In this series we will go through some of the basics of software and hardware interfacing and I will show you how to build this simple but effective LED matrix display system.
All you need for the LED display is 30 LEDs of any color, 6 x 390-ohm resistors, 5 x 1N4148 (or 1N914) low power diodes, some thin wires and a small piece of perfboard to hold everything. Total cost, maybe $5.00.
Step 1: Arduino?
One major consideration is the 'input interface': the means to feed programming and data to your micro. If you are just starting out, I strongly suggest one that uses the USB. With it, not only can you talk to your Micro with your regular computer (WIndows, Mac or Linux), it can, within limits, power the micro as well.
One of the newest member of the Arduino family is the 'Nano', shown here trying to say "HELLO" on the LED panel. It's got everything on a 2" x 1" (5 x 3 cm) package, and has its own USB connection.
The Arduino is an entire developmental system that can interface to the real world: lights, sound, motion and can be connected to sensors that can 'feel' them.
Best of all, the Arduino Foundation is 'open' - all its software is free, and you are encouraged to share and develop your own.