This Page is very old but most of the Intro material is still relevant. It will be updated to give you a better look at specific uses of the Arduino that I have applied to Ham Radio activities. I will also highlight the Boards, Shields, and software tools I use for these activities. There are several other good Embedded processor platforms now, including the Raspberry Pi and several others. To me, the Arduino attraction is the low cost and the ability to perform low-level functions with the many Digital I/O lines. If you want a Procdessor that can handle high-level PC-type interfaces (HDMI Video, High-speed USB, etc), you probably want to look at Raspberry PI or other “micro-PC” boards.
Introduction to Arduino for Ham Radio
I have been doing some development using Arduino micro controller boards. These are basic micro controllers, best used where you need to control I/O lines. Most Arduinos have many digital I/O lines and some have analog inputs as well. There is a variety of processor board sizes and speeds, as well as many peripheral boards (“Shields”) and devices.
The Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) Software can be found at Arduino.cc and can be downloaded for use with WINDOWS, MAC, or LINUX. My experience so far is that the WINDOWS version seems to be updated more frequently, but I have used both WINDOWS and LINUX for Arduino development. The IDE is very easy to use and the programming language will allow anyone with even basic Programming knowledge to create custom applications.
Arduino is a great platform for any kind of interfacing that uses Digital and/or Analog I/O pins. Some of the basic Boards include 14 digital I/O pins. I have been using primarily three boards for my development:
- Arduino UNO – mid-sized board, inexpensive, and many Digital I/O lines but limited memory (only 32 KBytes of Flash memory). Provides connection for a USB cable for Programming and Power
- Arduino MEGA 2560 – A larger Board with much more memory (256K Bytes of Flash in the R3 version that I have been using. Suitable host for many Arduino add-on Shields. Provides connection for a USB cable for Programming and Power
- Arduino Pro Mini – Very small and inexpensive Board, suitable for use inside a small Embedded device or placing on a PC Board with other components. This is at the heart of my DXDUSB adapter used with the DX Doubler SO2R Controller. This board does not acommodate a USB cable, but requires connection of a 6-pin Header for Programming and Power.
If you are just trying to get started with Arduino, pickup one of the larger boards that includes the USB connector. The USB will also provide Power to the board and allow you to upload your code. Something like the Arduino UNO board is perfect for developing and testing code.
Programming with the Arduino can be very simple. The IDE that is offered as a Download from the Arduino.cc Web Site supports a higher-level language that provides many simple-to-use functions. The Arduino platform also can be programmed using the “C” programming language, in case you know that language and want access to more low-level (but more complicated) functions. The Arduino Web Site provides full Documentation for Arduino programming, and Links to many other Libraries that can be Imported and used easily.
Arduino Pro Mini Power Issues (this is old, but will be retained for now, as I think it is still relevant).
I have been using several different versions of the Pro Mini board. While they are all usable with the Arduino software environment, they have differing pinouts and I have found some differences in the power circuitry. The “official” Pro Mini specs state that the on-board voltage regulator can accept 12 volts DC. The problem with this is that many Hams use power supplies in their stations for their Rigs that are set at higher than 12 VDC. The regulator component datasheet says it can take up 16 VDC on its input pin with no damage, while generating the 5 VDC needed for the boards I have been using. In some initial tests, I have destroyed some regulators when I am pretty sure I did not exceed 16 VDC on the input. Doing a little Web research shows that some others are also reporting issues with the regulators on the Pro Mini boards. This might be a reason to use the more expensive versions, such as the Sparkfun.com version instead of the $ 4.00 import that can currently be found on the Web.
Powering the Arduino from 5-volts DC
I have continued to use Arduino Pro Mini boards with good results. I have moved to providing power to the Pro Mini board directly at 5volts DC, bypassing that troublesome voltage regulator. 5 volts can be provided from a USB cable, using only the red/black wires. That allows the power connection to use any USB port capable of providing charging power. I am still considering using the 12 volt input for a mobile environment. But since USB connections are now available in most vehicles, I may not even use it then. The 5 volt supply has shown no issues. I have since added Power conditioning circuitry for use of this Board with Mobile or Shack power supplies that can run up to 15 volts DC.