What is Arduino?
Arduino is a single-board microcontroller, intended to make the application of interactive objects or environments more accessible. The hardware consists of an open-source hardware board designed around an 8-bit Atmel AVR microcontroller, or a 32-bit Atmel ARM. Current models feature a USB interface, 6 analog input pins, as well as 14 digital I/O pins which allows the user to attach various extension boards.
Before we can fully understand what Arduino is, it’s important to realize what it isn’t. An Arduino is not a computer (the way Raspberry Pi is). It can’t be programmed independently; it needs to be plugged into a computer. It is not especially powerful either—the Arduino Uno has 32 KG of memory, while the average Macbook has about 8 gigs.
What are the requirements?
- Arduino Uno. “Uno” means one in Italian, but this isn’t the first Arduino ever built, just the most recent iteration of the most basic Arduino microcontroller. These projects will work with almost any model, but this is the one I used.
- Type B USB cable. I haven’t seen one of these old-style USB ports in years, but you might remember them from older electronic devices.
- LED light. A tiny light-emitting pin we can stick directly on the Arduino; these also tend to be pretty cheap.
See all models of Arduino Boards here
- Arduino IDE, which stands for “integrated development environment,” is free open-source software for writing “sketches,” which is what Arduino users call programs.
When you open Arduino IDE for the first time, you need to establish the port where the software ought to expect the Arduino to show up. Go to “Tools,” then “Serial Port.”
- On OS X, the serial port should be something like “/dev/tty.usbmodem” for the Uno, though it may be different for other types of Arduino boards. Mine is “/dev/tty.usbmodem1421.”
- On Windows, the serial port should be COM3 or higher, as COM1 and COM2 are usually reserved for other hardware. In order to know for sure, you can unplug the Arduino and reopen the IDE menu. The entry that no longer appears is what your Arduino was.
In general, you shouldn’t ever worry about unplugging your Arduino board. We know better than to do that with fully-functional computers, including Raspberry Pi, because they could be running an important OS task in the background. But Arduino is just a microcontroller; it’s definitely not writing anything to memory unless you’re actively telling it to do so.