What Is An Arduino?

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Arduino is an open source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. It has been used to implement all kinds of projects ranging from home automation systems to drones. An extensive community of makers- hobbyists, programmers and professionals has greatly helped in the development worldwide. Recent versions of most boards employ Atmel Atmega series processors.

Born at the Ivrea Interaction Design Institute, it rapidly developed into a platform for developers without a background in core engineering. What started as simple 8-bit processing boards have now developed into specialised product development platforms for IoT applications, wearable, 3D printing and embedded environments. Lately it has become a go-to solution for testing and prototyping solutions before implementing circuits on a PCB.

It is definitely making rounds

The simple and accessible interface is a big plus. The software is easy-to-use for beginners with enough flexibility for advanced users where operating systems are not a barrier. Since the cost is low, tinkerers use it to build low cost scientific instruments, to prove chemistry and physics principles or to get started with programming and robotics.

Designers and architects build interactive prototypes, musicians and artists use it for installations and to experiment with new musical instruments. Hobbyists and programmers can start tinkering by simply following step by step instructions of a kit, or sharing ideas online with other members of the Arduino community.

Why consider an Arduino?

  • Inexpensive
  • Cross-platform
  • Simple programming environment
  • Open source software
  • Open source hardware

The board at a glance:

arduino & genuino boards
Arduino Uno Develoipment board
  • Analog Reference pin
  • Digital Ground
  • Digital Pins 2-13 – the digital pins on an Arduino board can be used for general-purpose input and output via the pinMode(), digitalRead(), and digitalWrite() commands. Each pin has an internal pull-up resistor which can be turned on and off using digitalWrite() (w/ a value of HIGH or LOW, respectively) when the pin is configured as an input. The maximum current per pin is 40 mA.
  • Digital Pins 0-1/Serial In/Out – TX/RX- These pins cannot be used for digital i/o (digitalRead and digitalWrite) if you are also using serial communication (e.g. Serial.begin).
  • Reset Button – S1
  • In-circuit Serial Programmer
  • Analog In Pins 0-5 – The analog input pins support 10-bit analog-to-digital conversion (ADC) using the analogRead() function. Most of the analog inputs can also be used as digital pins: analog input 0 as digital pin 14 through analog input 5 as digital pin 19. Analog inputs 6 and 7 (present on the Mini and BT) cannot be used as digital pins.
  • Power and Ground Pins
  • External Power Supply In (9-12VDC) – X1
  • Toggles External Power and USB Power (place jumper on two pins closest to desired supply) – SV1
  • USB (used for uploading sketches to the board and for serial communication between the board and the computer; can be used to power the board)
  • Arduino Uno have a low drop-out voltage regulator. It dissipates less power in the form of heat.

Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

Arduino Software (Arduino IDE) allows you to write programs and upload them on your board. It is available as an online tool that allows you to save designs on the cloud. However, it is also available as an offline tool. The boards work out-of-the-box with the web editor. The online IDE automatically detects the board and the port it is connected to without having to select the ports individually. The forum helps out with individual issues with the Arduino boards.

Arduino Schematics

The schematic diagram for Arduino development can be downloaded from this link.

A list of Arduino Boards:

  • 101
  • ADK
  • Due
  • Esplora
  • Gemma
  • Intel Edison
  • Intel Galileo Gen2
  • ISP
  • Leonardo, Leonardo ETH and Micro
  • LilyPad, LilyPad Simple and LilyPad SimpleSnap
  • LilyPad USB
  • MEGA2560
  • Mini
  • MKR1000
  • MKRFOX1200
  • MKRZERO
  • Nano
  • Pro
  • Pro Mini
  • Robot
  • TFT LCD Screen
  • UNO
  • Yún
  • Zero
  • Arduino USB to Serial Micro (Arduino USB 2 Serial Micro)
  • Arduino BT (retired)
  • Arduino Fio (retired)

Some commonly available shields for Arduino

  • Ethernet Shield
  • GSM Shield 2
  • WiFi Shield 101
  • WiFi Shield
  • Wireless SD Shield

Some other Open Source prototyping platforms

  • Pinguino (a PIC-based hardware)
  • Armduino/Maple (an STM32-based hardware)
  • Beagleboard
  • PandaBoard
  • Ustick51
  • Induino
  • chipKIT
  • Freeduino
  • LilyPad
  • Sanguino
  • BeagleBone

Arduino Compatible Boards

  • STM32 Nucleo Development Boards
  • Netduino 2
  • Netduino Plus 2

Uses of Arduino Board

An Arduino board is great for converting your mini project ideas as well as industrial based projects into reality in less time and more efficiently. As it is Open Source, people from around the world share their programming codes on their official forums for various projects and you can use them to build projects one on your own.

A list of arduino projects should help you with projects.

Another list is available here.

The article was first published on 6 May 2017 and was updated on 7 October 2020.

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