What is Arduino and why is it so much fun?

If you are looking for fun electronic projects on the internet, you will not come up with the name Arduino. The open source system is used for Internet-of-Things applications, robots and fun DIY projects, among other things. What exactly is Arduino and why it is so much fun to experiment with this low-cost system?

Arduino is an open source electronics platform and consists of a combination of hardware and software. Everything is aimed at making it as easy as possible for you to tinker with electronic components yourself. The intention of the makers is that even people without programming and electronics experience can quickly get to grips with it. Also read: In 16 steps Windows 10 on your Raspberry Pi.

The basis of any Arduino project is an Arduino board to which a number of standard components are soldered. The heart of an Arduino board is a microcontroller, usually an Atmel ATmega. However, some Arduino boards have microcontrollers from for example Intel or STM. What else you find on an Arduino board depends on the model. Most boards have a USB connection to communicate with your computer, but there are also boards available with only a WiFi module. The big advantage of an Arduino board is that all the necessary components to make simple DIY projects are already installed on the board.

On the sides of each board you will find inputs and outputs that you can connect via wires to sensors, motors, LED lights and other components to create your own product. Because these components are often very cheap, you can make your own IP camera, robot or IoT application for little money. To program your Arduino project you will need a computer, but this does not mean that your project will ultimately need a computer to function. Normally, your Arduino project will be powered via the USB connection. To run an Arduino project standalone, you'll need to connect a power adapter or battery.

The battle between Arduino LLC and Arduino SRL

The history and recent development of Arduino has been plagued by lawsuits and miscommunication. The precursor to the Arduino project was started in 2004 by Hernando Barragán, a Colombian student who wrote his thesis in Italy. He named his prototyping platform Wiring and it still exists at www.wiring.org.co. Barragán's supervisors were Massimo Banzi and Casey Reas, the latter of whom worked on the Processing programming language and development environment.

Arduino was born in 2005 and was derived from Wiring. However, Barragán was not part of the Arduino team. Until 2008, nothing was wrong, but when at the end of 2008 one of the five team members – Gianluca Martino – registered the Arduino name in Italy as a trademark through his company Smart Projects, years later this led to a split between the Arduino- team members. Martino started Arduino SRL and copied the existing website www.arduino.cc to www.arduino.org. The Arduino.cc website is run by Arduino LLC and this group of people, including Banzi, have been forced by a lawsuit to sell the Arduino products outside the United States under the name Genuino. At the moment there are still lawsuits pending and until then we have to make do with two companies that make the same products under the same name. For the sake of uniformity, we will only use the name Arduino in this article. Even though in Europe we technically have to talk about Genuino when we talk about Arduino LLC's Arduino boards, the products are identical. Whether this will continue to be the case in the future remains to be seen.

Products

To get a feel for what is possible with the Arduino system and which products are available, it is useful to visit this website first. Please note: the prices shown on that website are exclusive of VAT and exclusive of shipping costs). You can also visit www.arduino.org, this website has a slightly different offering. Click on Products and you will see that there are three official beginner boards: the Uno, the 101 and the Micro. The Uno is the standard model and most manuals and tutorials have been written about it. The Uno has reached its third revision and is therefore also called Rev3 or R3.

A Uno costs 20 euros and is based on the ATmega328P microcontroller. It contains 32 kilobytes of flash memory and 2 kilobytes of RAM. The 101 is a deluxe version of the Uno and has an Intel Curie microcontroller. In addition, the 101 has bluetooth and the board has an accelerometer and gyroscope. If you want to create a project that uses motion or needs to communicate with something else via bluetooth, this is a good choice. The 101 costs 28.65 euros. The Micro is a compact board with an integrated USB connection and costs 18 euros. More complex boards are available for advanced users, such as the Arduino MEGA 2560, which is larger, provides more inputs and outputs and will cost you 35 euros. Since Arduino is an open source system, there are other manufacturers that offer Arduino boards. A handy list of comparable boards can be found here.

Expand with shields

You can expand your Arduino project with sensors, motors, resistors and other electronics, but so-called shields are also available. These are pre-soldered printed circuit boards that extend the functionality of your Arduino board. For example, you can buy a joystick shield to control your project via a joystick. Another popular shield is the BLE shield, with which you add bluetooth 4.0 to your Arduino. You can click a shield on your existing Arduino board. This way you not only provide the normal board with power, but also your shield at the same time.

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