Hackaday’s Interview with Arduino CEO [Massimo Banzi]

I caught up with [Massimo Banzi] at the Shenzhen Maker Faire to talk about manufacturing in China, the current and future of Arduino, and how recent events may shape the Open Hardware landscape.

The big news from Arduino at SZMF is a new partnership with Seeed Studio to manufacture theGenuino. This is an official Arduino board manufactured in China for the Chinese market. Knowing that the board is official and connected to the founders is key point to get makers to adopt this hardware. [Massimo] makes a good point about the ideal of “Proudly Made in China” which I could see as a selling point for the burgeoning maker market there. This may be a growing principle in China, but in an ocean of clone boards it sounds like a tough path forward. On the other hand, their booth was mobbed with people putting in new orders.

[Massimo] belives the current Arduino strife has actually served to move the project forward. He cites the schism between arduino.cc and arduino.org for catalyzing manufacturing partnerships with both Adafruit Industries and Seeed Studios. This has resulted in official Arduino hardware that is not made only in Italy, but made in the region the hardware will be used; NYC for US orders, Shenzhen for China orders.

Our discussion wraps up with a plea from [Massimo] for the Hackaday community to be a little less fickle about projects using Arduino. That one makes me chuckle a bit!

25 thoughts on “Hackaday’s Interview with Arduino CEO [Massimo Banzi]

    1. Hehe… I can’t fault him too much for the part-number slip. He was surprisingly coherent considering the 88F and 80-90% humidity plus the barrage of video interviews he had done that day (you can see the other camera crews milling around in the background). This was my first time meeting him and I had a great time chatting with him.

  1. I wouldn’t be playing with the tech that I am, if it wasn’t for Arduino, and the folks supporting them (Arduino forums, Adafruit, and Sparkfun, to name the few that I’ve really used). The Arduino gave me the platform to start with, a pretty simple set of tutorials, and from there I just started plugging stuff in.

    Massimo, the haters and detractors always have piercing voices. Instead, look at the massive crowd that has their heads down, plugging wires and components into the boards you brought to the world. Big thanks.

    1. I’m in the same boat – I had tinkered a bit with building stuff before arduino and it mostly failed or was too complicated and I had given up…microcontrollers were magic. I bought my first arduino in 2012 and since then have learned so much – enough that looking back I no longer see magic and understand where I had failed… to learn it all at once was too much but arduino made it simple enough to do it in steps.

    2. Maybe it is because I started dabbling with microcotnrollers before Arduino cam along and added a bootloader to an Atmel chip. Credit where credit is due If it wasn’t for Atmel, Arduino wouldn’t exist and the STK-500 was pretty sweet. Tho Arduino did lower the bar for entry which was definitely a good thing.

      I think the problem that people generally have isn’t so much with Arduino it is with the projects they are frequently used in. Projects for which they represent significant overkill or lack of finesse. Projects that feel like someone has taken a thing and needlessly taped an Arduino to it. Which actually does shine slightly positively on Arduino even tho people have some level of ire for the projects themselves. As it shows that they have managed to become quite a ubiquitous tool.

      Even I’ll admit to having a few projects where I just didn’t feel like bothering with custom hardware so I just tossed an Arduino with a few prefab shields in and called it a day. Because at the end of the day it got a thing done :)

      1. I see what you’re saying, but by extension, we should be thanking every single person involved with the building of the Atmel chip, the founding of the company, discovery of integrated circuitry, etc. etc. None of which would be possible without the efforts of the guy that first figured out how a wheel would help move things.

        Hacks definitely don’t need to be pretty. I’m not looking for finished projects here (it’s nice when it happens), but I’m looking for all the stuff that is behind those projects. How’d it get there, why did you choose that method? That’s the meat here, not the tech, but what’s behind the tech.

        Why’d I use an Arduino? Because it is what I have, and what I know.

    3. The problem with your argument is that there were already microcontrollers out there at the same if not a lower price, with a free and easy to use software environment and a community behind them… You just happened to pick up a nuts&volts magazine or this website or whatever and picked your poison and it just happened to be arduino…. That’s one major rub that I have with arduinos, is that all the little fan boyz think that it started some sort of movement that wasn’t already in place. What arduino did right for itself is promote giving away libraries so you don’t have to learn how to code, like at all… And again, it isn’t something any of the other countless micros out there couldn’t have done. But they are like the teacher or professor that wanted YOU to do the homework and show YOUR work for your own good. But why do that when you can “just make it go”… Instant gratification rather than putting the work in. Yay for you.

