So what is Arduino ?
The image to the left is an Arduino Mega. The people that created it call it an open-source electronics platform. You can find their website here http://www.arduino.cc/
The Arduino is a microcontroller with all the bits you need to get it running, all wrapped up in a little package. Electronics enthusiasts often use microcontrollers in their projects but all our modern gadgets are full of them. They make everything from Washing machines and TV’s to childrens toys work.
Traditionally working with microcontrollers could be a pain. They are sensitive digital devices, requiring carefully designed power supplies and interfaces. So undertaking a simple project would require a lot of work just to make the thing comfortable. Then you would have to write software. Which could be just as confusing. Often requiring the use of Assembly language, which cant be easily understood by man or machine ! The other option is expensive programming packages, which made the job easier but are outside the price range of the hobbyist.
This is where the Arduino comes in. All that work has been done for us. Not only do we have the device set up and ready to go. They also give us a free programming environment. Easy to use and understand. This makes Arduino ideal for the hobbyist or even educational enviroments.
So where do we start ? Well you can download the Arduino IDE ( Integrated Development Enviroment ) free from http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Software Its full of examples. You can also check what you have written would work by clicking verify. Their website and the internet in general are great resources for learning Arduino. They developed it for people to use and improve.
The Arduino company sell official boards. These can be purchased from them or from electronics suppliers. The also went one step further here as well. They released all the information needed to build your own, or companies to build their own, This means you can purchase boards made by other people. These are often cheaper but are essentially then same. That said we should support the guys that started it, shouldn’t we ?
The Arduino board has a USB port to talk to the computer. There is also Windows, Linux and Mac OS versions of the software. So everyone can have a go !
I will cover more technical aspects of the Arduino on other pages.