The Arduino has quickly become the hobbyist’s solution to any electronic problem. If anyone has been in the hobbyist sector of the internet they have heard of the Arduino. It’s has become the one stop solution to programming and bringing projects to life. As more and more people get into this hobby the old way is quickly becoming a saga that within the next decade only senior hobbyist will remember. But what was this old way? Why is the Arduino such a big advancement for electronics hobbyists?
First, before we talk about the old way, let’s discuss what the Arduino does today. The Arduino offers an Open Source complete solution micro-controller including peripherals to program, control and read low voltage signals, and communicate with other devices. This is an entire solution designed to let the hobbyist get to work with their idea without needing an Electrical Engineering degree to use a micro-controller. Not only does the Arduino provide the physical solution but it also provides the programming solution. Arduino gives an easy IDE(Integrated Development Environment), this is what is used to program and compile the code that goes on a micro-controller. The IDE and libraries provided are open source and extremely easy to use. This has lead to a HUGE internet database with multiple libraries, tutorials and ideas to give hobbyists the resources needed to finish their project.
The open source nature of the Arduino has lead to thousands of breakout boards that make solutions to problems essentially plug and play. Now, a hobbyist can just buy a Kookye Sensor Kit and and a RIAspire UNO R3 Small Starter kit” and get started on 100s of projects that most hobbyists simply wouldn’t have had the resources to complete years ago.
Before The Arduino
Before the Arduino, how would one work with a micro-controller? The hobbyist would have to replace both the physical solution and the programming solution with other more expensive options.
In order to use a micro-controller you need all the peripherals that make them work. Some Micro-controller manufactures provide their own kits but these were and still are bulky and expensive. A hobbyist could also make their own, but they would need to understand PCB(printed circuit board) layout, noise filtering, and electronics power supply sizing. Not to mention, making a single custom PCB starting cost can be in the $500+ range.
Let’s say that the past hobbyist had the ability to either buy one of these expensive kits or build their own, they then had to have the know how and the money to program them. Micro-controller companies would have their own Compilers for each brand of micro-controller being used. You then have to pay for licenses to use these compilers and tools to flash the software onto the micro-controller. Even if the hobbyist had the money for all this, the amount of support in the actual programming is no where near the same level as it is with the Arduino. They may provide a couple libraries for basic things, but most application would require the hobbyist to know some Assembly code programming. Assembly is very very tedious and hard to master. Its the closest thing next to machine language to changing the physical bits in a micro-controller to 1’s and 0’s.