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Open-source hardware heralds greater creativity
08-16-2009, 07:09 PM,
Open-source hardware heralds greater creativity

Open-source hardware heralds greater creativity

The rising popularity of open-source hardware projects combines the heritage of a pre-computer age with brand-new creative opportunities

We're all familiar with open-source software, such as the Apache webserver or the Linux OS, but in the last few years, open-source hardware projects have risen in popularity, including the open-source electronics platform Arduino.

Open-source hardware has a long history that predates computers with the amateur radio community; and personal computing in Silicon Valley rose out of the hardware hackers of the Homebrew Computer Club.

At its heart, Arduino is a programmable microcontroller, which was developed in Italy in 2005. You can connect the microcontroller via a serial or USB connection to a computer running Windows, Mac OS or Linux, and program it using the free open-source integrated development environment.

Arduino is often described as a physical computing platform because you can use sensors to measure motion, light or temperature, and to flash LEDs or lights, sound buzzers or run motors. Arduino also has communications extensions that add Bluetooth, Ethernet or wireless-mesh networking capabilities, and can be triggered by events on the web or via web APIs.

During the Guardian's recent hack day, Arduino was used to create a robot that responded to hashtags on Twitter. It powered a device to alert journalists when people were reading their stories, and the team from Arduino consultancy built a leaderboard that measured responses to the Twitter accounts of the main British political parties.

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, CEO of, says all kinds of people are using the platform, including hobbyists and engineers but also artists and designers – people who don't have a technical background. Clothing designers even use Arduino with special circuit boards that can easily be sewn into fabric.

You can buy pre-built Arduino boards or, true to the open-source movement, can download plans and build your own. To rapidly create prototype projects many Arduino enthusiasts use solder-less breadboards. To get started Deschamps-Sonsino suggests going to the "playground" on the Arduino website. It has a list of projects broken down by difficulty and purpose. For instance, there are audio, visual, and communication projects, as well as physical or mechanical projects. and other Arduino suppliers, such as SparkFun in the US, can sell you microcontrollers, lights, sensors and other components for the projects. also holds workshops, and with hardware hacker Maker Faires you can see what's possible with Arduino and other open-source hardware platforms.

If, like me, you're taking a stay-cation, Arduino may be a great way to relax and try something new with open-source tech.
08-17-2009, 01:14 AM,
Open-source hardware heralds greater creativity
Open source hardware is cool. There's so much that can be done with just a simple Atmel chip. More powerful stuff sounds like a lot fo fun.:D
“Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after
equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality. ” -Nikola Tesla

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." -Jimi Hendrix
08-17-2009, 01:16 AM,
Open-source hardware heralds greater creativity
sounds excellent

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