      1. Microcontrollers? Certainly? Dev-boards? A couple. Something that was quick and easy to pick up, with a community devoted to helping people learn the system, free to use libraries and IDE, an incredibly low barrier to entry? I never found it.

        I wasn’t a guy to try breadboarding out my own system. Sorry, too much of a knowledge gap, and I’ve got more pressing things to do, typically. I’ll fit it in, in drips and drabs, when I can. Right then, I wanted to make things.

        I started with a PIC-Kit, and had nothing but problems. I had a fair amount of trouble with the programming language (at the time), and the support for it… Wow. It was like watching baby ducklings getting slaughtered.
        I grabbed another board, basically a USB controller for 16 servos. The price wasn’t bad at around $80. The real IDE was over $100, and you had to have that license to get tech support. My bad, buyer beware.
        I did try an Atmel forum at some point, and as a noob, got pretty harshed. So I skipped what probably would have been a real entry.
        Then the Arduino popped up. Everything was perfect for a guy that just wanted to start slow, blink some lights, turn some motors, and be able to do it while crunching numbers. All for a fraction of a price of the other options.

        Yeah, if the option for instant gratification is there, I’m all for it. I don’t hand make my ice cream, I hit up Cold Stone, or pull some out of the fridge. I have nothing against the folks that do hand make their ice cream, and I REALLY appreciate it when they take the time to post up how they made that incredible dessert. I may never do it. When I do it, I’ll probably experiment with it. I’m certainly not going to denigrate their work because I would have used cream fresh from the farm instead of buying it from the store.

  2. Bringing C++ to a microcontroller is the area genius of Arduino. All those people who toiled at either side of the bridge in either software ie C++ or the plethora of microntrollers e.g. the 6502 and upwards must be so glad to see their efforts meet in the middle in such a satisfying way. Well done Maximo!!!! Your leadership is totally inspiring.

    1. I went to bed, knowing someone would make a comment like this (sarcastic or not… Thanks for the set-up here!).

      I use an Arduino because I’m not an electrical engineer, and I’m never going to pretend to be one. Can I use a 555 to time a pulse? Yeah. I gotta sit down, do some calculations, typically on a computer. Or, I can just drop in an Arduino, knowing that I can set the pulse to any number of values, just by changing some code.

      I use an Arduino because I can pick it up and run with it quickly. I programmed a pretty beefy airsoft gun controller using an Arduino. It allowed me to devote my time learning the intricacies of the circuit involved. Pretty complex for me, definitely pushing the boundaries of what I knew.

      My hacks, my tech, my knowledge, it isn’t yours. It’s mine. It wasn’t given to me, and it wasn’t bought. It is something that I put together over decades. At times, I stop and say “This really worked for me. I should show others”. It’s pretty rare that I’m looking for everyone to drop everything and say “Wow, KICK ASS”. Instead, I’m hoping someone, like me, is struggling with something at that particular moment. It’s their project that is great, but they’re stuck on some stupid stumbling point (we’ve all been there). They take a glance, and it falls in to place. I may never know about it, and that’s fine. That hacker has made something great. That’s what this forum is about.

      I see someone on here decrying a “hack”, and pretty quickly realize that they’re just not hackers. They’re missing the point. You don’t have to eat what’s at the table. Recognize that there is a table, and it is set, and you are welcome to partake. Publicly insulting the nice people who laid out the table is rude, but ultimately makes you look like a boor.

      Are there better tools? Hell yeah. But I’m a hacker. I use what I have on hand, with what I know. Could I study more in this field? Yeah, but there’s not enough time in the day, something would have to be sacrificed. I’d rather spend more time helping my patients, devoting my studying there.

      My hack isn’t your hack, but it might help you someday. Feel free to use it.

      1. Dude, the Esp8266 can be programmend in LUA, I do it over a web interface, is this too hard for you? ;) Stay stuck with over priced arduinos + no wifi if you want, up to you hacker! ;)

        1. When you describe it that way it certainly sounds easy – but is it as easy as “Install software, Plug in Board, download code, run” – the first time you plug it in? If it is, I want to know where the instructions are, as that’s the main reason I have not yet added an ESP8266 to my arsenal.

