Make's gift guide to Arduino

Over on the Make blog, there's a great list of a bunch of Arduino kits, books, and add-ons.
The Arduino open-source microcontroller platform can be programmed and equipped to perform a nearly endless list of functions. It's likely the best all-around centerpiece to a modern electronics project. But one of the tasks Arduino is best used for is straight-up fun - the open design means there's an Arduino board suitable for almost any project, and a wealth of add-on "shields" extends its abilities with ease.
Make's gift guide to Arduino


  1. In San Francisco there were three electronics parts stores plus a surplus store within two blocks of each other. They are all gone. There is one parts store in Berkeley and they rarely see kids collecting parts for a project. Electronics and teenagers are no longer associated. Classes at many community colleges have a hard time keeping their enrollments up for electronics.
    So a kit for a kid is not a bad idea. Might give him his first attention span. I recall at 15 using holiday money to buy a soldering iron. Electronics paid the bills for my entire working life. And I had to go from vacuum tubes to micro-processors.

  2. Can someone who knows how to use the interwebs but does not really speak geek explain what exactly this thing does and why I should buy it?

  3. Wouldn’t you be better just buying a PIC programmer. There’s plenty of freeware out there for programming PIC microcontrollers.

  4. @QUIBBLER – PIC isn’t an open source hardware project and i’d say that right now there are more interesting projects in the arduino community with more being shared – or at least there -seems- to be, if there were as much interest and projects going on with PIC we’d have a guide on that but for whatever reason makers can’t seem to get enough arduino lately.

    if you’d like to help out with a PIC guide drop me a note!

  5. Mark,

    For those of us who love open hardware but need more cycles and memory, can you please do the next MakerShed project with the Beagle Board?


    The Arduino is a single-board computer (with a lot of I/O board add-ons) which is all open-source designed, hosting an 8-bit microcontroller with a kilobyte of RAM and a half-kilobyte of EEPROM. It can do about 1.6 8-bit MIPS.

    The BeagleBoard is up to 4,000 times faster for less than three times the cash, and ships with 128 megs of RAM, a quarter gig of flash, and advanced I/O built in. It runs two very nice GUI Linux distros, and is based on the Texas Instruments OMAP 3530 CPU, which is really one of the very nicest chips out there right now.


    The GPS shield doesn’t include the GPS module, so don’t get too excited. It’s still pretty low-cost, though.

  7. I’ve got a PIC kit. It’s OK. I haven’t found a lot of expansion modules and so on for it.

    The thing that got me about this thing is its got all these add ons for ultra cheap. If it has an open community around it for development, software, and hardware, then that’s a bonus too.

    It’s not simple about how much it costs in a catalogue, but whether there is a library of open stuff to work with. Perl is an OK language, but (comprehensive perl archive) turns perl into a kick-butt platform.

    The BeagleBoard is …

    that’s pretty good too.

    And again I think it’s the community (or lack thereof) that leverages something like that into something truly amazing.

    I might have to do some reading up on both Arduino and Beagle.

  8. Wow. Beagle looks nice. A bit more current draw, so not so much for a battery powered application. Could you guys find a voltage regulator that won’t explode if you hook up something other than five volts, though? The spec must have had a warning in big red letters at least a dozen times.


    Otherwise, looks pretty cool.

    The main thing is the community, though. There are plenty of embedded processor boards. it’s the community support that says whether you’ll actually be able to get anything done or not.

    Will poke around some more…

  9. These look like great modules. Thank you for bringing them to our attention! I’m looking through some of my old project ideas for an excuse to pick some of these up.

    As for other modules, it really depends on what your goals and applications are. You don’t need high clock speeds to blink a led, or open a door.

  10. JS7A

    The Beagleboard does look pretty cool, but I don’t make that less than 3 times the cost of an arduino.

    The price on the front page of is $149. There are Arduinos for less than $20, which would make the Beagleboard more like 7 times the cost.

    Are there lower-cost options I’m missing somewhere? That is entirely possible, after all…

  11. Dragonfrog,

    I was looking at the $65 starter pack which I see now is not the cheapest way to set out with Arduinos. But based on the Beagle’s I/O support, I don’t feel like it was too much of a mistake — for example how much would it cost to get video out of them….

  12. @js7a – we had a beagleboard post today on MAKE and you’ll see it in another MASSIVE guide this friday.

    @js7a – $65 is for a starter pack, it comes with a lot of things. if you just want to play around you can get started with arduino for $20 or less.

  13. re: @2 Greg London
    “20$ for a gps add on???”

    Alas no. “…Plug in a supported GPS module and run any of the example Arduino sketches for parsing GPS data (NMEA sentences)…”

    This is a platform to allow you to use a GPS module. The suggested EM-406A GPS unit is an additional $60 at

  14. I need bluetooth, a secure digital card interface, some general purpose IO, and low current draw for battery/portable applications.

    The idea is to have a little processor hooked up to a random number generator, have it dump that data two two secure digital cards (identical copies to be used as onetime pads), have it read analog data from a microphone, maybe compress it, encrypt it with the one time pad, then send it out as data via bluetooth, wifi, or ethernet (an encrypted version of skype). If it would work with a cellphone for the data transmission, that would be great.

    The idea is to redesign one of these to 2008 technology

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