Wednesday, 31 August 2011

19. The Ups and Downs of an Astable 555 Timer (How fast will it go?)

Well not that fast really. OK its faster than the refresh rate on your TV, but in the grand scheme of the computer world, its not that fast at all. Now I did get it to clock up 250KHz but the problem is that the peak voltage was not high enough and the low voltage not low enough. Its seems the faster I tried to get it to go the smaller the voltage difference.

Measuring the signal with the Xprotolab Oscilloscope is not easy either. It has a minimum resolution of 500 nano seconds per pixel, which if you do the sum 1/0.0000005 = 2MHz, means a 250KHz signal is 8 pixels wide. At higher frequencies the signal starts to become a blur on the screen.

Another aspect of the astable 555 timer is the Duty Cycle. Ideally, you probably want the time the voltage is high to be the same as when it is low, e.g. 50% each. The main external components used are 2 resistors (R1 & R2) and a capacitor (C1). Using 2 identical resistors gives you a Duty Cycle of 66%. To achive a Duty Cycle of 50% R2 needs to be roughly 10x that of R1. So with 2x 1K resistors and a 1nF capacitor we get about 250KHz with a 66% Duty Cycle, but changing R2 for a 10K resistor gets a 52% Duty Cycle and a much reduced clock speed of 57KHz. However, the low volatge is 0.000V and the peak is 4.480V using a 5V supply, much more usable. The Z80 Datasheet says that the input voltage for CLK should be Vcc-0.6 minimum, which with a 5V supply is 4.4V, so 4.480V should be OK to drive the clock signal.

Here are a few screenshots to show what I am talking about:
R1=1K R2=1K C1=1nF ~ Vmax=4.160V Vmin=1.600V Freq=250KHz Duty=66%
R1=1K R2=1K C1=10nF ~ Vmax=4.480V Vmin=0.000V Freq=42.55KHz Duty=66%
R1=1K R2=10K C1=1nF ~ Vmax=4.480V Vmin=0.000V Freq=58.82KHz Duty=52%

If I want to run this faster I am going to have to buy a quartz crystal. For this standard Z80 it needs to be 2.5MHz. (The Z80A will go at 4MHz).

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