Vinculum’s VNC1L

Vinculum is a company you’ve probably never heard of; they’re apparently a not-terribly-well-publicized subsidiary of FTDI specializing in USB processors. Well, I – and they – say specializing, but Vinculum basically has just one product – a microcontroller called the VNC1L, which does or can do just about everything USB-related that a circuit designer could ask for. That, I think, it actually the idea, and it’s a pretty good one: where USB is concerned, there’s one chip to do it all, (and in the darkness, blind them?).

To promote their wonderful little chip, FTDI/Vinculum produce a couple really interesting little products of interest to the DIY crowd…

Perhaps the most interesting is their controller on a protoboard – allowing easy experimentation with all things USB (including USB mass storage) without the need to fiddle with surface-mount soldering. Obviously, this is meant for, ahem, prototyping, but I can see it becoming popular with the hobbyist-microcontroller crowd (like the legion of Arduino users).

The other item they offer that’s really neat is this “reference design” for a standalone USB media copier. Think copying photos from flash cards onto thumb drives, and that sort of thing. As a “reference design” for copying USB drives, it’s not quite ready for prime time: I managed to “brick” mine by inadvertently trying to copy 250MB of files onto a flash drive with 15MB free space. (Graceful handling of error states FAIL!) I’m pretty confident I can just re-flash the BIOS on this little doohickey and get it working again, and that brings me to where I think this thing has the most value: Because the VNC1L isn’t just a USB interface chip, but a programmable microcontroller, this little memory-card-copier is only a memory-card-copier until you program it to do something else – perhaps something that can take advantage of the two USB ports, five momentary switches, and five bicolor LEDs. The programming and interface pins are easily accessible on a header, so re-purposing this little (less than 2×3 inches, with batteries) device shouldn’t be too terribly hard, assuming you can make sense of the somewhat incomplete documentation. (Hey, that’s half the fun, right?)

I bought my bits directly from Vinculum, and got ’em in about three days. Hacktivists, what are you waiting for? There are all kinds of USB-enabled things waiting to be made with these parts…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on February 20th, 2009| Comments Off on Vinculum’s VNC1L

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