8-bit Timer-0 / Counter-0 : Introduction

  • Features
    • Two Independent Output Compare Units
    • Double Buffered Output Compare Registers
    • Clear Timer on Compare Match (Auto Reload)
    • Glitch Free, Phase Correct Pulse Width Modulator (PWM)
    • Variable PWM Period
    • Frequency Generator
    • Three Independent Interrupt Sources (TOV0, OCF0A, and OCF0B)

Timer-0 / Counter-0 is a general purpose 8-bit Timer/Counter module, with two independent Output Compare Units, and with PWM support. It allows accurate program execution timing (event management) and wave generation.

Block Diagram of AVR Atmega328p Timer-0 / Counter-0
Block Diagram of AVR Atmega328p Timer-0 / Counter-0

The Timer-0 has two PWM / Variable Frequency Output Pins mapped to the IO Port. OC0A is mapped to PD6 which is Digital Pin 6 on Arduino UNO board. OC0B is mapped to PD5 which is Digital Pin 5 on the Arduino UNO board.

Arduino UNO IO Pin Schematics
Arduino UNO IO Pin Schematics
Arduino UNO Atmega328p Pin Mapping
Arduino UNO Atmega328p Pin Mapping

Definations of commonly used terms in Timer

BOTTOM The counter reaches the BOTTOM when it becomes 0x00.
MAX The counter reaches its MAXimum when it becomes 0xFF (decimal 255).
TOP The counter reaches the TOP when it becomes equal to the highest value in the count sequence. The TOP value can be assigned to be the fixed value 0xFF (MAX) or the value stored in the OCR0A Register. The assignment is dependent on the mode of operation.

Registers and Clock Source

Many registers and bit references in this section are written in general form. A lower case “n” replaces the Timer/Counter number, in this case, 0. A lower case “x” replaces the Output Compare Unit, in this case, Compare Unit A or Compare Unit B. However, when using the register or bit defines in a program, the precise form must be used, i.e., TCNT0 for accessing Timer/Counter0 counter value and so on.

The Timer/Counter can be clocked internally, via the prescaler, or by an external clock source on the T0 pin. The Clock Select logic block controls which clock source and edge the Timer/Counter uses to increment (or decrement) it’s value. The Timer/Counter is inactive when no clock source is selected. The output from the Clock Select logic is referred to as the timer clock (clkT0). The clock source is selected by the Clock Select logic which is controlled by the Clock Select (CS02:0) bits located in the Timer/Counter Control Register (TCCR0B).

The double buffered Output Compare Registers (OCR0A and OCR0B) are compared with the Timer/Counter value at all times. The result of the compare can be used by the Waveform Generator to generate a PWM or variable frequency output on the Output Compare pins (OC0A and OC0B). The compare match event will also set the Compare Flag (OCF0A or OCF0B) which can be used to generate an Output Compare interrupt request.

Counter Unit

The main part of the 8-bit Timer/Counter is the programmable bi-directional counter unit.

AVR Counter Unit Block Diagram
AVR Counter Unit Block Diagram
Signal Description:
count
Increment or decrement TCNT0 by 1
directionSelect between Increment or decrement
clearClear TCNT0
clkTn
Timer / Counter Clock
topSignalize that TCNT0 has reached maximum value
bottomSignalize that TCNT0 has reached the minimum value

Depending on the mode of operation used, the counter is cleared, incremented, or decremented at each timer clock (clkT0). clkT0 can be generated from an external or internal clock source, selected by the Clock Select bits (CS02:0). When no clock source is selected (CS02:0 = 0) the timer is stopped. However, the TCNT0 value can be
accessed by the CPU, regardless of whether clkT0 is present or not. A CPU write overrides (has priority over) all counter clear or count operations.

The counting sequence is determined by the setting of the WGM01 and WGM00 bits located in the Timer/Counter Control Register (TCCR0A) and the WGM02 bit located in the Timer/Counter Control Register B (TCCR0B). There are close connections between how the counter behaves (counts) and how waveforms are generated on the Output Compare outputs OC0A and OC0B.

The Timer/Counter Overflow Flag (TOV0) is set according to the mode of operation selected by the WGM02:0 bits. TOV0 can be used for generating a CPU interrupt.

