Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An excuse to finally buy an Arduino, from 100 days of writing

I didn't set out, exactly, to write for 100 days straight. Instead, I tried to write every day for a month, one month at a time. Then when I hit around 80, I realized I was getting close to 100 and that was a motivator. 

But my very next thought was that I ought to come up with some way to reward myself. At first I didn't have any ideas for this, and I thought I wouldn't do much of anything. But that didn't last. After all, once I had this idea, I was basically scooting through the world with a built-in justification for anything I wanted. The purse strings were definitely loosened. 

So  when Make Magazine's Maker Shed announced a sale ending April 30 and I realized their inventory included a bunch of Arduino items, it was a perfect match. I bought a copy of Making Things Talk last year, and have been intending to get an Arduino board or seven and get started making electronic things. 

So right now, a DC Boarduino and a Meggy JR RGB are headed my way. Now, I would have certainly bought some flavor of Arduino before too long, but although I've been wanting a Meggy, it seemed too much money for my unproven electronics hobbying.

Arduino boards are programmable controller boards with open-source hardware and software. You can write the code in a free development environment on your PC and then download it to the board via USB. 

The DC Boarduino is a version of the Arduino designed to be dropped onto a breadboard for easy prototyping. I figure this is a good thing for me to start with. My past history is of hacking small things together, playing with them, and then taking them apart to try something else. 

A Meggy is a very simple game platform. It marries an Arduino programmable board with an array of three-color LEDs, a sound system, and some buttons. It allows you to do fun stuff without too much work, which is great, but it can't do high-quality graphics. Of course, I'm not going to devote the time to write code for high-quality graphics, either. It's a different approach to Arduino, because it has actual useful things attached to it, where a regular Arduino doesn't DO anything by itself.  But simple arcade game things are something I get a kick out of messing with, so this too seems like a good way to start with electronics. 

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