Monday, July 02, 2012

Cool electronics prototyping platform

Do you want to turn an old wheel chair into some kind of LED show on wheels? Do you want to build a security system in under 30 minutes? Do you not want to deal with FTDI, voltage regulators, or finding a dependable microcontroller? Say hello to the Arduino (that's Italian in case you were wondering)! The Arduino is a small (or big if you buy the Arduino Mega) board that is a complete microcontroller housing. All you have to do is plug LEDs, switches, 556CNs, moters, or any other electronic component into one of the headers and plug it into your computer. Then you can program it using a very simple language (that has no real name) instead of complicated and scary assembly language. Then just hit the reset button and it does whatever you programmed it to do! Its that easy. The only setback is that it's going to cost around $30 USD. But hey, $30 bucks for a complete board instead of manually finding FTDI chips, crystals, custom PCB, blah blah blah... I might have some fun projects in the future for the Arduino so stay tuned! If you are trying to decide which one to buy, I suggest either the UNO, MEGA, or LEANARDO. These are real Arduinos (Arduino is open source, so there are hundreds of different versions). I have an UNO and if you want something for light use and for small projects, this is the one for you. If you have about $50 to spend, and you need lots of ports for serious electronics projects, the MEGA was created for you. If you have $50+ cash and you want to build a DOS emulator (ok, that's probably to much to ask for), or something that can accept keyboard and mouse input and has to handle heavy graphics, the LEANARDO was created with you in mind. If you want to read more about these boards and how to buy one in your country, go to www.arduino.cc. Have fun!

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