will allow the ATmega32u2 MOSI, MISO, CLK, pins to to be easily bridged (solder pads on rear of board), and bring the SS pins of both ATmega devices to a patch pad. This will allow the two devices to work in concert for demanding multi-processing applications, involving USB and other peripherals.

  • Isolate analogue platform (optional SCL & SDA bridge)

For some applications digital noise and voltage droop (when using servo PWM), can have a significant impact on the accuracy of ADC conversions. Using the SMD 1284p it is possible to completely electrically isolate the digital Vcc and analogue AVcc and GND planes, as well as isolating the ADC converter within the MCU. A separate rectifier, or low pass filter could be used to provide AVcc.

The option to bridge the 1284p I2C pins on SDA and SCL with A4 and A5, where needed for compatibility with Arduino Shields, should be maintained through the use of solder bridges. 

  • Move Reset to edge

It is more common to need to use the Reset button with a shield in place, and if the Reset button is placed close to the edge (even vertically mounted, like the Seeed ADK main board), it can still be reached with a fingernail. Arduino Uno R3 implements this by moving Reset to the upper edge, near the USB connector.

  • Clock at 20MHz (or 22.1184MHz)

There is little reason to continue to run the MCU at 16MHZ, and given the MCU is specified to 20MHZ, being able to do 5 things, where previously we could only do 4, seems like a worthwhile improvement. Also, the use of a through hole precision crystal (not a SMD resonator) allows the use of after-market timing choices, eg 22.1184MHz for more accurate UART timings.


This is the Goldilocks v1.0 prototype.


This is a proposal to map the ATmega1284p pins to the Arduino physical platform.

328p Feature 328p Pin 1284p Pin 1284p Feature Comment
Analog 0 PC0 PA0
Analog 1 PC1 PA1
Analog 2 PC2 PA2
Analog 3 PC3 PA3
Analog 4 SDA PC4 PA4 PC1 I2C -> Bridged
Analog 5 SCL PC5 PA5 PC0 I2C -> Bridged
Reset Reset PC6 RESET Separate Pin
Digital 0 RX PD0 PDO RX0
Digital 1 TX PD1 PD1 TX0
Digital 2 INT0 PD2 PD2 INT0 / RX1 Xtra USART1
Digital 3 INT1 / PWM2 PD3 PD3 INT1 / TX1 Xtra USART1
Digital 4 PD4 PD4 PWM1 16bit PWM
Digital 5 PWM0 PD5 PD5 PWM1 16bit PWM
Digital 6 PWM0 PD6 PD6 PWM2
Digital 7 PD7 PD7 PWM2
Digital 8 PB0 PB2 INT2 Xtra External Interrupt
-> ATmega32u2 x-pad
Digital 9 PWM1 PB1 PB3 PWM0
Digital 10 SS / PWM1 PB2 PB4 SS / PWM0 SPI
-> ATmega32u2 x-pad
Digital 11 MOSI / PWM2 PB3 PB5 MOSI SPI
Digital 12 MISO PB4 PB6 MISO SPI
Digital 13 SCK PB5 PB7 SCK SPI
 (Digital 14) PB0 -> SDCard SPI SS
 (Digital 15) PB1 -> SDCard Card Sense
SCL PC0 SCL I2C – Separate
SDA PC1 SDA I2C – Separate
XTAL1 PB6 PC6 TOSC1 Unused
XTAL2 PB7 PC7 TOSC2 Unused
 (Analog 6) PA6 Unused -> Pad / Hole
 (Analog 7) PA7 Unused -> Pad / Hole

Here’s a picture of one of the two prototype boards, where I have added some additional items. I have changed the 1284p crystal to 22.1184MHz, and added a 5ppm 32kHz watch crystal for testing the avr-libc provided time.h functions.

Also I added header sockets for the 32u2 so that I could test its ability to program the 1284p using the LUFA AVRISP code, and determine how much decoupling should be added to the SPI bus link option. This is to ensure that even if the SPI bus is linked between the two MCU, that the 32u2 can’t lock up the SPI bus for devices trying to talk to the 1284p.

Also, I’ve added bridges for the SCL/SDA pins to the A4/A5 pins for old format (pre R3) shields.


I’ve prepared a preliminary distribution of the entire code set for goldilocks, including the lufa 130313 code used in the 32u2 and the stk500v2 bootloader used in the 1284p. This code is laid out in the arduino manner, with the directories matching the usual layout of Arduino boards.

The production board design was finalised on June 28th and sent for manufacturing. The v1.1 production boards are shown below. Pick and place pictures soon.

Goldilocks v1.1 PCB Front

Goldilocks v1.1 PCB Front

Goldilocks v1.1 PCB Back

Goldilocks v1.1 PCB Back


Moved support to the Arduino IDE Boards Manager.

Recompiled bootloader binaries with avr-gcc 4.9.2.

Returned to the original 2013 pins_arduino.h pin numbering, now that analogRead() issues are corrected.

Look for Goldilocks in the Unofficial Boards Support List, and follow the instructions in the Goldilocks Analogue User Manual.

Support for Arduino IDE 1.6.x.

Increased 1284p bootloader time out to 4 seconds.

Set upload speed to 38400 (single speed UART) for Goldilocks Analogue.

Goldilocks_20160108 Files

Support for Arduino IDE 1.5.x. Updated to LUFA 140928 for DFU and U2duino for 32u2.

No change for 1284p. Added Goldilocks Analogue bootloader, but no LUFA required because of FTDI USB interface.

Updated directory structure to support Arduino IDE 1.5.x. Modified pins_arduino.h to support analogRead() correctly.

Goldilocks 20150101 Files

Updated to LUFA 130901 for DFU and U2duino for 32u2. No change for 1284p.

Goldilocks 20130918 Files

Obsolete – Fixed USART mismatch by adjusting stk500v2 bootloader to 38,400 baud.

Goldilocks 20130818 Files

Obsolete – Fixed 32U2 tristate RESET issue.

Goldilocks 20130814 Files

Obsolete – Fixed stk500v2 bootloader monitor issues and included compiled firmware files.

Goldilocks 20130605 Files

Obsolete – Initial release.

Goldilocks 20130601 Files