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Bye bye, Arduino

Arduino's malediction

People are creatures of habit: if you are addicted to something, no one will be able to get you away from that - no one else but you. And: even if that addiction leads to nonsense, you'll stick with it.

A side effect of addiction: the view on the world narrows more and more. If something does not function with what you are addicted to, is simply unusable. Or you walk on complicated and unnecessary sideways to get it going.

In the last years it became more and more popular to chain yourself on a small PCB. With some crazy side effects: As with every good drug, the addiction carreer starts at a smal price: between twenty and fourty Dollars for an Arduino. Compared to a naked ATmega328, which costs around 10% of that sum, a tremendous surcharge. Is a 16-MHz-crystal, an extra-cheap socket, a standard voltage regulator and a few resistors and capacitors worth that? But anyway, you'll get all you need to get addicted to that.

The examples that are delivered with the package function well. All you need is to read and follow some help pages. You'll need to know near to nothing. Probably knowing some about that would even stand in your way. And that is the starting point for addiction: you are teached that you have to know nothing about those controllers to get pre-fabricated stuff to function. Like a unseeming child you'll have to avoid learning and knowing, avoid anything that does not do immediately do what you expected it to do. Success with zero efforts, please.

If only the language C would not be necessary. While some work on languages that even replace it with simpler-to-understand language constructions (is "Make PB0 output" instead of "SBI DDRB,DDB0" really simpler?), in the meantime you'll have to learn C. If you want to use even simpler languages such as Assembler, an extrem set of hurdles have been placed in between you and the controller. You already understand why Assembler is more complicated than C? Just because of the Arduino designers. If you own an ambos, a precision mechanic's cripper might not be the appropriate tool.

And then you start searching for libraries. These are pieces of software that others have programmed. Those can be used to replace own efforts, understanding and knowledge. Those libs are available for each and everything, and enable to perform things without having to understand what those do and how they work. Ideal for preventing people from learning and knowing something about the controller they apply those libs for. Usually they'll ask you "Why should I re-invent the wheel?" instead of learning what they do. This hides behind the real goal: do not bother me with things that I do not understand, and that I want to avoid learning about, because I'm rather too lazy to switch my own brain on. That breeds even more of those not-understanders-but-proud-of types and click-a-few-buttons that bring all-things-together, that the world is already full of.

Of the 28 pins of the ATmega328 the designers of the Arduino have left only twelve for individual use. This is less than half. Those who would need 13 or 15, or even 32 (like in the case shown here, can not be solved with an Arduino. He simply skips the idea. Or he does it like shown in the German computer paper c't: build a serial pin extender with an I2C bus IC. This is beyond any technical reasonabliness, because with eight data pins and four control pins up to 128 bits can be achieved in a fast and simple parallel mode with a 4-by-16 decoder and 16 ICs 74HCT373, as has been demonstrated with an ATmega8 on an unpublished website. Instead of choosing that simple solution the I2C is slow, requires unnecessary overhead and is inappropriate for that purpose. And: the Arduino user might not be aware that there are a lot of 40-pin controllers such as ATmega16, 32 or 324 on the market, that can solve the problem immediately and not having to go on sideways. That shows how the Arduino reduces the view: it narrows down the attention of the whole world to an ATmega328. Even though you can solve the missing pins by using a pin extender and the I2C library, you'll end in a one-way-street.

My tip: drop your Arduino into a trash can, order an ATtiny13, solder a 10 k resistor to its RESET pin, connect the RESET, the SCK, the MOSI and the MISO pin to a 6-pin plug and connect the 6-pin plug to an ISP programmer hardware. And learn how you can program the port pins, the AD converter and the timer in the ATtiny13. Without any use of libraries, and only equipped with the device's data book. This here helps in understanding the controller's internals and how to use the controller and its hardware. If you've absolved the complete or half of the course, you'll be clean from the drug and you won't miss the Arduino. Arduino's misediction will be blown away and does not bother you any more. You'll see that a whole new world opens up. And that you are free from that drug.

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