Software Design Patterns for Real Hardware

Here on Hackaday, we’re generally designers of hacks that live in the real world. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that some of the most interesting feats are at the mercy of what’s possible in software, not hardware. Without the right software, no 3D printer could print and no quadcopter could fly. The source code that drives these machines may take months of refinement to flesh out their structure. In a nutshell, these software packages are complicated, and they don’t happen overnight.

So how do they happen; better yet: how could we make that happen? How do we write software that’s flexible enough to coexist peacefully on all sorts of hardware variations?

What separates the big open-source software projects like ROS, LinuxCNC, and Multiwii from the occastional hackathon code are the underlying principles that govern how they’re written. In object-oriented programming, these principles are called design patterns. In the next couple posts, I’m going to crack the lid on a few of these. What’s more, I’ll package them into real-world examples so that we can see these patterns interact with real hardware. The next time you pop open the source code for a big open source hardware project, I hope you can tease out some of these patterns in the code. Better yet, I hope you carry these patterns into your next robot and machine project. Let’s get started.

For readability, all of the examples run in Python3. The snippets below are truncated for brevity, but the real examples in the repository will work if you’ve got a similar hardware setup.

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