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Introduction to Serial communication with PIC16F877 microcontroller
CLICK here for a quick PIC serial communication tutorial
In this tutorial we will study the communication component USART (Universal Synchronous
Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter) located within the PIC. It is a universal communication
component (Synchronous/Asynchronous), which can be used as transmitter or as receiver. We will
look at:
serial and parallel communications
synchronous and asynchronous communications
how to enable serial communication - TXSTA and RCSTA registers

PIC Microcontroller

An example of 8-bit transmission


An example of 9-bit transmission

how to calculate the value being placed in the SPBRG register

PIC Introduction to PIC

USART Transmit and Receive block diagrams

PIC Memory Organization

Max323 Driver/Receiver

Microchip MPLAB IDE

the implementation of the PIC serial communication (C program and a video)

HI-TECH compiler
Microcontroller Board

We will show how to set USART in order to allow communication between PIC to PIC or between PIC

PIC USB Programmer

to a personal computer. We will start with the definition of media concepts. There are two options

PIC Debuger
PIC Timer Modules

PIC Timer0 tutorial

to differentiate when speaking about transmission of information on the transmission lines:

serial communication
parallel communication

PIC Timer1 tutorial

In order to understand what serial communication is, and emphasize the difference between serial

PIC Timer2 tutorial

We have a multi-bit word, and we want to transmit it from one computer to the second computer.

Serial communication /
PIC Interrupts

communication and parallel communication, lets take a look at the following example:

Using the serial communication:

When using the serial communication we transmit the multi-bit word bit after bit (when at any
given moment only one bit will pass).

PIC A/D converter

PIC Microcontroller
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Liquid Crystal Display - LCD
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Transmitting the word 10011101 using serial communication.

Using the parallel communication:

When using the parallel communication, however, the number of bits will be transmitted at once
from one computer to the second computer.




Transmitting the word 10011101 using parallel communication.

In addition to the serial and parallel communications, there are 2 types of communication we will
Synchronous communication
Asynchronous communication

Synchronous communication
When using the synchronous communication the information is transmitted from the transmitter
to the receiver:
in sequence
bit after bit
with fixed baud rate
and the clock frequency is transmitted along with the bits
That means that the transmitter and the receiver are synchronized between them by the same
clock frequency. The clock frequency can be transmitted along with the information, while it is
encoded in the information itself, or in many cases there is an additional wire for the clock.
This type of communication is faster compare to the asynchronous communication since it is
"constantly transmitting the information, with no stops.

Asynchronous communication
When using the asynchronous communication - the transmitter and the receiver refraining to
transmit long sequences of bits because there isn't a full synchronization between the transmitter,
that sends the data, and the receiver, that receives the data.
In this case, the information is divided into frames, in the size of byte. Each one of the frame has:
Start bit marks the beginning of a new frame.
Stop bit marks the end of the frame.
Frames of information must not necessarily be transmitted at equal time space, since they are
independent of the clock.

Enabling Serial Communication

To communicate with external components such as computers or microcontrollers, the PIC micro
uses a component called USART - Universal Synchronous Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter.
This component can be configured as:
a Full-Duplex asynchronous system that can communicate with peripheral devices, such
as CRT terminals and personal computers
a Half-Duplex synchronous system that can communicate with peripheral devices, such as
A/D or D/A integrated circuits, serial EEPROMs, etc.
To enable the serial communication with PIC micro we must set different parameters within two
registers: (click the links for the explanation of each bit)
1. TXSTA - Transmit Status and Control Register




2. RCSTA - Receive Status and Control Register

An example of 8-bit transmission:

Lets assume that we need to transmit the following information: 10110010. This information will
be stored inside TXREG register, which acts as a temporary buffer storage of information prior to
The bit TX9 will be zero (TX9=0) - which determines that the transmission will be 8-bit
transmission, so there is no need to address TX9D bit, which stores the ninth bit of information.
The information before the transmission looks like this:

Transmitting 8 bit data

Now, lets define the receiver side to receive 8 bit information. To do so, the register RX9 will be
zero (RX9=0). The received information will be stored in the RSR register, which acts as a
temporary buffer storage.
The received information will look like this:

Receiving 8 bit data

An example of 9-bit transmission:

Suppose we want to transmit the following information: 110010110. This information is in the size
of 9-bit, so there is not enough space to store all the information in the TXREG register . Thus, we
will store the low 8-bit in the register TXREG and the MSB in the TX9D bit.
We will set the TX9 = 1 - enabling transmission of 9-bit data. It is important to note, that first we
need to store the 9th bit and only later other 8-bits. This is important because the information of 8
bits may be transmitted immediately once being inside the TXREG register. As a result the
transmitted information will be incorrect.
The information before the transmission will look like this:




Transmitting 9 bit data

Now, lets define the receiver side to receive 9 bit information. To do so, the register RX9 will be
set (RX9=1). The received, lower 8-bit information, will be stored in the RSR register, which acts as
a temporary buffer storage. The higher bit information (MSB) will be stored in RX9D.
The received information will look like this:

Receiving 9 bit data

Now lets continue the explanation. Each transmission is transmitted in the particular rate (BAUD).
The baud rate is measured in units of bps (bit per second) or kbps (kilo bit per second ).

