Author Options:

whats the difference between an arduino and any other generic microcontroller? why is it so popular? Answered

cant you just use any microcontroller and do the same things?




Best Answer 8 years ago

Yes, other microcontrollers can do much the same as (or quite a bit more than)  the Arduino can.

But: the Arduino itself isn't a microcontroller. It's a "mini-system" based on an AVR microcontroller, together with an other chip that provides USB connectivity (FT232RL), and a voltage regulator. And it's cheap.

It includes a "bootloader" to take advantage of the USB chip which simplifies programming, plus a dedicated language ("C" based) that includes a lot of rewritten routines.

I consider the Arduino to be a "development tool" rather than a microcontroller, per se. It's kind of a mini-motherboard (though very, very simple.)

IMO, the combination of
-- price
-- USB
-- a simple development environment (the language, etc.)

is what makes it popular.

Microcontrollers come in 2 varieties when you boil it all down:

You pay a lot for the development tools (hundreds or thousands) for hardware and software, and the individual chips are nearly free (tens of cents) - the companies make their money on the tools and support, not the physical chips.

Other chips run on the model of 'make it work with everything, open source etc, free tools, free information - but the hardware costs more. (tens of dollars). 

The arduino fits into the AVR family that has much simpler development tools, but more expensive chips (~4 dollars each for the standard 168).

Why is arduino so popular?  Because they demystified it.  I know my electronics, but microcontrollers STILL confound me.  I picked up an arduino and with some fancy coding I've created some neat stuff.  I could have spent tonnes of time learning a system and used cheap chips, or pick up a more expensive but more baby-steps-learning-curve arduino...

I can't think of any current micro that needs an expensive development kit - I've been GIVEN free kits with suppliers catalogues recently. I think arduino has made it look simpler, but there's no great magic to writing in 'C' or Pascal or Basic for most flavours of processor. Arduino is well marketed to the community here, is all.

Since you can put the Arduino bootloader in virtually any AVR, Arduino is NOT tied even to a physical board. Arduino IS the environment.

Its popular in the limited subset of hobbyists and very small volume users. There are other, better, faster, cheaper processors for the right job.

My personal favourite for variety, power price etc is the 8052 series which is 30 years old and still under development for new jobs - its much faster than an AVR in its latest variants, and, more importantly, I have all the development tools !


It has a great following.
It's one of the newer platforms and new is always "better".
It has a lot of addons readymade.]
It works.

Add to that:
- it's relatively cheap
- it's well documented
- it's easy to program