I recently decided to start playing with Arduino embedded computers. On May 9th 2012 I purchased an Arduino Compatible UNO Rev3 Development Board from DX.com (DealExtreme). It arrived May 30th 2012. Here are my initial thoughts.
The Arduino project describes their systems as “an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments”, and they’ve become popular for good reason. Their UNO is based around an ATmega328 microcontroller (datasheet) with a range of analog and digital I/O pins for controlling and sensing their environment. Programming is made easy with the free Arduino IDE and a small ecosystem of libraries (pre-written code) for controlling servo motors, sensors and other I/O devices.
Send in the clones
I liked the look of their Uno R3, but not so much the price (plus shipping) from the Australian distributors. Fortunately, Arduino releases their hardware designs to the community under an open-source license, and a number of compatibles/clones are available on the market. I chose to purchase a Uno R3 compatible from DX.com — reasonably low price, free shipping, what’s not to like? Okay, long shipping — it typically takes 3 to 4 weeks for DX.com shipments to Australia. But that’s fine, I wasn’t in a hurry.
My UNO R3 arrived in an anti-static plastic bag, wrapped in bubble-wrap inside a marginally padded envelope. Fortunately, not really much worse for wear (one or two pins a little bent, but no big deal).
I purchased a few other items along with the UNO R3 (servo motors, LED display, etc). Stay tuned for later posts on programming and experimentation.