Using as direct quote from their website, Arduino describe the Arduino Mega as “The Arduino Mega is a microcontroller board based on the ATmega1280 (datasheet). It has 54 digital input/output pins (of which 14 can be used as PWM outputs), 16 analog inputs, 4 UARTs (hardware serial ports), a 16 MHz crystal oscillator, a USB connection, a power jack, an ICSP header, and a reset button. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller; simply connect it to a computer with a USB cable or power it with an AC-to-DC adapter or battery to get started. The Mega is compatible with most shields designed for the Arduino Duemilanove or Diecimila”
Whilst there is no doubt at all that this might be a fine description of the machine, it doesn’t discuss why the machine and other machinery available from Arduino and sold through proto-PIC remain so popular and well loved by electronics enthusiasts. I am going to attempt to explain why I find Arduino Mega and their other machinery so easy to use and why I and many more enthusiasts continue to come back to Arduino time and time again.
Firstly, I love that Arduino Mega and other products from the Arduino family are so easy to use. I should quantify as part of this statement that before I started to use Arduino products, I already had a good understanding of electronics and had been using various parts and machinery for hobby use and as part of my job for a few years so I was looking for a piece of kit which challenged me but was still a good introduction to the Arduino way of doing things. Whilst some starter kits were aimed at a beginner audience, I wasn’t interested in being patronised or confused: I just wanted some kit aimed at my level of expertise which allowed me to work in my own way.
Secondly, and following on from my previous point, I like that Arduino Mega gives me the freedom to do the projects that I want to do at my own pace. Some kits allow you to make or complete one project but because Arduino Mega is simply a piece of machinery as opposed to a kit, the user has the freedom to go at their own piece and compose programmes which appeal to them.
The Price and the Support
For what is actually available and what can be done as a result of having it, the Arduino represents great value for money to me. Because you buy each piece of machinery as you need it as opposed to having to fork out for an entire kit which you may or may not get a great deal of use from, the Arduino Mega doesn’t have the initial outlay which many of its’ counterparts have and I like it more as a result.
My final reason for loving the Arduino Mega is the support which is available from Arduino and their stockists. Whether you’re looking for inspiration, support or just a chat, the forums and chats which are available make what could be a solitary hobby into a group experience.