Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Arduino Thinking

This is a new thread under the overarching Electronics thread.

I’ve been thinking about moving into the realms of microprocessors and I’ve had a look at a bunch of websites discussing a myriad of different microprocessor types and platforms.

The attractive thing about the Arduino platform is that it appears to be (more or less) all in one package. The microprocessor, PC interface and programmer all in one convenient package. This is compared with the alternatives of having a separate interface, separate programmer, etc.

One of my core philosophies is that it is more important to make a decision, rather than sweat on making the “right” decision. If you are wrong, then the wrong decision helps to inform your next decision. The complementary idea here is to not get too invested in being right, but, rather, accept that being wrong is part of the path to being right. Besides, it is much better than being paralysed by inaction. Whichever way it pans out, I’m falling down on the Arduino side of the argument.

One of the problems that I’ve had with the Arduino platform is that many of the projects that I’ve seen appear to be simply about plugging your Uno (or Due) into your project directly. That seems OK if all you are doing is making something that is going to be open and exposed. That kinda looks a bit inflexible.

So I read on more … It seems that the Arduino platform (and programming IDE) are open source. That means that I have more flexibility and I don’t have to use the Uno, or indeed any other 3rd party packages. My real limit here is the use of the microprocessor and a handful of parts to make it work (5 volt regulator circuit, 3.3 volt regulator circuit, 16MHz oscillator …). If I buy the base kit, then I have the development/prototyping hardware that I need to get me going. It would only be the supporting circuitry for the microprocessor and the microprocessor itself that I would “consume” in my project. At the moment, it looks like I can get the core chip for about $4.00 on the interweb.

I also found this tutorial on the Arduino website that describes how to eliminate the Arduino breadboard from your project (Arduino to Breadboard). So there are some instructions available for going “commando”.

I should then be able to program the microprocessor and drop it into a project without the Arduino periphery (although, obviously, I still need the supporting circuitry of the microprocessor). That seems to satisfy my basic needs for size and cost.

I will probably buy the basic Arduino kit and do the tutorial solderless projects in the box to give me some confidence in the platform and to learn more about the Arduino.

One of my basic wants is to build a simple circuit that will make a step motor sweep back and forth to drive a model radar dish (like K-9’s ears in Dr Who). I know … sounds simple!

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