By Tomasz Wojcik
We have a saying in Poland: devil is not as scary as they paint him.
It says heaps about my early experiences with a microprocessor called Arduino. A strange contraption devised to make technology easier to grasp and allow any layman to create a world of things out of it.
So, It all began with a mixture of fear and curiosity. That petite computer motherboard seemed at first a behemoth with large spiked horns and a foul breath. I anticipated it to be extremely difficult and mind-boggling. A vision of a computer geek straining his sore eyes looking at the screen at a sequence of numbers and letters encrypted in a way only he could ever understand did not help either. Coding is boring and tedious. Fact. Electronics is boring and tedious. Fact. It’s a process. Hardly any process is a sight to behold. What is exciting though is the idea of those things coming together in a form of a creation that can be easily understood by the “analogue” world. An idea that communicates through technology instead of using more classic channels such as pen&paper or visual art. A produce that goes beyond digital and corresponds to how we perceive the world. A tech-savvy creation that personifies a tangible idea which seeks out solutions to real human problems in a binary solo style. Arduino-based final product might just achieve those goals as relevantly as anything else. The issue identified here is the obscurity of technology that goes with it. I can empathise with people who are put off by the dark side: micro processors, resistors, computer entrails and loathsome visual experience of a computer screen writing of an unknown occult origin. There is a learning curve involved here. It means grasping couple of new skills – understanding basic electronics, learning how programming language is formed and structured in order to get the principles underlying coding in most computing languages. You would also think it involves the knowledge of mathematics, physics and god knows what else. Thankfully, not in the way I was taught in the school. In fact, I despised mathematics and physics. I could not understand how they relate to the real world. It might have been the issue of wrong teachers or bad education system that taught abstract concepts for the sake of learning them alone devoid of any purpose in mind. Coming back to my early Arduino endeavours that learning doesn’t seem so abstract anymore. And not nearly as daunting as in the beginning. I’ve opened the door to real-life implementations of practical use beyond counting – lighting up a Christmas tree with LED dancing, alerts or notifications straight to your mobile as easy as pushing a button when you need your kids to come down for a meal, fire alarms, humidity indicators, light detectors, robots, LCD screen messages. All those simple physical human-computer interactions can be built and managed using that small device. So, how is this all new and creative? Within the world of plethora of applications there are even more lands undiscovered yet. Where creativity and technology meet on the crossroads. That path still leads me through dark woods but the fear of the new and the unknown is gone. Adventure awaits.