From PIC to AVR

This is my humble contribution to the PIC vs AVR holy war.

TL;DR: I was previously a PIC user but decided I hate it, switched to AVR and love it!

PIC from Microchip and AVR from Atmel are both wonderful families of microcontrollers for the hobbyist and professional as well. I’m going to argue, however, that AVR is overall better for every purpose and because of multiple reasons.


I’m referring to programming/flashing hardware here. The only feasible way I currently have to program PIC uCs is by using my parallel port PIC programmer and the almost forgotten at this point, though amazing Odyssey software.

The only feasible way you say? Yes!, at the time of writing, getting a PICkit (2 or 3) requires at least a $100+ (USD) budget. Any other solution like PICkit clones are not much cheaper either. Not at all a reasonable budget for the 3rd world hobbyist.

Using a Microchip’s PICkit (or a clone) requires using the pk2cmd privative software, which means that doing anything outside MPLAB is a major PITA.

AVR on the other hand, lets you flash chips so easily and for so cheap!, A DAPA (or DASA) programmer is simple, inexpensive and fast. Both the USBTiny and the USBASP programmers are readily available at reasonable prices online and can be used with the avrdude CLI tool, a much welcomed improvement over MPLAB behemoth.



Yes, Microchip provides a complete, fully compatible IDE (MPLAB) that can run in Unix* systems and can talk to PICkit. But using an IDE pains me, and using privative software that only works with privative hardware pains me even more.

I want a Free Software (as in Freedom) command line tool to drive a reasonably priced programmer hardware. The Odyssey utility that I’ve mentioned is a blessing!, but getting (Free) software for a Serial programmer, a PICkit or a PICkit clone is impossible, nobody cares about PIC Free tooling, just go and use all the privative, restrictive stuff that Microchip forces onto you.

Avrdude solves everything. A unified (GPL) tool that can drive any programmer with any hardware interface. I absolutely love it!


The same problem here, Microchip provides a freeware (privative) compiler –that goes as far as to restrict some optimizations for the freeware user– and the only sane way to use it is through the bloated IDE.

The SDCC compiler solves this. Kind of… Look I really like SDCC, it’s an excellent Free Software compiler, but the PIC port is not that good (yet?), it still requires you to use non-free Microchip’s header files and linker mappings.

With AVR, you get to use the GCC port. Yes that’s right, the GNU freaking C compiler! And you also get a fully featured GPL avr-libc on top of that.


I’ve always struggled to find help with PIC. Sure there is a lot out there, Microchip’s official documentation is very good and professional, but even in Microchip’s own forums you’re not able to get the level of community help you can get from AVR’s community.

AVR has a hacker/hobbyist/professional Free Software and Open Hardware centered community that makes it so much better overall.


For me PIC is horrible mostly because I dislike IDE’s and prefer to use CLI tools that I can easily script with, adapt to powerful text editors, run on remote machines over network and so on. I acknowledge, however, that many developers feel the opposite way and dislike the command line interface and/or couldn’t live without an IDE, so the reasons I don’t like PIC and love AVR might be the same reasons why you love PIC instead.

It’s all about tooling. When I say “I don’t like PIC”, what I really mean is: “I don’t like PIC’s tooling”. Both PIC and AVR have extremely powerful and comparable hardware. I do like the devices from both of them.