About me and this blog

Being a guy, shopping, and Christmas shopping in particular, always presents somewhat of a challenge.  I was reading the Holiday Gifts guide in the Nov 2010 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine, which talked about the Arduino Inventor's Kit from sparkfun.com.  Now, I wasn't completely clueless about the Arduino.  I'd come across a few projects using it, and had even perused the Arduino web site some.  But now I had an Official Excuse.  Gifts needed.  Only so many shopping days left.  I figured what the heck, if it's somewhat fun and educational, then I could do worse.  Teach the kids (1 x college senior, geek of computers, 1 x high school sophomore, geek of math, science, and soccer) a bit about electronics and computers.  Off went the order for two copies of the kit.  Little did I know.

The boxes arrived, tightly sealed, and were sequestered in a closet for the intervening time.  Then the day came, and they were opened.  Now I begin to more fully realize what I was dealing with.  Here was an adventure and we indeed were not in Kansas any more.

I'm an Electrical Engineer by education, but went astray and spent a career in the IT industry.  No worries, it's worked out pretty well.  But even back in my high school days, I had a fascination with electronics.  Hence the EE.  But it had been quite a few years since I'd seriously tinkered with circuits and hardware.  Sure, I had a general feel for the advances that had been made, but there's nothing quite like getting your hands on the stuff.

Here I had a complete computer on a single board, smaller than a deck of cards, that costs $30 in single quantities.  The processor runs at 16MHz, and being of the RISC persuasion, can approach 16 MIPS (yes, I know, Meaningless Indication of Processor Speed).  There are 14 digital I/O pins (6 of which can do pulse-width modulation), 6 analog input pins (10-bit resolution), and 32KB flash memory.  Programming is in the C language using an IDE that runs on various popular OSs.  Programs are loaded to the board via a USB cable.

Hmmm, this has some interesting possibilities.   Back in the day, an IBM System 370/158 was considered to be a 1-MIPS machine.  This Arduino thing may be more powerful than the mainframe computers I cut my teeth on and that occupied entire (very large) rooms.

So we were immediately off, bringing the power of the Arduino to bear on compute-intensive tasks like blinking an LED (the Arduino the equivalent of Hello World).  But that was only the beginning of the adventure exploring the possibilities of this technology which melds electronic hardware with the flexibility of an easily programmed microprocessor.

I intend to use this blog to share information, ideas, and things that I have learned about and done with the Arduino platform. I hope you find it useful.