Actually, Arduino Isn’t Just for Hobbyists

December 01, 2015 by Jennifer A. Diffley

Arduino keeps being dismissed as a hack for beginners. But it's time to reexamine the way we think about the little Italian dev board.

Bring up Arduino in the company of electrical engineers and you'll encounter a lot of eyerolls-- the Italian company and its slick dev board are often dismissed as something beginners use; it's not sophisticated for actual designers. But the Arduino has been around for almost eleven years now, which means it's older than the iPhone, so if longetivity is any indication of quality, maybe it's time we start taking it a lot more seriously. 

The first Pebble watch: from Arduino board to successful company.

Some massive companies already have. Pebble, for one, started with Eric Migicovsky hooking his flip phone up to an Arduino board back in 2008. What makes Arduino really shine is that it helps push designers past the initial frustration of a new design: seeing a blinking LED, as insignificant it may seem, can be enough encouragement to push forward. If Migicovsky didn't have access to an Arduino, the process of soldering and its accompanying headaches may have killed his creative inertia. 

The board also makes rapid prototyping a lot easier. FitBit realized that it could bypass outsourcing its prototyping and instead use an Arduino--smart thinking for a company needing fast turnaround.

Even software companies use it. Plotly, for instance, a graphing and analytics platform, uses an Arduino API to allow users to log, stream, and graph data from their devices.

Parrot's used Arduino for development.

Need more proof? The wildly successful Parrot drone company uses Arduino in the development of their iPhone-controlled flyers. And frankly, you can't throw a digital stick without hitting a Kickstarter based off an Arduino.

Typical arguments against Arduino are that the IDE leaves much to be desired (there's no debugger) and the speed and functionality aren't robust enough. And that could be true, depending on your project. But there are plenty of EEs out there who use it for rapid prototyping. The point is, just because a dev board is being used by hobbyists doesn't mean it can't be used by EEs: it can be powerful in the right hands.

And frankly, ideas are ideas: whether they come from Arduino or ARM, we need inventions. Arduino has introduced millions of bright creative minds to the power of designing, and we at least owe them thanks for that. So what are your thoughts? Hate it? Love it? Let us know!

  • volthauslab December 01, 2015

    I love all microcontrollers! I’m having a ball making all sorts of fun projects.

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  • H
    hypatia's protege December 02, 2015

    Tinker Toys and Erector Sets…
    Produce something even an idiot can use and it’ll persist to perpetuity - no new news there!—While a ‘race to the bottom’ is all well and good for business, fostering development of scientific/technical talent would seem to require a bare modicum of intellectual integrity!?—Well hey… Having thus freed the ‘user’ of the oh-so onerous and unfair burden of original thought, what’s next? Perhaps a smart phone App that merely simulates designs? After all, reality can be way too challenging and scary!—- Educated idiots in the name of profits! - Sounds like a plan! (wan smile)


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  • Vincent André December 02, 2015

    Well, review your sources, Parrot has been founded by Henri Seydoux, not that Mr Anderson… I have actually been in that company for few years and involved in the ARdrone production. It is not using Arduino though they use part of the platform.

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