Today we celebrate Arduino Day and mark the first successful decade of the Atmel-powered boards.
It’s a 24 hour celebration – both official and independent – with Makers all over the world meeting up to share their DIY experiences.
As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel is at the very heart of most Arduino boards on the market today.
Indeed, as Atmel MCU Applications Manager Bob Martin recently pointed out, Atmel’s 8- and 32-bit microcontrollers have been the MCUs of choice for Arduino since the boards first hit the streets for DIY Makers way back in 2005. More specifically, he attributes the success of Arduino 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 choose our AVR microcontrollers – and today, both our AVR and ARM-based MCUs,” Martin explained.
In addition to the DIY Maker Movement, the boards are popular with veteran designers, architects and engineers.
“It’s very easy to try out design by building a prototype so that they can see what solutions work and toss out those that don’t. This is much easier to do early in the design process before more money has been spent on bringing an idea to fruition; Arduino can play a key role here,” Brock Craft, author of “Arduino Projects for Dummies,” told ItProPortal in late 2013.
“Just a simple example – I know a lighting company that recently used Arduino to control dimmable lighting effects for architectural lighting products they were developing. Using an Arduino helped them try out their ideas in an afternoon, rather than waiting weeks.”
Arduino boards are also extensively used in the educational community, with science and computing teachers in secondary schools choosing the versatile platform to teach kids the principles of programming and computational thinking.
“[Of course], Arduino is used in colleges and universities, [where] they are often found in design programs, particularly in product design, because Arduinos can quickly be used to prototype products that do physical things – like toasters or dispensers or remote controls, for example,” said Craft.
“It is also widely used in digital arts programs for making interactive artwork, music and performances. [Yes], there have been similar products on the market for many years and education curricula have used other alternatives. But what makes Arduino different – and is driving teachers to use them – is that Arduinos are easy to use. And if they need help, it’s easy for teachers and students to get it in the extensive online communities.”
As Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi notes, communities are the primary drivers for contribution in the Maker community.
“What you find is that if you can create a community around an open source project then it becomes really alive because everyone starts to contribute. If you don’t have an ecosystem, the platform won’t be successful. If you start charging for everything, everything dies very quickly,” he said.
“There are millions of sandwich places around the world, the recipe for sandwiches is open. Nobody can patent the recipe for a BLTs but yet there’s like a million restaurants doing BLTs. Everyday each one of them is adding a little source, each one is improving the recipe with technique, but effectively what goes inside the sandwich is out there and open and people still make money.”
As Bazni points out, open source hardware like the Arduino helps encourage creativity.
“I think it enables people to share the efforts that are needed to get the certain type of product or project started. Each person adds what some people call the secret source. You can take open source knowledge and add your own secret source,” he added.
“Or you can sell it or sell services around that product. [Arduino] wants to create a platform that’s going to take this and multiply the efficiency, [while] multiplying the value that people get by being part of that community… The challenge is to build a platform that solves a simple problem for a specific group of people: beginners for example. Our boards enable people to get ideas into products very fast. It’s people over Megahertz.”