AVR Tutorial: Bootstrapping the AVR
So you want to program an AVR, but you don't have a programmer? Do you have a parallel port? Then fear not!
The AVR chips are set up to flash their program memory through a serial connection with the host computer, so programming them is mostly a matter of getting the right lines to the chip, with the rest taken care of by the AVRdude software.
The simplest way to get started is with one of the parallel-port "programmers". The basic procedure is to a) look at the docs for AVRdude's various parallel port adapters, b) look at the pinouts for the chip you're using, and c) wire the right pins on the parallel port to the right pins on your AVR.
For instance, the DAPA (Direct AVR Parallel Access) "programmer" makes the following connections between the parallel port pins and the AVR:
Connect the wires and test it out! Type avrdude -n -v -p tiny13 -c dapa and you should see your part recognized and the fuse settings displayed. (Make sure to substitute your part name for tiny13. Type avrdude -p help to see the list of supported parts.)
For a much more complicated boot strap technique, there is the secure bootloader that uses AES encrypted firmware images.