What is Arduino?
An Arduino, in this case the Arduino Uno, is a low cost (under $30) micro-controller based board intended for non-engineers to create do-it-yourself projects. It has fourteen digital I/O (input/output) pins. These pins are set as digital input by default but can be changed to digital output through programming. In addition, the Uno has six analog I/O pins that are also set as input by default but can be set as output via programming.
In input mode, the Arduino Uno can be used to sense many things such as switch closure as a digital input or sensing a certain voltage, possibly using an external temperature or light sensing device for analog input.
In output mode, the Uno can be used to control external components such as relays, motors, LEDs, and LCD Displays as long as all output does not draw more than 40ma total. External buffering can be put in place to control devices requiring higher current draw.
In its current release, the Uno employs an Atmel ATMege328 microcontroller. The Uno is programmed via USB cable connected to a computer running Windows, MacOS or Linux which has the Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment) installed. You program the Uno using an Open Source programming language called Processing which is similar to the C or the C++ programing language.
The Arduino IDE software is free to download from https://www.arduino.cc although they do ask for donations.
The Arduino Uno typically requires an external 9 Volt power supply. I recommend getting one that can source up to 1 Amp. The Uno can also be run off of power supplied via the USB cable connected to a computer or even by 9 Volt battery in situations where external devices connected to it have a very low current draw.
What does the Arduino Uno have to do with Ham Radio?
There has always been a spark of creativity in Ham Radio enthusiasts. From the days where you had to "roll-your-own" receiver and transmitter, as no commercial ones were being manufactured, to the modern days where you want to create a new functionality or augment a functionality that already exists. In the past you had to create functionality using discrete components resistors, transistors, capacitors, and maybe vacuum tubes. If you wanted to change functionally you had to modify the circuit, which involved getting out your soldering iron and adding/removing parts, or possibly rewiring a section. The Arduino Uno allows you to make changes to functionality on the fly by modifying the programming. This allows you to rapidly prototype and bring into production a new functionality in a very short time.
In addition, you can use the Arduino Uno to emulate a functionality of much more costly equipment. For example, there are many plans on the Internet for creating an Antenna Analyzer, a very costly instrument out of reach of most Ham Radio enthusiasts, for a fraction of the cost using an Arduino, a LCD display, and a few circuits created on perfboard.
What about Arduino Uno clones?
The hardware design specifications for the Arduino Uno are openly available, allowing replica or clone boards to be produced by anyone. There are many Arduino clone boards on the market of varying quality. I picked one up recently for a little as $10 from Amazon. These clones for the most part work just as good or better than the actual Arduino Uno board. The clones also interact with ArduinoIDE software just like the real McCoy! I always recommend purchasing a genuine Arduino Uno first! Only purchase a clone after you are familiar with how the Arduino Uno works so that you can anticipate a level of performance from a clone.
The other issue with purchasing a clone is that you are not funding the Arduino organization which has developed and provides upgrades to the ArduinoIDE software.
Below is a picture genuine Arduino Uno (Left) that sells for around a $22 next to a picture of a clone made by Lanmu Uno (Right) that retails for around $9. Nearly identical including same printed circuit board footprint.
Arduino Uno clones on Amazon!
How can I learn Arduino Uno basics?
Programming Electronics Academy offers a free Arduino Crash Course on the Uno. The crash course is a series of recorded sessions. I recommend obtaining an Arduino Uno or Uno clone prior to signing up for the free course so that you can follow the steps in each session. I am in no way affiliated with Programming Electronics Academy but have recently taken their Arduino Crash Course and was thoroughly impressed.
How can I learn about more advanced Arduino Uno topics?
The Programming Electronics Academy also offers fee based recorded sessions on more advanced topics, Your most economical choice is to sign up their annual package which is just under $100 at the time this blog was written. They will also from time to time send out links to free sessions about Arduino Uno advanced topics if you subscribe their e-mail list. In addition, there many great books available on advanced topics such as using the Arduino Uno for robotic applications or as a starting point for a Ham Radio project.
Arduino Ham Radio Books on Amazon!
Where did the Arduino name come from?
The developers of Arduino Uno were looking for a name of their new low cost micro-controller board line of products. The Arduino name comes from the name of a bar in Irvea Italy where the founders of the project used to meet. The bar was named after Arduin of Ivrea, an Italian nobleman that lived from 955 to 1015AD.
Do I need an enclosure for my Arduino Uno?
It is best to limit the amount of contact with the actual components on the Arduino Uno board, but, is perfectly safe to handle at the edges or the I/O connectors. There are many enclosures on the market for Arduino Uno, but I find it more fun to build an enclosure out of Lego's! Below is a picture of an Arduino Uno enclosure I created with attached breadboard for experimention. My 9 year old daughter adorned the top of it with what looks like a mad scientist performing some sort of experiment.
Arduino Enclosures on Amazon!
Based on my blog, I am sure you can appreciate the power of the Arduino Uno! In addition you know where to get basic and advanced training on how to use it. I recommend immediately purchasing an Arduino Uno or clone, experiment with it, and see how this little gem might fit into your next electronic project!
Who Writes This Blog?
John is an IT professional from Cleveland, OH who enjoys amateur radio, ham radio, metal detecting,
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