Output Compare Unit

The 8-bit comparator continuously compares TCNT0 with the Output Compare Registers (OCR0A and OCR0B). Whenever TCNT0 equals OCR0A or OCR0B, the comparator signals a match. A match will set the Output Compare Flag (OCF0A or OCF0B) at the next timer clock cycle. If the corresponding interrupt is enabled, the Output Compare Flag generates an Output Compare interrupt. The Output Compare Flag is automatically cleared when the interrupt is executed. Alternatively, the flag can be cleared by software by writing a logical one to its I/O bit location. The Waveform Generator uses the match signal to generate an output according to operating mode set by the WGM02:0 bits and Compare Output mode (COM0x1:0) bits. The max and bottom signals are used by the Waveform Generator for handling the special cases of the extreme values in some modes of operation.

AVR Output Compare Unit Block Diagram
AVR Output Compare Unit Block Diagram

The OCR0x Registers are double buffered when using any of the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) modes. For the normal and Clear Timer on Compare (CTC) modes of operation, the double buffering is disabled. The double buffering synchronizes the update of the OCR0x Compare Registers to either top or bottom of the counting sequence. The synchronization prevents the occurrence of odd-length, non-symmetrical PWM pulses, thereby making the
output glitch-free.

The OCR0x Register access may seem complex, but this is not the case. When the double buffering is enabled, the CPU has access to the OCR0x Buffer Register, and if double buffering is disabled the CPU will access the OCR0x directly.

In non-PWM waveform generation modes, the match output of the comparator can be forced by writing a one to the Force Output Compare (FOC0x) bit. Forcing compare match will not set the OCF0x Flag or reload/clear the timer, but the OC0x pin will be updated as if a real compare match had occurred (the COM0x1:0 bits settings define whether the OC0x pin is set, cleared or toggled).

Writing TCNT0 in any mode of operation will block all compare matches for one timer clock cycle, there are risks involved when changing TCNT0 when using the Output Compare Unit, independently of whether the Timer/Counter is running or not. If the value written to TCNT0 equals the OCR0x value, the compare match will be missed, resulting in incorrect waveform generation. Similarly, do not write the TCNT0 value equal to BOTTOM
when the counter is down-counting.

The setup of the OC0x should be performed before setting the Data Direction Register for the port pin to output. The easiest way of setting the OC0x value is to use the Force Output Compare (FOC0x) strobe bits in Normal mode. The OC0x Registers keep their values even when changing between Waveform Generation modes.

Compare Match Output Unit

The Compare Output mode (COM0x1:0) bits have two functions. The Waveform Generator uses the COM0x1:0 bits for defining the Output Compare (OC0x) state at the next compare match. Also, the COM0x1:0 bits control the OC0x pin output source.

The I/O Registers, I/O bits, and I/O pins in the figure are shown in bold. Only the parts of the general I/O port control registers (DDR and PORT) that are affected by the COM0x1:0 bits are shown. When referring to the OC0x state, the reference is for the internal OC0x Register, not the OC0x pin. If a system reset occur, the OC0x Register is reset to “0”.

AVR Compare Match Output Unit Block Diagram
AVR Compare Match Output Unit Block Diagram

The general I/O port function is overridden by the Output Compare (OC0x) from the Waveform Generator if either of the COM0x1:0 bits are set. However, the OC0x pin direction (input or output) is still controlled by the Data Direction Register (DDR) for the port pin. The Data Direction Register bit for the OC0x pin (DDR_OC0x) must be set as output before the OC0x value is visible on the pin. The port override function is independent of the Waveform Generation mode. The design of the Output Compare pin logic allows initialization of the OC0x state before the output is enabled.

The Waveform Generator uses the COM0x1:0 bits differently in Normal, CTC, and PWM modes. For all modes, setting the COM0x1:0 = 0 tells the Waveform Generator that no action on the OC0x Register is to be performed on the next compare match.

Modes of Operation

The mode of operation, i.e., the behavior of the Timer/Counter and the Output Compare pins, is defined by the combination of the Waveform Generation mode (WGM02:0) and Compare Output mode (COM0x1:0) bits. The Compare Output mode bits do not affect the counting sequence, while the Waveform Generation mode bits do. The COM0x1:0 bits control whether the PWM output generated should be inverted or not (inverted or non-inverted PWM). For non-PWM modes the COM0x1:0 bits control whether the output should be set, cleared, or toggled at a compare match.

