Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Arduino throws a six !

One of NSB’s earliest interviews (and easily the most popular post) was with Eben Upton from the Raspberry Pi Foundation who described the motivations that had led to the development of that tiny, rather wonderful, computer.

And so far as NSB was aware, there was no one else ploughing that particular furrow.

So NSB was surprised when Jon, a work colleague, spent some spare Christmas money on an Arduino.

“Ar-what?” said NSB

“Arduino” replied Jon calmly.

He then explained that an Arduino was a Raspberry Pi-esque computer that, he had bought together with a kit of accessories that allowed the Arduino to, well, make stuff happen. Surprisingly, the Arduino was on the scene first, and by 2011 some 300,00 had been sold.

The box containing the Arduino Uno and kit

It turns out (as you can read here and here) that whilst the Raspberry Pi is a cheap computer designed to encourage people to learn computing and programming, the Arduino is more of a microcontroller that can be used to manipulate inputs from sensors (switches, thermocouples etc) and then send instructions to outputs (lights, motors etc).

Resistors, motors, thermocouples and much more, all part of the kit (Arduino board removed)

The Arduino that Jon had bought was an Arduino Uno and came with a breadboard on which circuits could easily be constructed. Progams could be written on a PC and then downloaded onto the Arduino, which could then run independently off a 9V battery.

Once Jon had got the hang of programming the device, Jon was soon able to let his imagination take hold. As an initial project, he made an “electronic dice” which used LED’s that would, on pressing a button, light up like a random dice throw.

This time the Arduino electronic dice has thrown a "four"

Importantly, when moving on to a new project, Jon had to remember to save the circuit design as well as the program.

And this time the Arduino circuit has thrown a "six" - Don't forget to save the circuit diagram when moving on to a new project!

NSB is hugely intrigued by the device and is planning to buy one in the summer. The only question is whether NSB’s limited technical ability will be able to pay the cheques that NSB’s rather overclocked imagination will be writing…

Incidentally, you can see just what can be done with an Arduino here.

And lastly, there are actually a great many types of single board computers, as shown here

Update Oct 2014
NSB didn't, in the end, get round to buying an Arduino in the summer, but has just borrowed Jon's kit and, together with No3 Son, have had a bash at programming it.

Thus far, NSB and No3 Son have managed to become masters of the LED, able to program a set of LED's to switch off and on in any sequence desired...
LED's ... switching on and off....nice!

No3 Son programming the Arduino, bless him!
(although, strictly speaking, he should have been doing his science homework)


  1. When you do get your Arduino you should head along to Nottingham Hackspace ( where we have been running Arduino starter workshops for around three years now. I think you might like what is going on there, if you have not already been. Its a members run workshop just near Sneinton market. There are around 150 members and with loads of clever projects using Arduinos and RPis. We have hosted Raspberry Pi meet ups as well.
    We have a free open evening on Wednesdays from 6-9pm.

    1. Thanks for that info Matt! Although NSB has not been to Hackspace it sounds like a great initiative!