Arduino! You would surely have come across this term if you call yourself to be a tech guy. And if you say, “Arduino ! What? That’s new to me…”, then take it from me, you are in the wrong field man!
Anyways, just coming across the term Arduino is one thing and actually understanding it is another. If you are confused with this whole paraphernalia regarding this, you have all the rights to be. After all, this word “Arduino” goes for so many different things and the whole thing is really a vast ocean to dive. So, here lets try to get the things a little straightened out.
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What is Arduino?
Arduino is an open source platform which can to be used to carry out different electronics related tasks involving basic hardware.
So, this is what you get when you ask for the book kind of definition of this thing. But what would it all mean when put in layman’s language.
You know, before you get to know what it is all about, lets take a tour of something called Microcontrollers. Now this is another thing you would have heard a million times just like our guest in question and there might very well be chances that you find yourself in the major category who all just have a vague idea about what it actually is?
To get you on the other side of the bridge….
If you break down the name, you land up with Micro and Controller. Common sense suggests it would be something which controls something else and is small. Isn’t it! That exactly what it is.
It is a small chip, containing circuits you need not actually crank your brains about, which has got instructions on how to instruct other things to some kind of stuff. Basically, it is a very small computer in itself which can carry out a limited amount of task on its own.
So, why it is so popular? The reason of its popularity lies in the name itself – Micro. The fact that, this computer is very small makes sure that it saves on the most important resource – Power. Yes! Small size concludes small power consumption.
Just imagine that you need to launch a satellite in space with an onboard computer which is going to control all he payloads. The space, where constant and easily available power supply is the last thing you would expect. That is where Microcontroller saves the day.
Until the recent history, using a microcontroller was a task reserved for highly trained lot only. For, people like you and me, don’t even think about it! One had to write complex codes, binary and remember a lot many hard to remember registers and instructions. Then a special hardware with custom made cable was used to upload it to controllers.
Enters the Arduino and everything becomes cake walk!
Arduino – The company!
Arduino is Italy based company which decided in 2003 to pitch in the world of Microcontrollers and took up the task of programming one a task a non-engineer can relate to.
These guys fixed a microcontroller onto circuit boards, developed an easy to use GUI to program it and born was something what we call as Arduino boards. Ya, these small circuit boards are what we all know as Arduino boards.
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Just as it was with Android and Linux, making the schematics of this whole concept an open source catapulted it to the epitome of popularity it has gained today. To put it in simple words, the the manufacturers have laid out all their secrets, be it the IDE, the boards circuitry and almost everything else, out in the open for anyone or everyone to use to their own advantage. So, due to this almost every electronics manufacturing company seems to be making such boards, making its availability very easy and affordable.
There is a range of such boards available in the market, Arduino UNO (also called Genuino board) being the most basic one and probably the cheapest of all. And the good news is that UNO is more than enough to carry out most of the simple projects. You rarely need to look for other boards.
Other than that, we have got other fancier boards with powerful processors which have wi-fi, Ethernet and more to go for. We have Mini, Mega, Ethernet, Yun, Leonardo, Lilypad …..and the list goes on.
Now talking about the biggest reason for the popularity of this electronic platform. The very crux of it- Arduino IDE (integrated development environment).
It is a software which contains an editor where you can write the programming instructions for your board. Basically, its telling your board what it has to do when switched on.
Now you may be thinking this is where you would drop out as coding seems to be your Achilles heel. If so, don’t!
The language used in the programming of such boards is very basic and very minimal amount of coding experience is actually required to deal with Arduino IDE. If you know even a little bit of C, you know a lot about Arduino programming.
And to make the Arduino experience an easy one, just google Arduino Tutorials and you are bound to find yourself in trove of Arduino learning websites which will walk you through the whole process.
Want to know your Arduino board, follow along in the next post, are the basics of the Arduino UNO board.