The Arduino microcontroller was initially created as an educational platform for a class project at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea1 in Milan (Italy) in 2005. It derived from a previous work of the Wiring microcontroller designed by Hernando Barragán2 in 2004. From the beginning, the Arduino board was developed to attract artists and designers.
The Wiring microcontroller was created by Hernando Barragan to be used for parsing data to electronic devices. His aim was that it could be used by non-technical people who only had basic experience with using computers. He first of all wanted it to be used as a prototyping tool. Since he needed help to create an easy software tool to programme the board he engaged Casey Reas3 and Massimo Banzi4 as his assistants. Reas created the visual programming language for the prototyping tool.
He had studied interaction art as an undergraduated, and continued studying with John Maeda5 at the MIT6. After that he developed Processing7, an easy programme language oriented to designers and artists.
Banzi was more interested in developing the microcontroller as an art and design tool. So he decided to brake up with Barragan and to instead create a new prototype that would fit
with his ideals. The Arduino creators were Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles8, Dave Mellis9, Gianluca Martino10 and Tom Ignoe11. This team wanted to simplify the Wiring board through the Arduino microcontroller (created by Banzi), making it easier and friendlier for the non-technical audience. And that was one of their goals – to make this device triumph against others.
The price was another goal to make them win against others.
The Wiring Board costs about £ 54 while the Arduino Board is £ 20. That makes sense because it is less powerful and smaller than the Wiring Board. But this isn’t a problem for designers and artists because they were searching for something that could be destroyed and your wallet wouldn’t suffer from that.
David Zicarelli12 (…): “I was really struck by the idea of what a radically inexpensive computer could mean to people making art – a design goal of the Arduino project was that you could make installations and not have to tear them apart when you were done because you needed your laptop to read your e-mail.”
So then you can leave it embedded into projects permanently.
Another way to assist users was the USB connection. The Wiring Board works with a Serial port, which is more difficult to have in a normal computer or laptop and to work with. The Arduino’s plug and play nature makes it easy to understand and easy to manipulate the interaction of a project.
Further goals were to achieve competitive advantage in IDE13 and open source14 supported by the community.
3. IDE. The software tool
Every microcontroller needs software to be programmed. The Arduino board is not a case apart. It has its own integrated development environment (IDE).
It is free and everyone can download it from its official website using either the Windows, Mac OS X or Linux platform. That allows Arduino Board to gain more users and it also helps it to grow.
The IDE is very easy to understand. It contains only three different sections. The compiler, the text editor and the debugger.
In the compiler part we can find the “verifying tool” that shows the user if the code was well written. Next to that tool, there is a button to make a “new” project. Then, we can see the “open” and “save” buttons; the project can be opened or saved in any folder. In addition we can find the most important tool, the “compiler tool” that allows you, when the code is verified, to upload the code into the Arduino Board. And the last button that it has is the “serial monitor tool”, which is used to debugging and monitoring data from your project.
The next section is the text editor tool where the code is written. Arduino works with processing language. This language was designed with the intention to make cryptic looking instructions comprehensible and useful. It contains a lot of libraries15, which make it easier for artists and designers to prototype their ideas.
However, experienced users are allowed to work in a lower programmatic level to access certain aspects of the Arduino code. In other words this means the more experience a user has the lower is the level in which he can work.
And the last section is where the debugger is placed. This one provides feedback to the user fostering confidence to move forward at a rapid pace. It also helps to find the bugs in the code when this doesn’t work.
The whole Arduino project is supported by a community. The IDE and the Arduino microcontroller continuously advance in hardware design, software examples and popularity because users save and share documents, codes and designs online. This method of allowing other users to freely use someone else’s documents is called open source. This means that every user contributes a part – even if it is only a very small one – to the fast development of Arduino project.
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However, the Arduino project is not only useful for artists and designers but also for other groups of people such as engineers, hardware hackers, interaction designers, educators and robotics enthusiasts. For example, if you are an engineer you can work on artistic projects and if you are and artist you could work on engineer project as well. This means those groups of people are blending ideas each other to growing up the Arduino community.
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