When I got to Blast Radius, one of my new colleagues shared with me (thanks Oscar) that he was working something with Arduino. At that point I had no idea what Arduino is. I got interested and decided to look into it.
So, it looks that new era has begun where people who never thought would dig into electronics and assembly something made of electronic components are actually starting to build some let's call them devices.
Arduino is a platform that consist of hardware and software. Hardware assumes microprocessor and prototype board, while software assumes SDK for Arduino specific language which is based on Wiring which looks pretty much as any other OO programming language from core language perspective. You will notice that Wiring also
has its own hardware platform so we can say that Arduino and Wiring are pretty much similar concepts. Both of them are targeted to people with no formal electrical engineering interests like architects, designers, artists ...
Arduino hardware is manufactured in Italy and consists of several options which vary in version of microprocessor and some details and size of proto board. Microprocessors come from ATmega family and in general were not familiar to me based on what previously I had chance to see in electronics stores. Proto board brings everything necessary do download the program from computer down to microprocessor. These days that is done by embedded USB port on proto board. Proto board distributes all control ports of microprocessor to appropriate pins on top of the board.
Apart from this basic hardware, a set of other hardware add-on is available in what is known as "shield". So, you can get Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and so on. So you simply buy additional board and connected it with basic Arduino proto board and voila.
Programming is simple. OK, I get money for living by developing software, but this is really easy. Per my opinion, requires elementary and basic computer skills school and suitable for kids as well.
This is perfect companion for winter days, when once want to play a bit. Also, prototyping new concepts in some creative environments where people are trying to define new interaction, bring new ideas is core idea behind this.
Arduino can be bought online in lot of online stores that ell electronics and I would say can be found pretty much across EU. Price varies from around 35e for basic model to around 100e for advanced models in kit with lot of passive electrical components like resistors, diods and some auxiliary components like switches, motors, wire ...
One can digest all there is on this topic in couple of weeks so no purpose on writing more ... get your board, get some tools, find some time and have a good time :-).