• Tech Harry

What is Arduino?

Updated: Feb 15

In a nutshell, an Arduino is an open hardware development board that can be used by tinkerers, hobbyists, and makers to design and build devices that interact with the real world. While Arduino refers to a specific type of board design, it can also be used to refer to a company which manufactures a specific implementation of these boards, and is typically also used to describe the community around compatible boards made by other people or companies which function in a similar way.


The best way to explain what an Arduino is will be to start with what you can use it for.

Put simply, an Arduino is a tool for controlling electronics. Think about a pencil. A pencil is a tool to help you write stuff.

You need to write something down so you could grab a pencil. Same idea with Arduino. But Arduino is a tool for controlling electronics.

If you need to control some electronic stuff, hey, grab an Arduino. But what do we mean by electronic stuff?

Well let’s define two general groups of “electronics stuff”. We’ve got inputs, and those would be electronic devices that gather information.

We also have outputs, those would be electronic devices that do things.

For inputs, you can think of all the types of sensors out there: temperature sensors, light sensors, touch sensors, flex sensors, humidity sensors, infrared sensors, distance sensors, to name a few.

What makes up an Arduino?

The arduinos contain several different parts and interfaces together on a single circuit board. The design has changed over the years, and some variations also include other parts. But on a basic board, you are likely to find the following pieces:

  1. A series of pins, which are used to connect with various components that you may want to use with the Arduino. These pins come in two varieties:

Digital pins, which can read and write a single state, on or off. Most Arduinos have 14 digital I / O pins.

Analog pins, which can read a range of values, and are useful for more detailed control. Most Arduinos have six of these analog pins.

  1. These pins are arranged in a specific pattern, so if you buy an additional board designed to fit them, usually called a "shield," it should fit most Arduino-compatible devices easily.

  2. A power connector, which provides power to both the device itself and a low voltage that can power connected components such as LEDs and various sensors, provided their power needs are reasonably low. The power connector can be connected to an AC adapter or a small battery.

  3. A microcontroller, the primary chip, that allows you to program the Arduino so you can execute commands and make decisions based on several inputs. The exact chip varies depending on the type of Arduino you buy, but they are usually Atmel controllers, usually ATmega8, ATmega168, ATmega328, ATmega1280 or ATmega2560. The differences between these chips are subtle, but the biggest difference a beginner will notice is the different amounts of built-in memory.

  4. A serial connector, which in most newer boards is implemented through a standard USB port. This connector allows you to communicate with the board from your computer, as well as upload new programs to the device. Many times, Arduinos can also be powered through the USB port, eliminating the need for a separate power connection.

  5. A variety of other small components, such as an oscillator and / or a voltage regulator, that provide important capabilities to the board, although it does not normally interact with them directly; I just know they are there.

How do I program an Arduino?

Most Arduino enthusiasts, especially when they are starting out, will choose to use the official integrated development environment (IDE) for the Arduino. The Arduino IDE is open source software which is written in Java and will work on a variety of platforms: Windows, Mac, and Linux. The IDE enables you to write code in a special environment with syntax highlighting and other features which will make coding easier, and then easily load your code onto the device with a simple click of a button.

The code for Arduino is generally written in Wiring, which is based on the Processing programming language. For more on getting started with Arduino programming, visit the official documentation.


The next part of this Arduino facts is the Arduino code. The code that you write inside the Arduino IDE is ultimately what gets loaded onto the microcontroller that’s on these Arduino boards.

The Arduino code that you write is called a sketch. The Arduino code itself is basically a derivative of the C and C++  programming languages, but with some Arduino-specific functions and structure.

So if you program an Arduino, you’re basically programming in C and C ++ programming languages.

So those are the three components that basically make up what”Arduino is”, and roughly what it does.


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