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Does an ideal universal programmer exist?

The following article tries to explain the word universal, used in connection with the universal device programmer term.

What is universal programmer? From the point of view of the development
laboratory, it is such a one that reliably programs a wide range of programmable
chips through a ZIF socket as well as through the ISP connector.


From the point of view of the small production, it is fast, easy to operate and extremely reliable. And what about the service person’s point of view? A portable one, working on every PC, with LPT as well as USB interfaces, under any operating system and, of course, reliable.


The first precondition for the versatility of a programmer is versatile hardware, i.e. the capability of the hardware to do jobs that are expected to be done by a modern programmer. Part of the required properties can be seen at a glance – particularly the presence of all necessary interfaces for the connection to a control PC (LPT port, USB port) and, of course, for the connection of a programmed chip (ZIF socket, ISP connector) that occur when the programmer is used.


It is essential that a universal programmer has a complete pindriver (i.e. each signal – read, H, L, PU, PD, CLK, power supply, programming voltage and GND – can be applied to any of the socket pins). Equally essential is a dynamically configurable H/L pindriver based on FPGA – as some circuits require the reception of a quite complicated sequence of signals of a MHz rate for the activation of the programming mode. The support of low voltage circuits, starting at 1.8 V, is taken for granted.


The next precondition for the versatility of a programmer is the control program. It determines whether the programmer can really be used with any PC and how many programmable chips the programmer supports. The support of Windows, from Windows 95 to Windows Vista, is essential. The number of supported devices should be more than 30,000.


And the next factor in the assessment of the versatility of a programmer is the support by its manufacturer and seller: Answers to questions within 24 hours, immediate service through the replacement of faulty parts, long (3-year) warranty and a flexible method of generating new versions of the control program.
And how is the reliability of a programmer achieved? Mostly by features that cannot be seen from outside of in an advert. The basis for the reliability of a programmer is a correctly designed hardware, dimensioned, with some reserve, to survive the worst-case scenario, which includes protective circuits at all inputs of the programmer. The second pillar is quality production and a burning in at the manufacturer site. The last pillar is the perfectly implemented programming algorithms.
It is also suitable the programmer have a some selftest feature, which provide you tool to make sure your programmer is 100% healthy. If the manufacturer provide also the diagnostic POD(s), you can always be sure, the selftest result "OK" mean also your programmer is surely "OK".
The BeeProg2 and BeeProg+ programmers satisfies, with many reserves, all requirements put on a really universal and reliable programmer. "As reliable as a bee" is the slogan that very well characterizes the BeeProg2/BeeProg+ programmers.


Feature (parameter)

BeeProg2, BeeProg+


All mentioned features in one programmer


None of competitors

50825 supported devices


Few of them more, many of them less

Both ZIF socket and ISP connector


Some of them

Both USB and LPT connection


Few of them

Diagnostic procedures (selftest)


Some of them

Diagnostic POD(s) for ZIF and/or ISP connector


None of them

ESD protection circuits for ZIF socket and ISP connector


One of them ZIF protected, one of them ZIF and ISP connector protected

3 years warranty in base price


None of them. Some of competitors offer extended warranty for 5-10% of the price of the programmer for one year