Arduino was born at the Ivrea Interaction Design Institute as an easy tool for fast prototyping, aimed at students without a background in electronics and programming.
Arduino is an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino boards are able to read inputs – light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message – and turn it into an output – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online. You can tell your board what to do by sending a set of instructions to the microcontroller on the board. To do so you use the Arduino programming language, and the Arduino Software (IDE), based on Processing.
Over the years Arduino has been the brain of thousands of projects, from everyday objects to complex scientific instruments. A worldwide community of makers – students, hobbyists, artists, programmers, and professionals – has gathered around this open-source platform.
All Arduino boards are completely open-source, empowering users to build them independently and eventually adapt them to their particular needs. The software, too, is open-source, and it is growing through the contributions of users worldwide.
Thanks to its simple and accessible user experience, Arduino has been used in thousands of different projects and applications. The Arduino software is easy-to-use for beginners, yet flexible enough for advanced users. It runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Teachers and students use it to build low cost scientific instruments, to prove chemistry and physics principles, or to get started with programming and robotics. Designers and architects build interactive prototypes, musicians and artists use it for installations and to experiment with new musical instruments. Makers, of course, use it to build many of the projects exhibited at the Maker Faire, for example.
Arduino is a key tool to learn new things. Anyone – children, hobbyists, artists, programmers – can start tinkering just following the step by step instructions of a kit, or sharing ideas online with other members of the Arduino community.
Arduino also simplifies the process of working with microcontrollers, but it offers some advantage for teachers, students, and interested amateurs over other systems:
- Inexpensive: Arduino boards are relatively inexpensive compared to other microcontroller platforms. The least expensive version of the Arduino module can be assembled by hand, and even the pre-assembled Arduino modules cost less than $50.
- Cross-platform: The Arduino Software (IDE) runs on Windows, Macintosh OSX, and Linux operating systems. Most microcontroller systems are limited to Windows.
- Simple, clear programming environment: The Arduino Software (IDE) is easy-to-use for beginners, yet flexible enough for advanced users to take advantage of as well.
- Open source and extensible software: The Arduino software is published as open source tools, available for extension by experienced programmers. The plans of the Arduino boards are published under a Creative Commons license, so experienced circuit designers can make their own version of the module, extending it and improving it. Even relatively inexperienced users can build the breadboard version of the module in order to understand how it works and save money.