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first steps with Arduino
by IKE 13-Jan-2010 16:57

Arduino is for open source hardware what Linux is for open source software. It was developed in Italy from Gianluca Martino, Massimo Banzi, and David Cuartielles and its popularity is growing all the time. The Arduino platform is the hardware, a small PCB and also the accompanying software, you can find all the details in their website, Arduino.cc. It is a programmable micro-computer which can perform many tasks connected with sensors or other components. Everything, from the software to the eagle files of the board schematics are freely available to anyone. Many small or bigger companies have produced arduino based boards or devices. If you are interested in the history of Arduino and open source hardware you can read this very good article from WIRED where I also first learn about it.---

What you need is -of course- an Arduino board (more on that below) and the Arduino software, the Arduino IDE. You can find instructions here and also in the excellent website of Limor Fried (or ladyada as she is most known) where among many other things you can also find many arduino tutorials.

I also have the book of M.Banzi "Getting Started with Arduino" which I have bought some time ago. It is quite small and very easy to read. It has all the very basic knowledge for using and programming Arduino and it is an excellent introduction. It is widely available in many stores and e-stores or you can order it directly from the editor here: makershed.com

There are a few official Arduino boards available (here is the list with details) and countless clones and derivatives. There are also many kits available where the board is sold with some basic electric components or books. Prices are almost identical for the same parts so choose to buy the board or the kit you like from wherever is more convenient. I bought the basic Arduino Duemilanove board with some basic components kit from the Greek internet now e-shop.

Arduino can be powered from the usb cable (for relatively small loads), or an external power supply. For that you can use a battery (9volt is ok) or a wall socket transformer. There are reasonably cheap and you can use one from an old device (ex an old wireless phone) like I did.

With the kit and the Arduino IDE installed I tested the first basic scripts in the book, which you can download from here. The code and programming is very easy and straightforward, the first scripts are about making a LED blink, controlling it with a push button and an introduction to pulse width modulation.

There is a huge online community for Arduino (this is the main benefit of open sourcing), for example you can find very good tutorials in the ladyada.net website I mentioned above.

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