Arduino® is a hardware and software package that allows you to learn electronics (while having fun) while becoming familiar with computer programming. Unlike other boards, Raspberry Pi for example, Arduino is open source, so you can download the original schematic and use it to build your own map and sell it without paying royalties.
They are programmable electronic cards (therefore equipped with a processor and memory) on which we can connect temperature, humidity, vibration or light sensors, a camera, buttons, adjustment potentiometers, contacts electric… There are also connectors for connecting LEDs, motors, relays, displays, a screen…
An Arduino board is a brain that makes electronic systems intelligent and animates mechanical devices.
The image below shows an the Uno board which is widely used for beginners.
In writing related to Arduino you will often see the words “microprocessor”, “micro-controller”, “MCU”, “AVR”, “ATMega168”, “ARMCortex-M3”…
In a very simplified way: all these terms designate a processor. The processor is the calculation unit (CPU) contained inside the integrated circuit designated by one of the terms previously mentioned (example: MCU, ATmega168, etc.)
The Software IDE
The creators of Arduino have developed software to make programming arduino boards visual, simple and complete at the same time.
This is called an IDE, which stands for Integrated Development Environment.
The Arduino IDE is the software used to program Arduino boards.
The IDE displays a graphics window that contains a text editor and all the tools needed for programming activity.
You can therefore enter your program, save it, compile it, check it, transfer it to an arduino board…
At the time of writing this page, the most recent version of the Arduino IDE is 1.8.10. The look is pretty much the same on every platform (Windows, Mac, and Linux). The following image shows the initial screen that appears when launching the IDE.
Types of Arduino Boards
Over the years, the designers at Arduino.cc have come up with a number of board designs. The first Arduino board, the Diecimila, was released in 2007. And since then, the Arduino family has evolved to take advantage of the different types of Atmel microprocessors.
The Due, released in 2012, is the first Arduino to use a 32-bit ARMCortex-M3 processor. It stands out from the rest of the family in terms of processing power and board pinout configuration.
Other boards, like the LilyPad and the Nano, don’t have the same pinout as well and are aimed at a different range of rather “mobile” applications.
In the case of the LilyPad it is for easy integration into clothing and fabrics.
The Esplora integrates sensors and actuators and the compact size of the Mini, Micro and Nano predestines them for miniature, light and discreet applications.
When several types of microcontrollers are indicated, it means that an early version was produced with the first type and later with the other (generally more powerful).
For example, an older version of the Duemilanove will have an ATmega168, while newer models will have the ATmega328. Functionally, the ATmega168 and ATmega328 are identical, but the ATmega328 has more internal memory.
The latest additions to the Arduino family, Leonardo, Esplora, Micro and Yún, all use the ATmega32U4 microcontroller. If the latter is similar to an ATmega328, it also integrates a USB serial interface component, which eliminates an integrated circuit (easier routing) like the one present on the Uno and Duemilanove boards (ATmega16U2, FT232RL).
Arduino naming convention
Although the design of the Arduino circuit and its software is open source, the Arduino team has reserved the use of the term “Arduino” for its own designs.
The Arduino logo is a registered trademark.
You will sometimes find builds that look like official Arduino boards, but are not produced by the Arduino team. Some manufacturers use “-duino” or “-ino” in the product name, such as Freeduino, Funduino, Diavolino, Youduino, etc. Some, like boards made by SainSmart, use only the model name (Uno and Mega2560 for example).
Due to a dispute between the company created by the original founders (Arduino LLC) and a different company created by one of the original founders (Arduino SRL), Arduino LLC uses the Arduino trademark in the United States and Genuino elsewhere.
Some “manufacturers” claim to be selling an Arduino board, but are actually just a copy using the trademark without permission.
Massimo Banzi has dedicated a section of his blog to these blatant unauthorized copies.
The main point to remember here is that you can copy the schematics, the bootloader code, the Arduino IDE code and use them to create your own version (open source principle) .
Just don’t call it ‘Arduino’.
What can you do with an Arduino?
In addition to the ease of programming made possible by the Arduino IDE, the other great feature of an Arduino is the capability of the microcontroller on which it is based.
With a few extra shields readily available, a wide selection of inexpensive sensor modules and actuators, there really isn’t much you can’t do with an Arduino.
The condition is to keep in mind a few basic constraints: memory, clock frequency, peripheral output currents and voltage levels.
Here are some possible applications for an Arduino:
Measurement and detection
- Automated Weather Station.
- Lightning detector.
- Tracking of the sun for orientation of the solar panels.
- Radiation monitor.
- Automatic wildlife detector.
- Home or business security system.
- Little robots.
- Rocket or airplane model.
- Multi-rotor drones.
- Simple CNC for small machine tools.
- Automated greenhouse.
- Automated aquarium.
- Laboratory sample shuttle robot.
- Precision thermal chamber.
- Automated electronic test system.