FYP 1 / Week 02

What is Arduino?

Introduction

If you’re like me, tinkering with electronics is something you’d really like to do – in theory at least – but the realities of time constraints, lack of knowledge and few rewards inevitably prevent you from making a start. It’s just too difficult. You like dissecting broken gadgets, but never do anything with the bits you find other than stash them away for a rainy day.

The Arduino is the answer to all that, and frankly anything that can be considered fun while learning is a truly revolutionary device in my opinion.

Technically, the Arduino is a programmable logic controller, which Ryan explained all about a few weeks ago. Officially though, it’s an open-source electronics prototyping platform – but what does that mean?

To you or me, it’s like a little computer you can program to do things, and it interacts with the world through electronic sensors, lights, and motors. In essence, it makes some truly hardcore electronics projects accessible to anyone – so artists and creative types can concentrate on making their ideas a reality. It’s the ultimate tinkering tool

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

Why Arduino?

Open Source

The hardware and software is open source – the schematics are available online, so if you don’t want to purchase a pre-made Arduino, you are free to buy the individual components and make it yourself. There are even clones available that function in exactly the same way. Bear in mind of course, that by purchasing an original device you support the creators and the future development of the Arduino.

Connectivity

As a piece of hardware, the Arduino can operate either independently (like in a robot), connected to a computer (thereby giving your computer access to sensor data from the outside world and providing feedback), or connected to other Arduino’s, or other electronic devices and controller chips. Pretty much anything can be connected and is bounded only by your imagination, willingness to put some time and effort into learning something new, and the availability of components. If you can think of it – the Arduino can do it.

arduino microcontroller

A Wealth of Support

There are thousands of other people and organizations out there embracing the Arduino, the best of which I’ll highlight in a later article. The upshot of this is that if you lack in the creativity department, there’s always a pre-coded project for you to build, and there’s always something new to learn. It’s also very easy to get started.

arduino programming

Versatility and Cost

An official complete unit costs as little as RM100 – far less than other micro controller platforms, which makes these little electronic miracle babies accessible to hobbyists and educational institutions alike.

The programming language you upload with is incredibly simple, and should be familiar to anyone who has had any experience with Java or similar languages. (It’s actually based on Processing)

It’s also a fantastic learning tool, with which you can experiment with electronics and learn the foundations.

Still want to know more? Check out this short Arduino documentary which goes into the background a little more and the motivation behind the project. A lot of it is in Italian, because if the name didn’t give it away already, the project began in Italy.

Below is a Comic done by Jody Culkin on Arduino.

Till next post. “Don’t forget to be awesome”

LINKS: Arduino.cc, Wikipedia,
IMAGE CREDIT: Adafruit Industries

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