Story and History of Development of Arduino
It was in the year 2005 that the first ever Arduino board was born in the classrooms of the Interactive Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy. Well, if you are not very familiar with the term, an Arduino is an Open Source microcontroller based development board that has opened the doors of electronics to a number of designers and creative engineers.
It was in the Interactive Design Institute that a hardware thesis was contributed for a wiring design by a Colombian student named Hernando Barragan. The title of the thesis was “Arduino–La rivoluzione dell’open hardware” (“Arduino – The Revolution of Open Hardware”). Yes, it sounded a little different from the usual thesis but none would have imagined that it would carve a niche in the field of electronics.
A team of five developers worked on this thesis and when the new wiring platform was complete, they worked to make it much lighter, less expensive, and available to the open source community.
About the Arduino
The new prototype board, the Arduino, created by Massimo Banzi and other founders, is a low cost microcontroller board that allows even a novice to do great things in electronics. An Arduino can be connected to all kind of lights, motors, sensors and other devices; easy-to-learn programming language can be used to program how the new creation behaves. Using the Arduino, you can build an interactive display or a mobile robot or anything that you can imagine.
You can purchase an Arduino board for just about US $30 or build your own board from scratch. Consequently, Arduino has become the most powerful open source hardware movement of its time. David A. Mellis, the lead software developer of Arduino, states that this little board has made it possible for people to do things they wouldn’t have done otherwise. Today, there are Arduino-based LED cubes, Twitter displays, DNA analysis kits, breathalyser and so much more. There are Arduino parties and Arduino clubs. As a feather to its crown, Google has recently released an Arduino-based development kit for its Android Smartphone!
Now, the Story in Detail…
As mentioned earlier, it all started in Ivrea, Italy. To begin with, let’s have a look at how the name Arduino, that sounds quite strange for an electronic device, was chosen. This beautiful town of Ivrea, situated in Northern Italy, is quite famous for its underdog kings. In the year 1002 AD, King Arduin (you got it right!) ruled the country; two years later, he was dethroned by King Henry II of Germany. In memoir of this King Arduin, there is this ‘Bar Di Re Arduino’, a pub on the cobble stoned street in the town. Well, this place is where a new era in electronics had its roots! This bar was frequently visited by Massimo Banzi, one of the founders of Arduino, who taught at Ivrea. He was the one who gave the name Arduino to this low-cost microcontroller board in honor of the place! Before getting into how the Arduino was developed and used, let’s know who the core members of the Arduino developer team are: Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, Gianluca Martino, and David Mellis.
Arduino was an answer to how to teach students to create electronics fast…
It was in the year 2002 that Banzi, a software architect by profession, was recruited as an associate professor by IDII in order to promote novel ways of doing interactive design, in other words, physical computing. Though he had some good ideas, limited class time and shrinking budget didn’t help him much. Like most of his colleagues, Banzi had to rely on the BASIC Stamp, a microcontroller developed by Parallax, a California based company. Engineers had been making use of this microcontroller for about a decade. The Stamp was coded using the BASIC programming language and looked like a tidy little circuit board packed with essentials of a power supply, memory, a microcontroller, and input/output ports to which hardware can be attached. However, the BASIC Stamp had two issues according to Banzi. One, it did not have sufficient computing power for some of the projects his students had conceptualized and two, it was pretty expensive. In fact, a board with its basic parts cost about US $100. Moreover, Banzi also required something that could run on Macintosh computers which were largely used by designers at IDII. The new Arduino microcontroller that best suited their needs had signs of its roots at this point of time.
Meanwhile a designer-friendly programming language called “Processing” had been developed by Banzi’s colleague from MIT. Processing was quickly gaining popularity as it enabled even amateur programmers to create complex and beautiful data visualizations! It was an extremely easy-to-use Integrated Development Environment or IDE. Banzi really liked this concept and wondered if he and his team could create similar software programs to code a microcontroller instead of graphics on a screen.