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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

4. The Arduino

On reading all about the Arduino chip, I discovered the Arduino, a fully assembled board which allows you to program the ATMega chip from your PC.  Here is one form of the Arduino, identical to the one I bought (the Arduino Uno R3):
The Arduino has free-to-download software called the Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment – ie software).  Here’s what it looks like on the PC screen:

The image above shows two windows I put side by side.  The right-hand side of the picture includes a second window, an image of the Serial Monitor.  On the left is where you do all your coding.  It’s actually in the C language, but has been presented so that you only have to bother about the code, and not all the fussy stuff you need in C or Java.  Just load up the “Bare Essentials” sketch (the skeleton code you need - the individual programs are called ‘sketches’) and put your nitty gritty code in. 

The nice thing about this kind of coding, is that you don’t have to read a book on computer programming in a particular language, with all that laborious stuff on types of variables etc.  However, you will have to learn about all that if you get in deep, but if you’re a beginner, not just yet.  The whole approach to open source hardware and software, is learning by doing. 

You have loads of examples already written and freely available, and you’re allowed to copy all or parts of somebody else’s circuit or code, and by doing that, you’re learning what the code is doing and what the components in the circuit are for.  Then you can adjust the circuit or the code to get it to do exactly what you want it to do.  

And the best news of all – you can also run the Arduino IDE on the Raspberry Pi.

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