What is the alternative, and what are the pros and cons compared to the arduino
While I must agree with TheTrustedOne, the cost of an arduino isn't really all that much (In fact, you can get ones as cheap as $20), I have to admit that I'm terribly cheap myself, and don't mind saving a couple bucks when I can.I was looking for a way to build an embedded AVR device that I could use the (Considerably easier) Arduino programming language with, instead of writing code for the AVR itself. What I found from this site is that all you really need is the appropriate AVR chip (An ATMega168 or ATMega328) a resistor, and a capacitor. (About $5 for the AVR, and a couple cents for the resistor and capacitor.)Of course, to burn the Arduino bootloader to the AVR, and subsequently upload programs to the Arduino, you'll need a programmer and a 6-pin header.Programmers are cheap enough, and you really need one anyway. I have found (And I'm sure most will agree) that LadyAda's USBTinyISP is an excellent choice. (And an excellent value at $22)But again I must echo TheTrustedOne's advice; a DIY stripped-down board may not be the best choice for your first Arduino.Whatever choice you make, have fun!
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I found some rip off uno's for $8 from eBay ;) takes 2-3 weeks to get here, but certainly beats $40 for a genuine!!
You can't "rip-off" open design hardware. Of course you *can* use off spec parts. I've had some cheap stuff from ebay just quit working after a few days.
On internet can be found many Arduino alternatives for embedding AVR devices and one board is Teensy . complete list with arduino alternative boards is here
There is a very cheap veroboard arduino available.It claims less than $6, but I think I is even more cheap when having components already a home...I guess the project page is: http://matrixstorm.com/avr/tinyusbboard/
The additional cost is due to all the "extras" of Arduino that make it easy for single instance use. If you're making many devices, you're most cost effective solution is to integrate the MCU into the design. With today's chips having reasonable on board flash, a built in bootloader and support for I2C or SPI in-circuit programming, you can do it rather cheaply. HOWEVER, you need to buy / build stuff up front to use (like a programmer) So, volume determines your "savings". Based on the question asked, it would seem the best route for the OP would be to go with units that forgo the on-board USB, and get a $10 usb programming board. FTDI's chips have always been expensive due to their almost exclusive hold on USB-related patents.
Have you looked at Protostack boards? You can got a kit for less than $20 and these things have a lot of room to play with. http://www.protostack.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_20&products_id=45
Super DIY alternative I have dubbed the Hackduino ::https://www.instructables.com/id/Perfboard-Hackduino-Arduino-compatible-circuit/ Great for embedding into projects permanently, and extremely cheap: ~$7 !!
Personally I put down the cash for an STK500 and I program the MCUs in assembly language. Pros: You get to use assembly language, and each future project costs only the microcontroller (1-6$ depending on power). You can more easily incorporate the MCU into the design as a permanent element since it is cheap. You also have more control over clock speed, as you can pick your crystal for each project. Cons: Higher initial cost (mine was ~100USD). Need to add a 1$ voltage regulator for the MCU to each project. People see you program in assembly and look at you funny. Not the most popular option I admit, but it has worked well for me.
We're so close to a really cheap Arduino - the Ardweeny! We put all the parts on a PCB that's mounted backpack style on the back of a '328. Just got the PCBs. Should be ready in about a week.
I find it interesting that people consider the $40 for an arduino expensive, when less then 5 years ago the cost of microcontroller development was in the thousands. Like everyone pointed out there are lower cost versions available, but if I may a word of caution. The lower cost boards are lower cost because things have been removed. The standard Arduino board is built with a standard base of components that make life much easier for people who are new to this type of programming. Getting a lower priced bored has cause a large amout of frustration in alot of new users because they dont understand what they have sacraficed for the cost savings.
And yet, the AVR Butterfly, which comes with an LCD, storage, joystick, and photocell, is $19 pre-built from DigiKey and others. It has JTAG, RS232, and ISP. Hmmn. All it lacks is the Arduino firmware, which has largely been ported. $20, prebuilt, available in large quantities, with a lot more included than an arduino, and you can load the arduino firmware. HMMMN
If you are planning on using an Arduino with a solderless breadboard, take a look at Modern Device's kits BBB and RBBB ( http://www.moderndevice.com/index.shtml ) They're easy kits to build, inexpensive, and are made to interface easily with breadboards. The one thing that is missing from these kits is the USB interface, but they sell the BUB USB interface that just plugs into the BBB and RBBB. The BUB USB interface can be reused with other bare bones Arduino clones like the "Rock Bottom Freeduino Kit" at Wulden http://wulfden.org/TheShoppe/freeduino/rbfk.shtml or a Dorkboard . I've built and used the RBBB, the BBB, and the Rock Bottom. Each has its strengths. The BBB is probably the best choice for a first time builder because it offers all the functionality of the genuine Arduino except the ability to stack "shield" add-on boards. The labels on the output and input pins are also easier to read on the BBB too.The RBBB is a good choice if you like the idea of being able to insert the board into the middle of a solderless breadboard. The only thing missing is the ICSP interface that allows you to reprogram boot loader on the ATmega chip. Many users wouldn't miss that feature. My one beef with the RBBB is that labels on the output pins are really small and hard to read.The Rock Bottom Freeduino Kit is just that; rock bottom, but it has it's place. It's easiest to use if you are planning on moving your circuit onto a printed circuit board after prototyping it on the solderless breadboard. You are also buying the bare minimum of other components needed to make your device run, so you can move them onto the PCB of your finished design. There are no labels, but take a look at my Instructable on how to make a label for the pins of the chip. https://www.instructables.com/id/Bare-Bones-Breadboard-Arduino-Labels/ . That's the Rock Bottom Freeduino in the photos.
An Arduino is an AVR microcontroller with additional firmware and hardware that make programming easier. For instance, a USB interface is standard. The Arduino language also has quite a few powerful libraries, so many hardware and interfacing functions are already written.However, you can always use an AVR by itself. If your computer has a standard parallel port (many don't these days), you can make a parallel programmer and board on the cheap. Use the AVRGCC "C" programming environment.A parallel programmer like this only costs 4 or 5 dollars to build. Here's the project that got me started (the information is very similar to the above instructable, only it uses an ATmega8, somewhat larger and more power IC.)
Well the project is open-source. You can build your own Arduino board from scratch, following the schematics which have been made available for free.
The components individually are a little bit cheaper (at least if you can buy in bulk) than a prefabbed board is going to cost you... but it's not something I'd reccomend building as a beginner project. It's a great intermediate project, and if I recall correctly it's possible to do it all on a breadboard.
The pros of building your own are:
Probably not saving much (if anything) but more effort is involved.
Experience in electronics is nessecary
Debugging and mistakes may make a first-time build much less satisfying.
There are plenty of other platforms out there, but Arduino has the benefits of being an open source project that has a huge userbase. Remember that users give the support on almost everything now, through support forums and sites like this. Even the company that made my mp3 player has embraced this and runs a support forum populated by thousands of avid users solving other users problems. So it's a huge plus for Arduino to be on-top in terms of adoption. Keep that in mind.