[Not] Dead Tiny AVR Programmer

April 12 Update: Turns out the Tiny AVR Programmer is not dead. It was late, and I was tired and stressed and missed a crucial step. I needed to download hardware files for the programmer.

Tiny Programmer and ATtiny85 Chip
Tiny AVR Programmer and an ATtiny85 chip.

When I took this picture this evening, I had not yet learned that my Tiny AVR Programmer is dead. Yes, that’s right: After hyping the fact I was going to make a paper circuit microcontroller today, I’ve discovered that I have a dead Tiny AVR Programmer. This is all the more disappointing because I’ve not yet used the programmer. I took it out of its sealed bag for the first time this evening.

I thought it was dead because the LED wouldn’t light and because of the error message I was getting when I tried to upload a sketch to the programmer.

screen shot of an error message
An error message indicating that my Tiny AVR Programmer is dead.

All this means I’m not going to be programming the ATtiny85 chip tonight, and without the chip to run the microcontroller, there is no microcontroller. 

You can program a ATtiny chip just using an Arduino and a breadboard, but it takes a bit of time to connect everything together. The Tiny Programmer isn’t necessary; it just makes things simple. If I have a 10 uF capacitor on hand – I think I do, but having just started playing with electronics six months ago, I’m collecting components as I need them – or if I can pick on up at the Radio Shack down the street, I’ll try programming the chip tomorrow the old fashioned way and then use it to make the microcontroller.

Meanwhile, if you’re really curious or bored, here’s a Vine of a simple, two-LED paper circuit. Until you get into programming ATtiny chips, paper circuits are quite easy. Well, I can’t work with small surface mount LEDs without a pair of tweezers, but creating circuits with conductive copper tape and conductive paint is easy.