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I love open source software. I use it, support it, love it, and contribute to the growth of the open source movement in every way I can. In support of this movement I would like to tell you about something I found in 2010. However, rather than telling you about a piece of software, I would like to introduce you to a revolutionary open source piece of HARDWARE known as Arduino.
Back when GNU/Linux OS was initially released in 1991, it was the driving force that paved the way for the freeware/open source software revolution. Today Arduino is this same driving force for the open source hardware movement. This simple, cheep, and readily available microcontroller makes it easy for hobbyists, artists and developers make their hardware concepts a reality. This platform has been so revolutionary that a 30min documentary was filmed in 2010 that covers the birth and development of Arduino and its many uses and takes a look into the future of open source hardware. I highly recommend watching it as I believe it gives a valuable insight into what our future might look like.
If you like to tinker and decide to purchase one of these amazing microcontrollers for around $30, you should know that the Arduino comes in many shapes and sizes. For example you can buy an Arduino Pro Mini which isn’t much bigger than a quarter, or you can buy the Arduino Mega which is the size of your average TV remote. You should also know that many Arduino accessories, known as “shields” are widely available and enable your Arduino to perform more complex functions such control a LCD screen, host USB devices, and connect to your Wifi network. These shields vary greatly in price depending on the function it performs. These shields are also “stackable” and can often be used in conjunction with one another to perform more complex operations. Multiple Arduino can even be used to crate complex machines such as the open source 3D printer known as MakerBot (which I REALLY REALLY WANT and would love to talk more about, like how it could change the world, but that would require an entirely separate post).
What makes the Arduino so amazing is:
- It’s very cheep for a microcontroller as you only pay for the hardware its composed of, which is about $30 US instead of $375 US for something like a CBC v2 .
- It’s open source.
- It’s easy to learn and use.
- It can do almost anything when paired with various shields.
In all I think the Arduino will continue to pave the way for Open Source hardware and will likely be very influential in creating an open source community that will be known around the world. So, once again, if you like to tinker, watch this video and decide for yourself if you want to be a part of the open source hardware revolution. If you like it, you can now buy Arduino at your local Radio Shack or various online retailers such as Sparkfun.