Earlier this week in Paris I was discussing open source and the maker community with another advocate. Something we touched on was the fact fewer people create 100% new things. Regardless of it being hardware or software it’s far more common to build upon an existing idea.

arduino_cassesEvolution is of course the most natural activity and even from an early age we are encouraged against ‘re-inventing the wheel’. Of course what I describe also takes inspiration from open source and the vast community behind it. Sharing knowledge is a basic foundation that keeps this community alive.

To bring this back to electronics, some will remember the early electronics kits made from cardboard with spings, which after many years evolved to become tiny computers that fit within our palms (with breadboard).

arduino-uno-handPossibly the most famous open source project in this realm is Arduino. The team behind Arduino have reduced the barrier that often prevented regular people getting into electronics. By simplifying the learning curve required to create basic electronics circuits people from all fields are now adopting the project in their projects and enjoying the benefits. Besides being used by hobbyists and schools, Arduino can be found in industrial projects and it’s even being used at NASA!

Even here at GeekBoy.it we have designed projects and circuits based on the Arduino design.

This could only be possible by building upon the experience of others and presenting it in a simple way that everyone can understand. Of course simplification doesn’t mean incapable.

These days we regularly see comparisons between newer development boards. With platforms like Kickstarter to provide funding, our open source community are bringing the latest ideas to life at an every increasing rate. In almost all cases they are inspired by the last. It’s almost like watching the evolution of the mobile phone…

However whilst boards like the Raspberry Pi target getting young people involved in computers and programming, Arduino has a much more direct goal of inspiring people to learn the basics of electronics and to make things. The simplicity of Arduino and it’s ability to be easily understood satisfies three most basic desires -

  1. Create something that works
  2. Replicate it
  3. Improve it

arduino-quadcopterWith just the basic Arduino UNO and a breadboard anyone can make something that works in very little time. To take it to the next step, since it’s open source the Arduino boards are very easy to understand and even reproducing parts of the circuit isn’t too difficult, so reproduction of your creation is easily achieved. Of course this is where the community becomes a key component. Due to the simplicity theres a huge community that has taken the same steps and lots of information available.

Massimo Banzi, one of the founders of Arduino explains that Arduino is not the most powerful,  but what is important is to maintain this experience of simplicity and to enable people to build upon the technology.

A nice report on abc local news about Arduino and Maker Faire Bay Area with a short interview to Massimo Banzi saying: “Our angle is to really have people who have no experience in electronics and software, and make them able to create these kind of intelligent interactive objects”