Arduino is a name that does not refer to one specific device, but to a group of technologies specified by the Arduino group. It comes in many forms under different names, and one of the most popular Arduino formats to date is the Arduino Uno.
Arduino's Many Revisions and Forms
Many of the different Arduino specifications are a result of updates to the technology. The Arduino started with the serial specification, evolving to the Diecimilia, Duemilanove, and then to the Uno. Each Arduino form factor improved upon the previous, primarily with an update to the main processor, which is supplied by Atmel. Revisions often brought an increase in speed and capacity, allowing for projects of increasing size and complexity.
Some versions are applications of Arduino technology to different device usages. The Arduino Lilypad, for example, is a low power ATMega microcontroller that is mounted on a flexible, bendable platform. This allows the Lilypad to create a lot of interesting possibilities for wearable technology and e-textiles.
The Arduino Uno is one of the latest updates to the Arduino platform, notably Uno revision 3 (R3). Arduino Uno R3 introduces a number of advantages to previous versions. The main feature is an improved USB interface which allows the Arduino to interface with Windows and OSX without drivers (though Windows users still require a .inf file). The Uno can also be recognized as an input device, such as a keyboard or mouse, which opens up a lot of input/output possibilities for the platform. The third revision also specifically addresses a number of stability issues with previous versions, and is one of the more stable Arduino platforms to date.
Why is the Uno Important?
While there have been subsequent updates to the Arduino platform, namely with the release of the Leonardo, the Arduino Uno remains the most popular Arduino platform within the community. This is for a number of reasons:
Stability and Popularity
Having completed three revisions, the Uno has developed into a stable platform with very few bugs, making it very popular with the developer community. It has a standard pin configuration that allows for a variety of Arduino shields to be used with the board. The stability and versatility of the platform has allowed its popularity to grow, making it the de facto standard Arduino for many users looking to start working with microcontrollers.
The popularity of a platform can be self-compounding, as they are also subject to "network effects." As the popularity of the Uno has grown, more community members have specified their use of the Uno in many project descriptions and online resources. As new users read the literature online, they see the prevalence of the Uno and adopt it as a standard themselves. The Uno, as a standard piece of equipment that is readily available, has benefitted from these effects.
Uno is Great for Beginners
The Arduino Uno is the standard kit for people looking to start out in Arduino, due to its compatibility and prevalence. The more recent Leonardo revision has caused a number of incompatibilities with various shields due to its pin configuration. The Uno allows for useful beginner tools like the breadboard prototyping shield which can be invaluable for enabling versatile experimentation with the technology.
Many Arduino suppliers offer the Uno platform as part of a starter kit that includes popular components that are needed by the novice microcontroller developer. These kits provide an express route to getting up and running in Arduino development. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to find, and provide a great way to get started in the world of Arduino.
If you are interested in getting started with Arduino, the Uno platform is a great choice as helpful resources and community members abound. If you are looking for some ideas for projects that can be done using the Uno and a novice skill level with the platform, check out: Arduino projects for beginners here.