Maker's Handbook: From where to start?

Finally putting into practice, in 2021, an old project, creating a [Video+Text] teaching channel to guide the [beginners|aspiring] Maker on their project journey. Well then:

Creating gadgets, robots or even playing in the world of automation is undoubtedly something that arouses the curiosity of many people, but venturing into that world is not always as clear as it can be. And the first question without a doubt is, where to start.

Mundo Maker - Internet Image

The answer is simple, with the necessary basic equipment, whether for learning or prototyping, here is the list:
  1. Will to learn and patience;
  2. A computer [Desktop|Laptop] - The OS (Operating System) can be the one you prefer, [Windows| OSX|Linux];
  3. A Microcontroller or a Microprocessor;
See that the first two items are easy or at least easy to understand, so it is item number 3 that we will deal with here.

The first distinction to make is what they are:
  • A microcontroller (MCU for microcontroller unit) is a small computer on a single metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) integrated circuit (IC) chip. A microcontroller contains one or more CPUs (processor cores) along with memory and programmable input/output peripherals. Program memory in the form of ferroelectric RAM, NOR flash or OTP ROM is also often included on chip, as well as a small amount of RAM. Microcontrollers are designed for embedded applications, in contrast to the microprocessors used in personal computers or other general purpose applications consisting of various discrete chips. (Wikipedia)
  • A microprocessor, also simply called a processor,[1][2] or CPU[3] is a computer processor that is implemented on a single (or more) integrated circuit (IC)[4][5] dies of MOSFET construction in a single package. The microprocessor is a multipurpose, clock-driven, register-based, digital integrated circuit that accepts binary data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and provides results (also in binary form) as output. Microprocessors contain both combinational logic and sequential digital logic. Microprocessors operate on numbers and symbols represented in the binary number system. (Wikipedia)
With that distinction made, it's time to get to know and choose your card. Everything will depend on what exactly you want to accomplish, which can start from placing LEDs to flashing and ending with building a drone capable of performing facial recognition.

The board options on the market are as varied as possible, but the most popular are the microcontroller boards from the Arduino family and those from the NodeMCU family.

Prototype board Arduino Uno

For the first family, the Arduino, there are the most traditional boards, based on an AVR architecture, with Atmel microcontrollers:

Features Arduino Uno Arduino Nano Arduino Mega
Cores 1 1 1
Microcontroller ATMega328 ATMega328 ATMega1280
Architecture 8 bits 8 bits 8 bits
Clock Frequency 16 MHz 16 MHz 16 MHz
Analog pins (Input) 8 8 16
Analog pins (Output) 0 0 0
Digital pins (Input and Output) 22 22 54
Analog signal variation 0 and 5 V 0 and 5 V 0 and 5 V
RAM memory 2 Kb 2 Kb 8 Kb
Flash memory 32 Kb 32 Kb 256 Kb
EPROM memory 1 Kb 1 Kb 4 Kb
Analog signal resolution 10 bit / 4.88 mV 10 bit / 4.88 mV 10 bit / 4.88 mV

There are many other boards besides the traditional Uno, Nano and Mega, and it is possible to notice that they have similar characteristics (Don't worry about understanding exactly what each characteristic represents at the moment).

There are also boards of the Arduino family with microcontrollers based on ARM architectures, the highlight here is for Arduino Due:

Features Arduino Due
Cores 1
Microcontroller AT91SAM3X8E
Architecture 32 bits
Clock Frequency 84 MHz
Analog pins (Input) 12
Analog pins (Output) two
Digital pins (Input and Output) 54
Analog signal variation 0 and 3.3 V
RAM memory 96 Kb
Flash memory 512 Kb
EPROM memory 0 Kb
Analog signal resolution 12 bit / 0.806 mV

As noted, it is a much more powerful card than its sisters, now let's go to the NodeMCU family:
NodeMCU V3 Prototyping board

In this set, the boards differ basically by the characteristics of their microcontroller, the ESP8266 and ESP32 being the most popular:

Features NodeMCU V3 NodeMCU ESP32
Cores 1 two
Microcontroller ESP8266 ESP32
Architecture 32 bits 32 bits
Clock Frequency 80 MHz 160 MHz
Analog pins (Input) 1 15
Analog pins (Output) 0 0
Digital pins (Input and Output) 17 36
Analog signal variation 0 and 3.3 V 0 and 3.3 V
RAM memory 64 Kb 520 Kb
Flash memory 4 Mb 4 Mb
EPROM memory 512 bytes 0 Kb
Analog signal resolution 10 bit 12 bit

Having presented the options, it remains to expose the small details for the final decision:
  • Boards that work at a lower voltage consume less energy and also have an advantage when discharging batteries, for example, an Arduino Uno connected to a 9V battery, to the point that this discharging below 5V would cause the system to shut down, while that in a NodeMCU ESP32 the battery would have to discharge below 3.3V;
  • The boards with ESP microcontrollers are equipped with many digital and analog pins (ESP32) and also with more than one SPI, I2C, I2S, UART interface, when most ATmega have only one of each;
  • The price, even for the ESP32 board, is significantly lower than the most common boards in the Arduino family;
Finally, the most important of the details, the ease to program the plates. And at this point, the Arduino family boards still have an advantage. Even with many years of improvement, started in 2016 by an employee of ESPRESSIF (ESP Manufacturer), and of practically all libraries developed for Arduino already being compatible with ESPs, the size of the community that develops and evangelizes using Arcuino , it is still much higher, the amount of Shields (Gadgets to simply connect to the Arduino) is also a factor that greatly facilitates the life of those who are starting in the area.

Therefore, I recommend and we will start our journey using the famous Arduino family plates, at least in the initial part of this odyssey.

We will certainly pass through the NodeMCU family and we will not stop there, we will move forward with even more complex applications and new characters will enter the scene, such as:

Microcomputer Raspberry Pi 3

Features Raspberry Pi 3
Cores 4
Microcontroller ARMv8 Cortex-A53
Architecture 64-bit
Clock Frequency 1.2 GHz
Analog pins (Input) 0
Analog pins (Output) 0
Digital pins (Input and Output) 27
Analog signal variation 0 V
RAM memory 1 Gb
Flash memory (SD card)
EPROM memory 0 Kb
Analog signal resolution 0 bit

And also the:
Beagle Bone Black Microcomputer

Features Beagle Bone Black
Cores two
Microcontroller ARMv8 AM335x Cortex-A8
Architecture 32 bits
Clock Frequency 1 GHz
Analog pins (Input) 7
Analog pins (Output) 0
Digital pins (Input and Output) 66
Analog signal variation 0 and 3.3 V
RAM memory 512 Mb
Flash memory (Micro SD card)
EPROM memory 0 Kb
Analog signal resolution 12 bit

These last two cards, the Raspberry PI and the Beagle Bone Black, already fall into the category of microcomputers, they have microprocessors and run Operating Systems, like a conventional computer, and also have sisters with different configurations.

However, do not be alarmed, in the end it is just an exercise in knowledge and understanding of what is and what should be done. So, stay tuned for new posts, whether in text or video, we will start with electronics and basic programming.

Maker's Handbook: From where to start? Maker's Handbook: From where to start? Reviewed by AJ Alves on terça-feira, janeiro 05, 2021 Rating: 5

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