“The open source electronics prototyping platform.”
Two years ago, on a trip to Portland, I discovered an interesting book leafing through the stacks at Powell’s Technical Books. “Getting Started with Arduino,” it was called, with the quote above and a “Make” logo. As a software guy working with EE’s at the time, I wanted to learn electronics and understand their world, but it was far too overwhelming.
Then I saw this book. “Prototyping,” I thought, “I can do that.” Turning through the pages, I saw pictures of an old beaten-up teddy bear hooked up to electronics parts like a junior Frankenstein. There were pictures of “Sniffin’ glue” fanzine, and Dr. Spock tinkering with a box of parts. I saw this great quote, “We believe that it essential to play with technology, exploring different possibilities directly on hardware and software–sometimes without a very defined goal.” That sounds like something I can handle!
Finally, this Christmas over break, I had some time on my hands, so I finally pulled the thing out, ordered the Beginner Parts Kit from Sparkfun, dug through their Tutorials, and set out to really understand this thing “without a very defined goal.” Along the way, I learned a great deal about electronics, reading schematics, data sheets, selecting and ordering parts, designing circuits, ordering PCBs, writing drivers, and more. This blog is here for me to share what I’ve learned with anyone who may be interested in pieces of it for their own purposes.
I also learned why Arduino is awesome. Phillip Torrone wrote a great piece, Why The Arduino Won And Why it’s Here To Stay. My view is that because Arduino was written by “freaks and artists,” not EE’s, it’s dead simple to use and pick up. No brittle toolchains to set up, esoteric parts to buy, etc. Everything about it exudes simplicity.
In his rebuttal to Torrone’s piece, Caleb Kraft thinks the EE elite should “embrace” the unwashed masses of Arduino n00bs thusly: “We should pat them on the back and say ‘Hey, great job! You know I’ll bet we could make a cheap circuit with a 555 that would pull that same effect off quite nicely and it would only cost $1. Here, check out this schematic.'” But why would I want to do that?? Even this simple 555 circuit requires a bunch of arcane connections, and resistors and capacitors, blah blah blah. Who cares if it only costs $1? I already have my Arduino and it can do anything, I don’t need to research, buy, understand a whole new kind of part for everything I want to do!