Calculating the value being placed in the SPBRG register

Lets assume we want to transmit using the BAUD rate of 1200bps. This is done by setting
the system clock to the value needed. To do so, we need to write a hexadecimal number
to the SPBRG register. The value written to the SPBRG register set the clock cycle to the value we
want for the BAUD rate.
The size of SPBRG register is 8-bit. As discussed previously, in asynchronous mode, the baud rate
of transmission of the information can be set to high speed or to low speed. The rate selection, as
already seen, is made by the BRGH bit in TXSTA register:
1 = High speed
0 = Low speed
For each baud rate we need to calculate the value being placed in the SPBRG
SPBRG = (Fosc / (16 x Baud rate)) - 1, BRGH = 1 High Speed
SPBRG = (Fosc / (64 x Baud rate)) - 1, BRGH = 0 Low Speed

The following outlines how the value which is placed in the SPBRG register is being computed, in
the case of a high baud rate and low baud rate.
For example:
We want to calculate the hex value that will be placed the register SPBRG, to get the baud rate of
1.2kbps with low speed. The formula SPBRG = (Fosc / (64 x Baud rate)) - 1 was chosen since, its
describing the calculation needed for transmission in Low Speed:
SPBRG = (4MHz / (64x1200)) -1 = 51.08
Because it is not possible to write a number with a decimal point to the register, we take only the
whole part of the number and place inside the register SPBRG = 51.
The following tables are the BAUD RATES FOR ASYNCHRONOUS MODE BRGH=0 and BRGH=1.





USART transmit block diagram

USART transmit block diagram

The information we want to transmit is loaded into the 8-bit register - TXREG. If you want
to transmit a 9-bit data, the 9th bit is loaded into TX9D. At the same time, the information
above is being loaded into the register TSR, which is used as a temporary buffer before that
information is transmitted.
Of course, using 2 registers allows faster the transmission of the data. Once the TXREG register
transfers the data to the TSR register, the TXREG register is empty and flag bit, TXIF is set.
As mentioned earlier:
the register SPBRG sets the baud rate in the desired transmission
TXIE allows interrupts when TXREG is empty and TXIF is set
TXEN - Enabling SPBRG

USART receive block diagram




USART receive block diagram

The information is received in the register RSR. If there is a 9-bit transmission, the 9th bit goes
into RX9D. After receiving the data in the register RSR, the information is loaded at the same time
into the register RCREG. Obviously, using 2 registers allows faster receiving of the data. While the
information that was received being transferred into RCREG, the new information has already been
received into the register RSR. Of course, the CREN bit needs to be set.
According to the USART TRANSMIT / RECEIVE BLOCK DIAGRAM, that the information that was
transmitted via pin RC6 in Port C, is received through the pin RC7 in Port C

Level converter - Max323 Driver/Receiver

For transmitting/receiving the information we use - USART. However, the USART is good for
transmitting the information from PIC to PIC, and not enough to transmit from PIC to computer.
Therefore, in order to transmit to a computer we have to add another component, which
will allow the transmission in the RS232 protocol and convert between the levels of voltage
of the USART to the RS232. The USART logical signal levels are from 0 to 5 volt. However, in the
case of RS232 we will need to different levels of voltage.
RS232 uses voltages below (-5V)to represent a logical level "1", and voltages above (5V)to
represent a logical level "0". Therefore, to use this protocol we need voltage level conversion. This
is possible using the device such as the MAX232. MAX232 is simple component, which operates on

CLICK here for a detailed explanation about the RS232 protocol.

MAX323 block diagram

MAX323 block diagram

Basic form of connections




Basic connections

Explanation of the connections:

The output of the USART (information transmitted to the computer) connects to pin 10 or 11.
Levels of information are converting to voltage values that are suitable for RS232 and outputs from
pins 7 or 14. From here the information advances to the computer.
The information that is transmitted from the computer connects to the pin 8 or 13 of the device.
Here again there is conversion levels, but the opposite way, which will apply to USART. Converted
signals are outputs through pin 9 or 12.

Writing a C language program to implement PIC micro serial communication

Now lets explore a simple program that shows how to transmit and receive information within the
same PIC microcontroller :
The program will transmit information using USART which is located within the PIC, and will receive
the information into the USART on the same board.
In addition, the program will turn on the appropriate LEDs based on the information received. The
information starts from number 0 and grows each time by 1. As stated previously, the information
is transmitted through pin RC6 and received through pin RC7. Thus, in order to use one EduPIC
microcontroller board we need to short the pins RC6 and RC7. We will use a jumper to do so. You
can see the connection in the picture below:

Example of the PIC micro serial communication program




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