Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Arduino Movement

I have a continuing interests in computer languages, electronics, especially microcomputers, and model railroading. So, it is not surprising that I have had and ongoing interest in the venerable Basic Stamp modules. Unfortunately, these use an interpreted Basic, and don't have the level of functionality I really need. I have also toyed with Forth on microcomputers, but the development platform was always too difficult to let me easily pass projects on.

So, I was pleased to find the Arduino movement which not only uses a more regular microprocessor (Atmel's AVR ATMega168), but also includes a complete development platform using "the Arduino programming language (based on Wiring) and the Arduino development environment (based on Processing). Arduino projects can be stand-alone or they can communicate with software on running on a computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, MaxMSP). " This results in a rather painless development cycle. This plug into a serial or USB port on your computer and you can quickly compile and download a project. Check it out.

So, I was excited when one of my collegues at Silicon Railway designed a Arduino 'cousin' called the LEDuino. It is completely compatible with the Arduino software, and all the projects work on it - which makes it very freindly. But what interests me is the other intefaces, besides USB, that are included:
  1. DCC -- this is the protocol used across the rails in modern model railroading that allows control of individual locomotives, and has been standardized by the NMRA .
  2. CAN -- this is a serial protocol used in cars, and designed by . I have been involved with a NMRA committee developing the specification of a LCB (local control bus) for model railroading. In parallel the MERG group has developed the CBus. Both of these are based on CAN -- so now I will be able to participate actively.
  3. I2C -- this is 2-wire protocol designed by NXP buffered allowing connection to many I2C chips; and

All these add up to a board on which I can use all my interests.

I can hardly wait to get my hands on an actual LEDuino.

I will keep you posted.

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