beginner looking for info on arduinos

I'm fairly new to the world of DIY electronics, but I would like to start working on projects that incorporate microprocessors.  I've been looking at many of the projects that use arduinos, but I was looking for a little more info on them.  I'm sorry if these are stupid questions but with my little knowledge about this stuff I don't really know any better.  

Could a single microprocessor be used in place of an arduino? 
Could an arduino be used to program an IC chip and then the chip be removed and only use that for the project or does the whole arduino have to be used?
and any other tips you have for me to help me learn more about stuff like this is greatly appreciated.

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maewert7 years ago
As other responders have noted, the Arduino is a complete microprocessor 'system' with a specific form factor, i.e. the location of pins is set as a standard so that people can make other boards that can be connected to the Arduino.  These are called Shields.  At around 30 US dollars each they often are great for developing and testing the concept but unsuitable for the final product because of cost, size, etc.

You might also look at the Ardweeny from Solarbotics.  It is a little kit you solder together that sits on top of the ATMEL chip itself.  You would also need a programmer (I chose the FTDI Basic Breakout).  Using this kit you get all the power of the Arduino in a form that you can place on a board for about 10 US dollars (plus $14 for the programmer).

As far as programming the Arduino and its variations, the Arduino Playground is an excellent source of the commands and includes lots of example programs.  Here is the URL for the playground:

Best of Luck to you!
ZachyKras (author)  maewert7 years ago
So just to clear things up: I can buy the programmer (FTDI basic breakout) and the I can buy an atmega 328 and put the bootloader on it. Then I hook the chip up to the programmer, upload the program, remove the chip and use it in my project? Hopefully I got that relatively correct. How hard is it to put the bootloader on the chip? Is it better to just pay the extra for a chip with it already loaded? Thank you for all your help
Try AVR-ISP II my memory is failing.... ;-)

Where are you in the world ?

In the UK Rapid Electronics do them for the price I said.

My Car-barduino is a "home built" arduino clone job. If you look at the artwork for the PCB, you'll see the programming header for burning the bootloader.

I cheated, and bought the ISP II.

Its quite confusing. Arduino is a programming environment and system that can be run on AtMega 168 and 328 processors amongst others. Provided you can program the bootloader into an At168, and provide some very basic electronics, you can make your own "arduino". Once you have designed your project, and made it work with your bought arduino, you can copy the code into another processor, and provided you have whatever hardware you need, you can run your new copy without needing An Arduino Board.
ZachyKras (author)  steveastrouk7 years ago
i know that a lot of arduinos come with an AtMega328 already on the chip now. Could i program something on the arduino and then take that chip and and just use that? and then buy a new AtMega328 to replace it in the arduino?
No, you'd need to make a programmer - they can be made VERY easily to run ON your arduino - you make a simple plugin card, then you can program any 328 and make it run the Arduino bootloader.

ZachyKras (author)  steveastrouk7 years ago
thanks you for helping me get a better grasp on this stuff. is there a good instructable you might be able to point me to to make a programmer? and i looked all over the place to find the "AT ISP II box" that you spoke of but i can't seem to find it. could you give me a link to that too please?
If you're not too short of funds, I recommend you BUY the AT ISP II box - its about 30 USD.

That gives you something that only needs 6 wires to your new chip to program it.