Why is the Arduino a Hit with Entry-Level Electronics Tinkerers?

By Shalin Shah

The board game Monopoly was launched during the Great Depression to make people feel better about their real purchasing power. I'm not aware of any new financial board games as a result of our most recent economic crisis; however, Jameco is always committed to making our customers feel better. We do it with inexpensive electronic components that are thought by some of us as simply fun toys.

The latest such Jameco toy is the Arduino single-board microcontroller and software programming suite.

I saw a great article in Wired Magazine with five reasons that explain why Arduino is a hit with entry-level electronics tinkerers everywhere.


1. Great Projects for Beginners

The hardware consists of a simple open hardware design for the controller with an Atmel AVR processor and onboard I/O support. The software consists of a standard programming language and a boot loader that also runs onboard.

The Arduino hardware is programmed using a Wiring-based language, similar to C++, with some simplifications and modifications, and a processing-based IDE.

The Getting Started with Arduino Kit is a great starter kit.


2. Cost-Effective

At less than $35 a piece, the Arduino is an inexpensive investment for someone who simply wants to try it out. Compared with other single-board microcontrollers, which can cost up to five times as much, the Arduino is quite a bargain!


3. Large Online Community

The Arduino Project began in Italy in 2005 to make inexpensive devices for controlling student-built interaction design projects. Within just five years, more than 120,000 Arduino boards have shipped.

You can visit the Arduino community here.


4. Product Development

Previously, the Arduino board exposed most of the microcontroller's I/O pins for use by other circuits. The MEGA, pictured below, and the Duemilanove, pictured right, provide 14 digital I/O pins, six of which can produce PWM signals and six analog inputs. These pins are available on the top of the board, via 0.10" female headers.

Now, however, the Arduino Nano and the Arduino-compatible Barebones and Boarduino boards provide male header pins on the underside of the board to be plugged into solderless breadboards.


5. Simplicity

The Arduino IDE is a cross-platform application written in Java designed to specifically introduce programming to newcomers unfamiliar with software development. It includes a code editor with features such as syntax highlighting, brace matching and automatic indentation, and is also capable of compiling and uploading programs to the board with a single click.


Conclusion

The Arduino is a great microcontroller package for entry-level electronics tinkerers, and perhaps once you've had enough, you might reach for that Monopoly board, although we doubt it.

Arduino IDE Example Program
Arduino IDE Example Program

Arduino with Prototyping Shield
Arduino with Prototyping Shield

Arduino Duemilanove
Arduino Duemilanove

Arduino MEGA
Arduino MEGA