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An AVR microcontroller based Ethernet device

Ethernet has traditionally been a quite complex interface. All Ethernet chips until today had 100 pins or more, where difficult to find in small quantities and difficult to use from a small microcontroller with little memory. Microchip has changed the world with their new ENC28J60 Ethernet chip!

The ENC28J60 is a small chip with 28 pins only and has a SPI interface which is easy to use from any microcontroller.

This opens a whole world of completely new applications. You can easily build small devices which can be spread all over the house and simply connected to ethernet.

You don’t need anymore a separate serial connection or other bus. Everything can be easily connected via Ethernet. Distance is no longer a limiting factor.

Even WIFI connectivity is possible because you can connect the devices to a wireless bridge.
An AVR microcontroller based Ethernet device
All hardware components are available from The software and circuit diagrams are available for free (GPL V2 license).

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Introduction to the ENC28J60 Ethernet controller
The ENC28J60 from Microchip is a fantastic chip. It has Tx/Rx, MAC and PHY in one small chip. There are very few external parts. Basically just a crystal and an Ethernet transformer, aka magnetics. All this comes in an convenient 28-pin DIP package. Easy to solder and perfect for hobby applications.

The microcontroller can then control any hardware you like: You can attach some sensor (light, temperature), you can switch on an off something you can attach a LCD display, etc… 

The Plan

In this first article we will build a generic hardware with lots of IO interfaces and analog to digital converter inputs. We will however only control a small relay to switch on or off something. In later articles we can then use the same hardware and do more complicated things.

The main purpose is to show here the circuit diagram and explain the software. We use a UDP application to send commands to the microcontroller. Those commands will then cause the microcontroller to switch on or off the relay.

It think it will be possible to even implement TCP. The current UDP software is less than 3k bytes and that is not even half of the memory on an Atmega88. TCP would then allow us to control the device via a web browser. I have however not tried it yet. 

The circuit diagram

Here is the circuit diagram. Most of it is very straight forward and standard for the ENC28J60. The polarity of LED-B is important as it determines the duplex operation of the chip. Standard Half-duplex is what makes most sense for a device which will send and receive only rather little traffic.

Schematic An AVR microcontroller based Ethernet device

Figure 2: Circuit diagram (click on the drawing to get a printable pdf version). The circuit diagram of the previous hardware version can be found in the download section

A relay can be connected to connector CONN3. Note the diode D1. It is not useless and it is not the wrong way round in the circuit diagram even though it looks like that. It is there for those who plan to connect a small 6V relay on that output. It protects the whole circuit against the possibly very high voltages which can be induced by the coil of a relay.

For more detail: An AVR microcontroller based Ethernet device

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