CNN talks Arduino and open source hardware

As many of you are well aware by now, Atmel can be found at the very heart of most Arduino boards on the market today. Evident by the sheer volume of DIY projects surfacing on sites such as Instructables and Hackaday to Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the open-source platform has become an iconic symbol (not to mention enabler) of the ever-growing Maker Movement.


The fan-favorite Arduino enables Makers of all levels to create interactive objects that can sense and control the physical world, and subsequently, has made way for a worldwide community of hobbyists, tinkerers and designers to gather around the highly-popular boards. And, Atmel was there from the outset, providing simple yet powerful MCUs for the hardware side of the equation.

Writing for CNN, Peter Shadbolt recently explored the backstory of Arduino, dating back to its origins inside a bar in Ivrea, Italy — coincidentally, the birthplace of Italian technology and home to the world’s first PC.


“While the company has never recovered its leading position, a humble startup aims to put Ivrea back on the world innovation and design map,” Shadbolt pens.


“Called Arduino, after the local bar where the five founders met to discuss their project, the company produces simple open-source electronics platforms that allows enthusiasts and professionals to build interactive projects.”

Indeed, as 
Atmel MCU Applications Manager Bob Martin recently noted, our 8- and 32-bit MCUs have been the chips of choice for the Arduino team since the boards first hit the streets for DIY Makers way back in 2005 (as seen in the first prototype below).


More specifically, our resident Wizard of Make attributes the success of ‘duinos to its easy-to-use, free cross-platform toolchain and its simple do-it-yourself packages with Atmel MCUs. These factors helped initially steer the Arduino team to select 8-bit AVR family MCUs – and today, even some of our Atmel | SMART ARM-based chips as well.

As CNN notes, nearly a decade after Massimo Banzi and his team debuted their first board, more than 700,000 are now in the hands of Makers today, powering everything from drones to 3D printers.

Arduino boards are also extensively used in the educational community, with STEM teachers in secondary schools choosing the versatile platform to teach kids the principles of programming and computational thinking.

Co-founder David Cuartielles told CNN that Arduino is not only an educational tool, but also “a way of exploring new ideas with new people” — a mantra which resonates well with the Maker Faire crowd.


“It’s been an emerging phenomenon since the late 1990s,” Cuartielles explained to CNN. “Different schools around the world have tried to bring electronics to designers and artists to get them to come up with more creative uses for technology.”

Aside from the countless young Makers turning to its introductory 8-bit boards, it’s no surprise that Arduino has become increasingly popular with well-seasoned designers, architects and engineers as well. After all, they are finding it extremely easy to experiment with conceptual designs and prototypes in a much more cost-effective, efficient manner.

This ease in prototyping has led a number of them to go on and create successful startups, many of which launch crowdfunding campaigns on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

“I wouldn’t be risking very much if I said that a lot of the products you see on Kickstarter use Arduino boards in the prototyping phase to control various aspects of the project,” Cuartielles said.


During his interview, the Arduino co-founder singled out one of the projects in which he finds most interesting: ArduSat. For the first time ever, the open platform mission enabled the general public to run their own space-based applications, games and experiments.

“You will be able to rent a timeslot to manipulate the machine so you can simulate your experiment on land with an Arduino board and you can simulate it in space on the satellite,” he added.

Shadbolt went on to highlight the natural marriage between Arduino and LEGO, both of which are commonly referred to as the Maker Movement’s building blocks.

“Lego is very interesting in a sense that it provides mechanical access to the world. It lets you build almost anything within some constraints — you can’t, for instance, build something that’s perfectly round with Lego. Arduino is at the same level but with electronics. It allows you to control things at a low level really, really well.”


The interview concludes with a discussion around the development of more sophisticated, complex Arduino boards while maintaining that customary ease-of-use.

“The more simple you make it for the user, the more complex it becomes at the back end,” Cuartilles said. “For example, the Arduino Yún [ATmega32U4] — one of our latest products –basically allows you to connect anything to WiFi or anything to the ethernet.”

Interested in reading more? You can access the entire CNN writeup here. Meanwhile, those looking to kick off their next Arduino-based project may want to check out our comprehensive breakdown of the boards.

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