Introduction – just in case you haven’t renewed your geek card for the past year (decade?) Arduino is a term that refers to a microcontroller on a board that has certain hardware and software ‘shortcuts’ figured out. It was designed to be as plug and play as possible, and to lower the barrier to entry for people who want to let their computer interact with the physical world. The programming language is fairly simple and very well documented, and it is a matter of minutes between installing the software and uploading your first program! Like I usually do, there is an amazon store here in case you don’t want to read my witty banter.
arduino – the meat and potatoes of this whole shebang.
The cool thing about arduinos are that even if you already have one, you canalways find a use for another! You can set them up to ‘talk’ to each other. You can leave a project set up after finishing it, or be able to prototype multiple projects at the same time. Also, there are a wide array of shapes and sizes (and prices) of arduinos, and each one is suited for a different application.
You can start out with the ‘classic’ Duemilanove. It is the original form factor, and most of the shields are built to fit this one. This is a great one to use for prototyping, and if need be you can use a smaller board in your finished project. If this is your first arduino I would recommend getting the kit which includes jumper wires, a breadboard, some LEDs, resistors and a pushbutton. That way you can start making things blink as soon as you get it out of the box!
MEGA – The arduino mega is just like the Duemilanove except that it uses a bigger chip, is a bigger board, and has more inputs and outputs. Most of the code is portable across the two. If you have a project that needs more i/o’s than the smaller chips, then this is right up your alley!
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