Arduino IDE: The Simplest Guide to using the IDE. How to Easily program the Arduino Uno. How to get the Bootloader into the Arduino Chip and how to program chips that are not included in the IDE.

    The Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is a multipurpose programming environment that lets you program different hardware with a common interface and its Free. Did I mention its Free! Yes - This is why its so popular; Anyone can download it and use it.

    There are two problems with the Arduino IDE:
    1. You need to know how to code software in C/C++.
    2. You need to know how to "do" electronics.

    If you are starting out you will have come across the most popular board The Arduino Uno. The IDE lets you to choose a board and use it instantly. There is no going the the manufacturer website and getting their compiler specifically for their chip, then buying a programming interface from them etc. All that is done under the hood and for Free!

    These are pictures of an Arduino Uno showing relative size and details.

    Arduino Uno on handArduino Uno R3

    Right Photo Credit : kenming_wang

    All you need to start Arduino Programming is:

    • A PC with a spare USB port,
    • A USB cable,
    • An Arduino board,
    • the Arduino IDE software.

    Using the Arduino Uno IDE

    For a walk through of exactly how to use the Arduino Uno and start programming it in under 10 minutes you'll want to look at this page:

    Using the components above you can start programming the board by turning on and off the built in LED. The more interesting use is to attach other components using the headers at top and bottom of the board. There are many projects on this site that show you how to attach different chips such as pressure sensors, colour light detectors, servos etc. to make fully functional projects.

    Arduino IDE: Programming The Bootloader

    One interesting question is how do you start from scratch with a raw chip that has no programmed bootloader?

    On the Arduino Uno, the chip is ATmega328P - someone had to program that chip and place it into the Uno board.

    The way its done is to use the SPI interface attached to those six pin headers you can see in the photo above and use a programmer device, called an ISP programmer - (In circuit Serial Programmer), attached to a PC to do the job. It's really just a stream of digits (in the correct format) that programs the chip.

    The interesting thing is that microcontrollers are good at generating streams of digits and... guessed it - you can use an Arduino as an ISP programmer. There's no need to buy another device just use another Arduino Uno (or different Arduino board) as a programmer.

    You can now get the bootloader into a chip so you can either restore a chip or use the chip as a standalone device on a solderless breadboard!

    Arduino IDE: Programming Other Microcontrollers

    Because the Arduino IDE is easy to expand there are many chips that you can program simply by downloading additional code for the IDE.

    There are two interesting microcontrollers that give you three very different capabilities:

    1. Digispark Mini Board: An ATtiny85 based board that uses a software defined USB bootloader. This is a tiny breakout board for space constrained designs.

    2. RAW chip ATtiny85: How to program an ATtiny85 without using a bootloader - instead an ISP programs the chip. The ISP (In System Programmer) is just another Arduino.

    3. ESP8266: IOT web based DSP processor 160MHz which allows you to receive and send data over the wifi.

    Digispark ATtiny85

    RAW ATtiny85

    ESP8266 IOT


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