So what is this Arduino?

Arduino is a single-board microcontroller to make using electronics in multidisciplinary projects more accessible. The hardware consists of a simple open source hardware board designed around an 8-bit Atmel AVR microcontroller, or a 32-bit Atmel ARM. The software consists of a standard programming language compiler and a boot loader that executes on the microcontroller.

Arduino boards can be purchased pre-assembled or as do-it-yourself kits. Hardware design information is available for those who would like to assemble an Arduino by hand. It was estimated in mid-2011 that over 300,000 official Arduinos had been commercially produced.

An Arduino board consists of an Atmel 8-bit AVR microcontroller with complementary components to facilitate programming and incorporation into other circuits. An important aspect of the Arduino is the standard way that connectors are exposed, allowing the CPU board to be connected to a variety of interchangeable add-on modules known as shields. Some shields communicate with the Arduino board directly over various pins, but many shields are individually addressable via an I2C serial bus, allowing many shields to be stacked and used in parallel. Official Arduinos have used the megaAVR series of chips, specifically the ATmega8, ATmega168, ATmega328, ATmega1280, and ATmega2560. A handful of other processors have been used by Arduino compatibles. Most boards include a 5 volt linear regulator and a 16 MHz crystal oscillator (or ceramic resonator in some variants), although some designs such as the LilyPad run at 8 MHz and dispense with the onboard voltage regulator due to specific form-factor restrictions. An Arduino’s microcontroller is also pre-programmed with a boot loader that simplifies uploading of programs to the on-chip flash memory, compared with other devices that typically need an external programmer.

At a conceptual level, when using the Arduino software stack, all boards are programmed over an RS-232 serial connection, but the way this is implemented varies by hardware version. Serial Arduino boards contain a simple level shifter circuit to convert between RS-232-level and TTL-level signals. Current Arduino boards are programmed via USB, implemented using USB-to-serial adapter chips such as the FTDI FT232. Some variants, such as the Arduino Mini and the unofficial Boarduino, use a detachable USB-to-serial adapter board or cable, Bluetooth or other methods. (When used with traditional microcontroller tools instead of the Arduino IDE, standard AVR ISP programming is used.)
The Arduino board exposes most of the microcontroller’s I/O pins for use by other circuits. The Diecimila, Duemilanove, and current Uno provide 14 digital I/O pins, six of which can produce pulse-width modulated signals, and six analog inputs. These pins are on the top of the board, via female 0.1-inch (2.5 mm) headers. Several plug-in application shields are also commercially available.

The Arduino Nano, and Arduino-compatible Bare Bones Board and Boarduino boards may provide male header pins on the underside of the board to be plugged into solderless breadboards.

There are a great many Arduino-compatible and Arduino-derived boards. Some are functionally equivalent to an Arduino and may be used interchangeably. Many are the basic Arduino with the addition of commonplace output drivers, often for use in school-level education to simplify the construction of buggies and small robots. Others are electrically equivalent but change the form factor, sometimes permitting the continued use of Shields, sometimes not. Some variants use completely different processors, with varying levels of compatibility.

Arduino Diecimila

Arduino Diecimila

Arduino Duemilanove

Arduino Duemilanove

Arduino Uno

Arduino Uno

Arduino Leonardo

Arduino Leonardo

Arduino Mega

Arduino Mega

Arduino Nano

Arduino Nano

Arduino Due (ARM-based)

Arduino Due (ARM-based)

LilyPad Arduino

LilyPad Arduino

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