Arduino

What Is Arduino and Why Is It Used?

Are you one of those who are interested in electronics but find it intimidating at the same time? You’ve probably been thinking of your first electronics project but not sure how and where to start. Suppose you at least have a decent understanding of electronics concepts like circuits, current, voltage, power, and integrated circuits. In that case, there’s a tool that can help you get started with your dream electronics project.

Arduino is an open-source electronics platform with simplified hardware and software to make learning easy for novices but flexible enough to be used by professionals. The Arduino was born in 2005 out of the collaborative effort of the faculty and students at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (IDII) in Ivrea, Italy. The goal was to provide students at the Institute with low-cost, easy-to-use circuit boards for their electronics projects. Unexpectedly, Arduino soon reached a wider audience – students, hobbyists, programmers, and even professionals. What makes Arduino so popular? Read on to know more about this development board that is well-loved by electronics enthusiasts.

Arduino Hardware

Arduino’s hardware is open source, which means users can create derivatives of the board or create a new product based on Arduino’s design. The founders made the designs and documentation of the boards available on their website.

Over the years, there have been different varieties of Arduino, but they all share one thing in common, the microcontroller or Integrated Circuit that serves as the brain of the board. This is where the code goes to once users program the board. Most Arduino boards consist of 8-bit ICs from ATmel Company, but boards with much faster performance utilize 32-bit microcontrollers like ARM’s ARM Cortex-M0+ and ARM Cortex-M3 and Intel’s Intel Quark.

You can also find a USB port on the board, which could both be a power and data port, a barrel jack for the power supply, a LED power indicator, a reset button, a voltage regulator, and TX/RX LEDs. There is also a set of labeled pins for 5V, 3.3V, GND, Analog, Digital, PWM, and AREF. These pins are mainly used to attach expansion cards, or SHIELDS, to Arduino for extra functionalities like network connection, LCD, and joysticks. The pins can also be used to attach components from a breadboard for prototyping.

Arduino Software

The main programming language used to code an Arduino is C or C++. Arduino has an official integrated development environment (IDE) to make coding easier, especially for beginners. The Arduino IDE has a minimalist interface, making it simple to write, compile, and upload the code to the Arduino board. It is a versatile software compatible with MAC, Windows, and Linux. Arduino’s software is also open-source. Like its hardware, it’s open for development to make coding easier for its users, new and experienced alike. Advanced users can program the Arduino board in any programming language with compilers that produce binary machine code.[1]

Many users, especially beginners, would normally opt for the Arduino IDE to program the microcontroller. Still, other platforms similar to Arduino IDE like PlatformIO and Ktechlab can also be used to program an Arduino. These are also free, open-source, and easy to use.

Why Use an Arduino?

There are many other microcontrollers and development boards, but Arduino’s accessibility, easy-to-understand hardware design, and simple software make it appealing to different types of users. There are also other reasons why Arduino is the preferred choice for its thousands of followers despite the emergence of many other competitors:

Affordable

Arduino’s hardware is relatively cheaper than other microcontroller architecture. You can start doing your electronics projects with a preassembled Arduino board to get below $50. Arduino modules that can be assembled cost even cheaper. Moreover, the Arduino IDE is downloadable for free.

Cross-platform

Arduino can be programmed using a more flexible platform, the Arduino IDE, which can run on three operating systems – Linux, Windows, and MAC, unlike most microcontrollers which can only run on Windows.

Easy to Program

Programming an off-the-shelf microcontroller is often messy, and the code is not easy to comprehend, especially for newbies. Arduino provides a simple and easy-to-understand coding platform through the Arduino IDE. It is friendly to students and to those who are still new in electronics projects, simplifying coding and compiling and uploading codes to the board, eliminating the need for an external programmer or burner. Even professionals and experienced programmers are using Arduino IDE because of its uncomplicated interface.

Broad Libraries of Codes

The Arduino IDE is also preloaded with a broad library of codes that users can use, modify, or practice. Users can use these codes instead of coding from scratch or can modify the codes for similar projects. This makes learning easier for beginners because they already have codes to familiarize themselves with, along with tons of tutorials from Arduino’s community. It also benefits professionals by saving them time because they can simply copy nuggets of codes that they need for their projects from the libraries.

Open-Source Software and Hardware

The open-source nature of Arduino is another huge advantage to users. Since Arduino’s design is accessible to the public, users can modify the design and make their own version of the board. Experienced users can even make Arduino-based products. Newbies can also lay the design out on a breadboard to understand it better. Software-wise, experienced programmers can expand Arduino’s language through C++ libraries.

Arduino Boards and Projects

There are several Arduino boards developed for different types of users and projects. Arduino Uno, for example, is suitable for beginners and simple projects with its 14 digital I/O pins. On the other hand, Arduino Mega is used for complex projects with its 54 I/O pins to interact with. Lilypad is a creative version of Arduino with its unique lilypad design. It’s also washable and is more often used in wearables. These are just some of the many varieties of Arduino that you can build your electronics projects with.

There have been thousands of Arduino-based projects that have been made since its introduction, from simple to complex projects like music instruments, car robots, remote controls, and even security systems. Arduino is a revolutionary tool in electronics. Its comprehensible hardware and software make it a great tool for learning and building DIY projects. It has also expanded its use in many industries due to its low cost and easy accessibility. Whether you’re just starting your journey in electronics or already a seasoned professional, Arduino is a handy tool that’s convenient to use with your projects.

Sources

[1]  “Arduino.” Wikipedia, 8-May 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arduino, Accessed 12-May 2021

About the author

Glynis Navarrete

A freelance blogger who loves to write about anything related to technology. Born and raised in the Philippines and worked in Singapore for eight years as Technical Support for a wide range of IT equipment. Took a dive into the world of freelancing and now enjoying doing what I’m passionate about while not losing touch with technology.