    2. Arduino is still easier for most people new to microcontrollers or say artists wanting to incorporate microcontrollers into pieces.

      Also, I still like a basic ATMega238p chip for battery powered sensors. the ESP8266 can suck down a lot of power compared to a low power 328p paired with an nrf24l01. Also, with the NRF24L01, I can set up a self-contained sensor network which is nice for say embedding stuff in a car, or designing a portable solution where I may not have access to a router for the EXP8266.

      I like having options for different setups.

      1. Esp8266 has a deep sleep function, if you dont use it of course you run out of batteries. Plus on an arduino the bit that consjmes the most is the voltage regulator. From what you said I doubt you built any of the projects you mentioned

      1. The magic was bringing the skills of the software engineers (C++ etc) and the expertise of the hardware people together (AVR in particular, I was a Picaxe enthusiast myself, but I was acutely aware of its IDE/Language/Chip restrictions) and suddenly there was common ground, and both sides benefited from a straight forward IDE and a version of C++, and an especially a versatile hardware form factor. While none of these things are unique in themselves, or in combination, and as is being discussed here, there are many other systems equally technologically elegant (or better and well informed designers will be able to make their own choice) the Arduino system is what gave the whole concept serious momentum and will be remembered as the high profile system. Most notably (as also seen with the Raspberry Pi) even though there will be many imitators and pretenders to the throne as king of the systems, Arduino was the one that gained enough confidence to inspire many new people who were neither software nor hardware experts to get a foothold in this technology and experience the versatile Uno system, ie good hardware + good software + easy to use.

  3. I’m sure any half decent engineer can cross compare specs between arduino UNO and MCU dev. board X or Y and find the pros and cons of each board for particular projects. We should all agree that an arduino board is not a technological marvel. Nothing will be except for flux capacitors. That’s never the thing people look at when trying out electronics the first/second time around. People seek out electronics for experience, for bridging gaps, not for product design or systematic knowledge of electrical engineering.

    Most tech forums provide hostile experience for these noobs. Members have the stern faces at noobs and that’s because they are populated by people that routinely look other people down their noses, electrical engineers mostly. They were the best of the best in high school science and math, fought their way into an engineering program, through difficult courses and projects and proudly got their degrees. Nothing against these well-educated and well-skilled productive individuals. I work with some of them and teach future engineers as my job. But, people with this type of attitude and learning experience can never form a learning community, and a learning community is what REALLY separates arduino for everything else out there, the people, not a bunch of capacitors, fluxing or not.

    There are lots and lots of beginners in arduino community, they support each other and get support from intermediate members and sometimes more advanced members jump in to give advice. There is never a missing skill set or level there. This looks like a pyramid, with good support. It is statistically sound. Unless you are Einstein, you WILL have questions. My engineering students don’t like asking many questions, like it’s going to cost them pride coins. They like to work until they find a solution. That’s OK. They are excellent problem solvers. If only they got some timely help here and there, they would have gone so much further with their level of intellect.

    On the contrary, many non-engineers struggle with science and math. Those are the majority of the arduino community members. They don’t pride themselves as the elites in engineering and don’t mind asking simple questions. The thing is, if you don’t like to get help, you will not get help, and you will unlikely help others. “Let them suffer through it. That’s the only right of passage!” I repeatedly hear this behind comments of arduino haters. Reverse this, you get a real community and everyone is willing to help and be helped. Even someone that just finished their first couple of projects are willing to offer some advice. I’ve never seen that in any college, anywhere.

    When I think about my college, studying the most difficult subject of science, and how many people really helped and guided me, I can’t think of many. I struggled a lot alone but a great deal of effort and sacrifice of personal life has put me at the top of my class. When I think about my arduino experience, I have a long list of people that have helped me and lots of resources that I didn’t bookmark to remember and thank them all. I started as a noob, with one electronics class from way back in college. I now reside at an advanced level, being able to write my own libraries, design my own boards and shields, and experienced in various sensors and technologies, and occasionally making my small production etc. It took me a few years and I have a demanding regular job. Looking back, I’d prefer the arduino experience over any alternatives.

    So if you still hate arduino, don’t. Hate me instead. I have a lot of people hating me, especially if they walk away from my classes with a D or less. It’s OK. I don’t mind.

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