My New Computer

Here is a photo of my newest computer…

My New Computer

My New Computer

It’s called an Arduino Uno and it sells for $29.95. I purchased it from a company called http://www.adafruit.com/ However you can get it from a variety of distributors. It’s got 32 KB flash memory which is used to store programs, 2 KB SRAM memory that stores data that the program uses, 1 KB EEPROM memory which is sort of like a hard drive for storing data only as part of the chip and not really a disk drive. It runs at 16 MHz which for example is four times the speed of the first computer I ever owned.

Across the top of the little black thing is a set of 14 digital pins that you can do input or output from. The lower right corner has six pins that you can use analog output. It has a USB port that powers it and connected to your computer. You write programs in a special little language on your PC and tell it to transmit them to the device through the USB cable. It then does whatever you’ve programmed to do.

Experimenters Kit

Experimenters Kit

I went ahead and bought it as part of experimenters Kit that cost $85 which includes the $30 computer. It’s basically a bag of parts that say prototyping board, jumper wires, bunches of transistors, LEDs, resistors, switches, motors, temperature and pressure sensors etc. and a booklet that shows you what you can do with all of it.

So far I’ve made it blink an LED off and on at one second intervals. I’ve hooked up a pushbutton and it sends a signal to my computer telling me whether or not the button is pressed. And the coolest thing I’ve done with it so far is hooked up a little servomotor like the motors that my dad used in his radio controlled model airplanes to work the rudder and flaps. I programmed the computer to make the servomotor wiggle back-and-forth. I could connect up to nine of these motors and position each of them at any angle I want depending on how I programmed it. People use them to build home robots. For another $24 I bought an LCD text display with a LED backlight. It displays 16 characters by 2 lines of text. They have these displays with multicolored backlights but I got a simple white text on blue background version .

LCD Display Board

16x2 CharacterLCD Display Board

I’ve also ordered some infrared LEDs and infrared detectors. My plan is to turn the whole thing into a programmable custom TV remote control that I will be able to control multiple devices with only four or five pushbuttons. Currently I have a remote control in my bedroom that has a total of 14 buttons and of course I have to remember what each of those buttons do. This way I can cut it down to just some up, down, left, right, select buttons and it will display a mini menu on the character display and transmit it to my TV or cable box or whatever using the IR LED.

There’s 1 million different things you can do with one of these. There are websites all over the place describing different projects that people have built most of them homemade robots. I have to wonder if there’s some sort of a little board similar to this inside toys like “Tickle Me Elmo” that drive the whole thing. Hell with time and patience in a few extra servos I could build a Tickle Me Elmo using this thing.

I will probably eventually buy another one for $30 to be used permanently in whatever gadget that I build and then keep this one for tinkering with different projects.

Touch Panel Display

Touch Panel Display

They’ve got all sorts of add-on circuit boards that will connect to a computer network, you can hook up a speaker and play music. They’ve got a voice synthesizer chip you can add. They even have a touchscreen display like this. It’s 2.8 inches diagonal and only costs $59.

Videogame Adapter

Videogame Adapter

Another really cool add-on for $23 is a videogame interface. It’s a little board that you attach that has red/white/yellow video output jacks and two places to plug in Nintendo Wii controllers. Click here to see a video on YouTubethat shows a videogame created using this computer and the video add-on board.

There are 1 million different things you could do with this gadget. I can’t wait to try them all.

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