Timer Normal Mode

The simplest mode of operation is the Normal mode (WGM02:0 = 0). In this mode the counting direction is always up (incrementing), and no counter clear is performed. The counter simply overruns when it passes its maximum 8-bit value (TOP = 0xFF) and then restarts from the bottom (0x00). In normal operation, the Timer/Counter Overflow Flag (TOV0) will be set in the same timer clock cycle as the TCNT0 becomes zero. The TOV0 Flag, in this case,
behaves like a ninth bit, except that it is only set, not cleared. However, combined with the timer overflow interrupt that Automatically clears the TOV0 Flag, the timer resolution can be increased by software. There are no special cases to consider in the Normal mode, a new counter value can be written anytime. The Output Compare unit can be used to generate interrupts at some given time. Using the Output Compare to generate waveforms in Normal mode is not recommended, since this will occupy too much of the CPU time.

Timer/Counter Timing Diagram, with Prescaler (fclk_I/O/8)
Timer/Counter Timing Diagram, with Prescaler (fclk_IO/8)

Clear Timer on Compare Match (CTC) Mode

In Clear Timer on Compare or CTC mode (WGM02:0 = 2), the OCR0A Register is used to manipulate the counter resolution. In CTC mode the counter is cleared to zero when the counter value (TCNT0) matches the OCR0A. The OCR0A defines the top value for the counter, hence also its resolution. This mode allow greater control of the compare match output frequency. It also simplifies the operation of counting external events.

AVR Timer - CTC Mode Timing Diagram
AVR Timer – CTC Mode Timing Diagram

An interrupt can be generated each time the counter value reaches the TOP value by using the OCF0A Flag. If the interrupt is enabled, the interrupt handler routine can be used for updating the TOP value. However, changing TOP to a value close to BOTTOM when the counter is running with none or a low prescaler value must be done with care since the CTC mode does not have the double buffering feature. If the new value written to OCR0A is lower than the current value of TCNT0, the counter will miss the compare match. The counter will then have to count to its maximum value (0xFF) and wrap around starting at 0x00 before the compare match can occur. For generating a waveform output in CTC mode, the OC0A output can be set to toggle its logical level on each compare match by setting the Compare Output mode bits to toggle mode (COM0A1:0 = 1). The OC0A value will not be visible on the port pin unless the data direction for the pin is set to output. The waveform generated will have a maximum frequency of fOC0 = fclk_IO/2 when OCR0A is set to zero (0x00). The waveform frequency is defined by the following equation:

AVR CTC Mode Frequency Calculation
AVR CTC Mode Frequency Calculation

The N variable represents the prescale factor (1, 8, 64, 256, or 1024). As for the Normal mode of operation, the TOV0 Flag is set in the same timer clock cycle that the counter counts from MAX to 0x00.

Fast PWM Mode

The fast Pulse Width Modulation or fast PWM mode (WGM02:0 = 3 or 7) provides a high frequency PWM waveform generation option. The fast PWM differs from the other PWM option by its single-slope operation. The counter counts from BOTTOM to TOP then restarts from BOTTOM. TOP is defined as 0xFF when WGM2:0 = 3, and
OCR0A when WGM2:0 = 7. In non-inverting Compare Output mode, the Output Compare (OC0x) is cleared on the compare match between TCNT0 and OCR0x, and set at BOTTOM. In inverting Compare Output mode, the output is set on compare match and cleared at BOTTOM. Due to the single-slope operation, the operating frequency of the fast PWM mode can be twice as high as the phase correct PWM mode that uses dual-slope operation. This high frequency makes the fast PWM mode well suited for power regulation, rectification, and DAC applications. High frequency allows physically small sized external components (coils, capacitors), and therefore reduces total system cost.

AVR Timer – Fast PWM Mode

In fast PWM mode, the counter is incremented until the counter value matches the TOP value. The counter is then cleared at the following timer clock cycle. The TCNT0 value is in the timing diagram shown as a histogram for illustrating the single-slope operation. The diagram includes non-inverted and inverted PWM outputs. The small horizontal line marks on the TCNT0 slopes represent compare matches between OCR0x and TCNT0.

