Travis Good, editor at Make magazine, writes about bringing his self-constructed items to life. “It used to be, when you wanted to put smarts into something, you had to use a computer,” Good said. These days, he notes, you use a microcontroller. The favorite one among amateur makers is an Italian brand: Arduino.
This open source microprocessor makes objects interactive. It takes input from the environment (temperature, the presence of light or movement) and then responds by flipping a switch, turning on a relay, or lighting a sign. The Arduino board is inexpensive, costing less than $50. It can run on Mac OS, Windows or Linux. It is simple for beginners to learn how to program, yet its code is extensible and can be expanded through C++ libraries. It has become such a standard in maker circles than any microprocessor is now referred to as an “Arduino.”