Interview- Massimo Banzi- The Arduino

دوره: Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) / فصل: Chapter Three- Conditional Code / درس 4

Interview- Massimo Banzi- The Arduino

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I originally started this project with a friend of mine called Avit Quartinas who teaches in Sweden, and the two of us both had similar issues with our students. So yeah, I think this viral aspect also coupled with the fact that we asked SparkFun Electronics, their online store was again beginning to become very successful. And so we, he kind of fueled our growth in the U.S. Then me and David Cuartielles spent many, a number of years traveling around the world, but mostly in Europe at the beginning, doing workshops.

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When you’re doing production design there is this idea that you need to be able to build prototypes. Because one of the, in a way, important elements of that discipline is being able to test the things you do with people. So, you know, you want to make a website, you make the prototype, a mockup of the website, you try it with people, you see how they react. And the same thing with physical devices, but physicals means you need to learn about electronics. So we had to create different classes that would basically make electronics approachable to people that don’t have a background in electronics. They next to zero software development background. So, what we did when I started teaching is that I started to experiment with the tools that were available on the market. And then I realized there were a number of shortcomings, like, every, designers mostly like to use Macs. Mac haven’t had serial ports for ages. They all have USB ports. And still, you know, there are professionals that have their development tools that are released now in 2013 they still only have serial ports, which, it’s really weird, because I haven’t seen a serial port on, on a laptop for a long time. And on desktops, sometimes don’t even have them anymore. So we had to make something that would run on a Mac, that would be easier to use, that would be cheaper than what was available on the market back then which, you know. And also we had this programming language we sort of inherited from the MIT called Processing, which was used to teach about programming to artists and designers. So we thought, well, you know, why don’t we try to make that run on a microcontroller, so that was based on Java. Microcontrollers tend to, they don’t like Java very, very much. They prefer languages, it’s easier to work with languages like C++ or C. So we did some experiments, then one student of mine did a thesis on the [UNKNOWN]. So different projects sort of followed and then we ended up with the first version of Arduino which, based on the work that this student Hernando Barragan did on a project called Wiring, we re-implemented it from scratch. So we reused the APIs but we rewrote the whole thing to be completely open source, because we also wanted something that would be easy for people to reproduce, to build upon. So we wanted to remove the barriers, and one of the things that we did is also that, since at the time we haven’t got, in a way, a clue how we were going to manufacture, we didn’t want to set up like a classic manufacturing company, or go to a venture capitalist or something because obviously there was, back then nobody would have even talked to us. So we thought, you know, let’s release the hardware as open source so that people can build it if they want to. And they started to make, we just started to make the PCBs of the sort of two-hole version and, and so we, we would just give them away to people as a gift. So, just take this PCB, assemble one. And some people started to assemble it. So they went on the website, they got the instructions, they started to write. That’s to, to download the code, to solder the, the boards. And so we got some feedback and we started to build up a little bit of an audience. And, and, you know, that’s, that’s how we started. So, so, talk a little bit about the the transition from people coming in to the four-week class and spending the first three days soldering to the, to the sort of scaled-up manufacture. . I mean, what happened? How, how did you get pushed? What triggered the Well, we started to do introductory workshops for people outside of the school. I originally started this project with a friend of mine called Avit Quartinas who teaches in Sweden, and the two of us both had similar issues with our students. We wanted to, you know, there was a bunch of input that we gathered and so we started to make the first of the two-hole versions. Then we met an engineer that was living and working in Ivrea that had experience in manufacturing stuff. He was actually helping me a lot when, whenever the school wanted to manufacture something with electronics. I would ask this, Gianluca Martino is his name, I would ask Gianluca to help me do that. So I said, well, you know, can we manufacture 200 of these pre-made? That we can just, you know, sell to people? And then me and David managed to convince both Ivrea and the school in Marma to buy 50 each. So 100 were sold and then we said, you know, let’s see if we can sell the other 100. You know, who cares? What, on a website or something? Well, we started to actually sell them like this, like in this, by hand, by sort of really like saying okay, I’m going to run a workshop in this place, I need 20 boards and we would just sell them to people at the moment. The platform was unknown, it was not really proven, we were at the beginning. Luckily we did some public demonstrations of how you can do with this, and people understood. So some people in different communities started to put out the word that there was this Arduino thing that was very promising. So we got people. We organized a workshop at the end of 2005 in London, which was the first workshop where really we put an ad and people paid and came. I think there were a number of events that lined up that created, kind of fueled, this kind of viral aspect. So, obviously, first of all, we had a friend that was teaching these kind of topics in the U.S. at NYU in a school called ITP. And he had a much bigger number of students. He had something like 120 students. And so, we met him one summer in Italy, doing a work, a project together and we showed him Arduino, he started to play with it, he thought, okay, I like this. We can go somewhere with this thing. So he brought back a few prototypes, we shipped him a few more boards. And he started to use it with some of the second-year students. And then at some point in 2006, I think, the platform started to work properly. You could do good projects with it. And so the first-year students they saw what the second-year students were doing and they said well you know we want that Arduino ourselves. So I would say that generated, that kind of gave us 120 power users. People who make beautiful projects and designers of these features, that tend to take their projects and document them very nicely put them online because it’s their portfolio. Well with Arduino the idea is that you download a file, you plug the board, okay back in the days you had to install a few drivers. But then, you know, in the space of a hour or something you were working. You got a blinking LED. Yeah, the blinking LED was the hello world. The blinking LED is the hello world of physical computing. So yeah, I think this viral aspect also coupled with the fact that we asked SparkFun Electronics, their online store was again beginning to become very successful. So we asked Nathan to carry Arduino, you know, and he sort of graciously accepted to do that. And so we, he kind of fueled our growth in the U.S. Then me and David Cuartielles spent many, a number of years traveling around the world, but mostly in Europe at the beginning, doing workshops. And we, you know, sometimes for free. You know, just going somewhere and, you know, sleeping in a Couch Whatever we could sleep. Yeah, and then run workshops and that obviously kind of fueled that kind of aspect. But then it was a lot of people making projects, documenting them, putting them online and then sharing information about how they built the product. Where do you think this thing is going to go and what, what, what are your, some of your dreams of how it could sort of change our world in powerful ways?. Well, in a way I think there’s a wider, wider discussion about empowering people to be creative with technology. So because obviously nowadays the world that’s around us is made a lot of digital technology. And there is an, there is a trend that I’m not particularly happy with where people just buy devices and they just use the devices, but they are not aware of how you program, how you design, you build things with the device. So, you know, for me the iPad sometimes is the TV set of the 21st Century, you know. Obviously at home I have an iPad and I use it for a TV, because you’re browsing the Web, you’re watching TV, you’re maybe listening to music. Yeah, you can create with the iPad with certain applications, but it’s not something’s that kind of makes you want to program the device to do more. And, and I think it’s important, especially for kids to, for them to understand that the world we live in, now especially if you look at this room, this is a building that was made, designed by human beings, built by human beings, every single bit was designed and built by a human being. So clearly, if you know how to design and build things, you can affect the world that’s around you. If you are not able to participate in this, in the world of creation in the digital space, you’re left out. Somebody else is going to design your world. At some point, you know, if there’s no innovation, if there is no sort of renovation, in a way, inside the marketplace, then one company decides that that’s the way you do a certain thing, and that becomes the only answer to a certain question and nobody starts to debate that. Or, you know in a way I think it’s important to be masters of the technology.

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