The Timer/Counter Overflow Flag (TOV0) is set each time the counter reaches TOP. If the interrupt is enabled, the interrupt handler routine can be used for updating the compare value.
In fast PWM mode, the compare unit allows generation of PWM waveforms on the OC0x pins. Setting the COM0x1:0 bits to two will produce a non-inverted PWM and an inverted PWM output can be generated by setting the COM0x1:0 to three: Setting the COM0A1:0 bits to one allows the OC0A pin to toggle on Compare Matches if the WGM02 bit is set. This option is not available for the OC0B pin. The actual OC0x value will only be visible on the port pin if the data direction for the port pin is set as output. The PWM waveform is
generated by setting (or clearing) the OC0x Register at the compare match between OCR0x and TCNT0, and clearing (or setting) the OC0x Register at the timer clock cycle the counter is cleared (changes from TOP to BOTTOM)

The PWM frequency for the output can be calculated by the following equation :

AVR Fast PWM Frequency Formula
AVR Fast PWM Frequency Formula

The N variable represents the prescale factor (1, 8, 64, 256, or 1024).
The extreme values for the OCR0A Register represents special cases when generating a PWM waveform output in the fast PWM mode. If the OCR0A is set equal to BOTTOM, the output will be a narrow spike for each MAX+1 timer clock cycle. Setting the OCR0A equal to MAX will result in a constantly high or low output (depending on the polarity of the output set by the COM0A1:0 bits.) A frequency (with 50% duty cycle) waveform output in fast PWM mode can be achieved by setting OC0x to toggle its logical level on each compare match (COM0x1:0 = 1). The waveform generated will have a maximum frequency of fOC0 = fclk_I/O/2 when OCR0A is set to zero. This feature is similar to the OC0A toggle in CTC mode, except the double buffer feature of the Output Compare unit is enabled in the fast PWM mode.

Phase Correct PWM Mode

The phase correct PWM mode (WGM02:0 = 1 or 5) provides a high-resolution phase correct PWM waveform generation option. The phase correct PWM mode is based on a dual-slope operation. The counter counts repeatedly from BOTTOM to TOP and then from TOP to BOTTOM. TOP is defined as 0xFF when WGM2:0 = 1, and OCR0A when WGM2:0 = 5. In non-inverting Compare Output mode, the Output Compare (OC0x) is cleared on the compare match between TCNT0 and OCR0x while up-counting, and set on the compare match while down-counting. In inverting Output Compare mode, the operation is inverted. The dual-slope operation has a lower maximum operation frequency than single-slope operation. However, due to the symmetric feature of the dual-slope PWM modes, these modes are preferred for motor control applications.

In phase correct PWM mode the counter is incremented until the counter value matches TOP. When the counter reaches TOP, it changes the count direction. The TCNT0 value will be equal to TOP for one timer clock cycle. The TCNT0 value is in the timing diagram shown as a histogram for illustrating the dual-slope operation. The diagram includes non-inverted and inverted PWM outputs. The small horizontal line marks on the TCNT0 slopes represent compare matches between OCR0x and TCNT0.

AVR - Phase Correct PWM Timing Diagram
AVR – Phase Correct PWM Timing Diagram

The Timer/Counter Overflow Flag (TOV0) is set each time the counter reaches BOTTOM. The Interrupt Flag can be used to generate an interrupt each time the counter reaches the BOTTOM value. In phase correct PWM mode, the compare unit allows generation of PWM waveforms on the OC0x pins. Setting the COM0x1:0 bits to two will produce a non-inverted PWM. An inverted PWM output can be generated by setting the COM0x1:0 to three: Setting the COM0A0 bits to one allows the OC0A pin to toggle on Compare Matches if the WGM02 bit is set. This option is not available for the OC0B pin. The actual OC0x value will only be visible on the port pin if the data direction for the port pin is set as output. The PWM waveform is generated by clearing (or setting) the OC0x Register at the compare match between OCR0x and TCNT0 when the counter increments, and setting (or clearing) the OC0x Register at compare match between OCR0x and TCNT0
when the counter decrements. The PWM frequency for the output when using phase correct PWM can be calculated by the following equation:

AVR Phase Correct PWM Frequency Formula
AVR Phase Correct PWM Frequency Formula

The N variable represents the prescale factor (1, 8, 64, 256, or 1024).
The extreme values for the OCR0A Register represent special cases when generating a PWM waveform output in the phase correct PWM mode. If the OCR0A is set equal to BOTTOM, the output will be continuously low and if set equal to MAX the output will be continuously high for non-inverted PWM mode. For inverted PWM the output will have the opposite logic values.








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