Review: Getting Started with Arduino

Getting Started with ArduinoGetting Started with Arduino by Massimo Banzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Massimo and his co-writer do an excellent job creating an introduction to the Arduino board. I started mucking around with the boards before reading this book because I’d done some projects with Atmel chips in undergrad (a couple decades ago) and I do software programming on the side. But I wish I’d read this book first as it would have saved me time on figuring stuff out on my own that’s unique to Arduino as well as stuff that I’d forgotten in the intervening decades. Programming hardware chips is very different from general purpose programming for a computer or cell phone. Not only are resources on the chip a lot more limited (although, in the case of the Raspberry Pi – getting closer and closer to a regular desktop), but input and output is also more limited. These microcontroller boards are meant for automation projects where you set something up (like a system to water your plants based on whether or not it is going to rain) or limited interactions. They’re running in a never-ending loop and that requires a different mindset.

The best thing about this book, though, is that Massimo has targeted it towards the non-technical. I didn’t find it annoying to read as someone who knows about this stuff, but I feel that he has reached his goal of allowing the non-technical to become hobbyists or even for artists to integrate microcontrollers into their art. For example, the final chapter is a great resource on how to do debugging that even introduced me to some new concepts (again as someone who’s been doing software for the past 20 years instead of hardware). It even has a section on how to ask for help in forums.

If you would like to do something neat with microcontrollers (and if you don’t even know what you could do – visit this site and see the cool stuff people are doing! (examples right now include digital thermometers, a NASA-looking control panel for the video game Kerbal Space program, a laser harp, various synthesizers, robots, smart mirrors, a DIY google glass thing, Internet of Things … it goes on and on…. )) – check out this book!

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