Explainer: What is Arduino?

When it comes to computers, the headlines almost always go to the biggest and fastest – more GHz, more transistors, more dollars. But not every success has followed this path. Sometimes devices are also preferred when their processing power and functionality are really limited.

There is a prime example of this that has inspired millions of people around the world and made them dip their toes in the vast ocean of electronics and programming. Say hello to Arduino! An open source hardware and software platform and user community that has grown into thousands of homebrew projects and commercial products.

Not all research costs billions of dollars

The Arduino story begins in the city almost 20 years ago Ivreain northern Italy. In this ancient parish of Turin was a design school called the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (IDII). One of its associate professors, Massimo Banzi, was responsible for developing and running a study program in the field of physical computing.

IDII was struggling with ever smaller budgets, however, and Banzi had to teach its Masters students how to use electronics in their interactive design projects.

Like so many electronics students of the time, they had used microcontroller systems like that BASIC Stampfrom the American company Parallax. However, that was a little more expensive than they would like and they lacked the flexibility required. Of course, Banzi directed a very small group of IDII staff and students to set about making their own.

They turned to the open source world to develop the IDE (Integrated Development Environment), the software package that could be used to program the device, but for the hardware there was nothing else like it.

The solution came from Creative Commons, a not-for-profit organization based in Santa Clara, California that provided royalty-free licenses and public domain systems for cultural projects.

The team realized that by making the project extremely cheap and completely open source, it would open the world of electronics and programming to millions of people around the world.

First this project (mostly done by one of Banzi’s students) was called wiringHowever, as the news spread and more people experimented with the design and tools, a parallel version was created (the wiring continued separately and still is go strong) and it was named in honor of the team’s favorite location: Bar di Re Arduino.

Arduino’s journey was not without it controversy and concerns, but we only focus on the systems themselves.

Welcome to the Arduino family

For anyone new to the world of basic electronics, the first Arduino system might look a bit cobbled together. But that’s because it was!

Consists of little more than one 8-bit Atmel ATmega168 Microcontroller, a base board and a cable to connect to a computer for programming, it was very “rough and ready”.

As a concept project, however, it was perfect – the chip was very powerful for the team’s needs and also very cheap. You can buy them now for about $ 2 each!

There is now a whole range of different Arduino models to choose from: the Uno basic model with an additional 8-bit Atmel microcontroller up to the Arduino Zero, which contains a 32-bit ARM Cortex chip and 256 kB of flash memory .

You don’t have to buy them pre-made; Thanks to the open source nature of the system, you can Download circuit diagrams and do them yourself too.

Each model has a number of analog and digital pins to power electronic components and send / receive inputs / outputs to and from the controller. The data pins are essentially 1 bit (a low or high voltage) but that’s more than enough to use for a plethora of things.

For example, the Uno can simply be connected to a digital temperature sensor and programmed to calculate the temperature based on the received signals.

If this all sounds a little daunting at first, don’t worry – Arduino’s Project hub Contains thousands of ideas to try, with complete instructions and parts lists. And this is the key to Arduino’s strength: not the simplicity of the hardware or the open source design, but how easy it is to program the controller.

The Arduino IDE owes a lot to the development work in wiring (and another IDE project called Processing), and these were ultimately responsible for the clear syntax, the logical code rules and the huge collection of libraries for various functions and operations.

You do not do that to haveto use the IDE; Any language can be used as long as the compiler outputs binary machine code that the simple microcontroller understands.

The ‘Hello World’ of the Arduino IDE: Let an LED blink

So what you have with an Arduino kit is clear: a simple card powered by an external source or a USB 2.0 cable and with a simple microcontroller or microprocessor; Programming support in the form of a clear IDE, code rules and plenty of documentation; and a wealth of projects from a huge database.

All of this begs the question: just what canare you doing with an arduino?

The power of Arduino

Browsing the Project Hub shows how adaptable it is. popular decisions are making one RDIF security scanner, countless remote-controlled devices and Smoke detection systems.

Include more serious and commercial projects Electric vehicle chargers and Handheld game consoles;; The world of education is too very sharp on the Arduino.

Let’s face it – it’s the slightly more “creative” maker projects that we’re really interested in. Do you want to spice up your Zoom meetings at work at home by having your webcam watch you dance around your home? Arduino I’ll keep your back free.

Do you want to be Batman and use sonar to spy on your enemies? Forget Robin – you are Arduino want by your side.

There’s also this ridiculous device that tells the time with sequins, because why not? And Combo Breaker, an Arduino-based motorized device that can pick any master combination lock in less than 30 seconds.

There are so many different uses and uses for Arduino that it would be impossible to list them all here. But what if you really need some punch activated flamethrowers on your arms? You know, only in the case of a zombie apocalypse. Well there is one Arduino project also just for you!

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Okay, maybe the last project is a little bit to creative but hopefully you get the picture. The limits of what you can do with an Arduino kit is set by your imagination and ingenuity, not the basic chips and design.

When less is more

Arduino and Wiring and the like Raspberry Piare perfect examples of what can be achieved if you want to keep the hardware as simple as possible and secure it with a specific development kit. These projects have brought electronics and programming to millions of people around the world who, due to their innate complexity and immense scope, may have been put off by these areas.

They’re not without critics, however, especially in the electronics and embedded systems business world – the criticism is mostly about how Arduino masks a real understanding of electronics and programming.

But that’s the whole point. You don’t have to know the exact type of thermodynamic thermal cycle your car’s engine is going through to learn how to drive it. And the same goes for Arduino: it’s supposed to be limited, too simple, and not particularly efficient.

It makes it easy and fun to get into the world of microcontrollers and basic coding, and it fits that role Perfect. If you’ve ever experimented with an Arduino kit and want to share your story, let us know in the comments below.

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