Since the days the worlds were formed by the Great I Am, we humans have never stopped expressing the creative power that was embedded in us since day 1! From before the agricultural age through the 1st industrial revolution to the 4th revolution on whose gates I stand and write today, there has always been the need to invent new things or make a way of life better than a previous.
One nice thing about the changing revolutions is that, the problems of every age have a direct effect on the kind of solutions needed and hence the kind of people who live in the era. There are people who are not satisfied with being able to just use the technology or apply it. There are always people who look beyond and want to invent new things or bring some innovations to the already existing ones. For most people who will find themselves reading this piece, I will believe that you are such a kind of person who already is or may have some passions to become a maker, innovator, hobbyist or inventor in this era too
This is Africa, and I was born right here in Ghana. It’s rather unfortunate that the continent is so much behind the revolution. But then, it doesnt change the fact that a great technological revolution is now crawling beneath the carpets of this continent, even though most technologies on the global scale today are becoming more and more artificially intelligent and looks so far for us to catch up.
Today we see many young africans who have gone beneath the mother boards of our electrical systems, young africans who have investigated the 1s and 0s of the digital world, young africans who have learnt the language of computers, young africans who are obtaining mastery over the mechanics of technology, and then yes! another group of young africans to whom this article was intended to reach, “Newbies”, Yes “Newbies”!
I’ve met and or held conversations with maybe more than a handful of people, some younger and some older than myself, and one of the most popular questions is “kwaku, I really love tech and robotics and programming electronics and stuff like you do but I dont know where or how to start”. Wow! What if the next Safo Kantanka or Thomas Eddison is amongst any of these people. What if the next big things to happen to Africa is connected to these people but is surely hidden behind the fact that they dont know where to start. You may never Know.
Well, I haven’t been on this road for so long that you may imagine but the best thing I keep doing when I get the opportunity is to try and make the road more clearer for others like you if you are also a newbie, and that is why I decided to compile this piece.
Computers joined us relatively a few decades ago and their presence have changed everything and are going to keep changing everything. From the smart device you are reading this on, to the tv remote, to the drones that fly above us these days, the automated doors that open when they see us approaching, the robots that are assisting in the automobile companies and many more, we see hardware and software working hand to hand in all these technologies all because of computers in one way or the other.
But wait, when I say computers I dont only refer to the desktops or laptops. Those ones are just the “general purpose computers” that have become so popular and useful even at the consumer level. You play games with them, you listen to music, watch movies and a whole lot, but then look at the tv remote, we only need it to do one thing. When you press a specific button, you are expecting the television to do something accordingly, and of course we cant have a whole Asus or Dell or HP computer in there. No we dont, so let me introduce you to microcontrollers!
In simple english you can already conclude that “microcontrollers are small things that are able to control other things”. You are right, it is allowed. Microcontrollers are more like very smaller versions of the computers you know. Just like the brain of human beings microcontrollers are the brains of most artificial systems we see around today. They have inputs – that is they can receive data from other things outside, they have processors – that is they can manipulate and make meaning out of the data they receive, they have memory – that is they can store the data they receive, and then they have outputs – that is they can send out the data they have in them to other things outside.
Microcontrollers are Integrated Circuits(ICs). There are so many of them and they may vary depending on the extent to which they can do what they do. The fascinating things about microcontrollers is the fact that they are programmed by you to do whatever specific thing you require them to do. So yes we are talking about a hardware that operates by means of some software or codes you have written to it.
Dont panic already, I know you may be thinking “how on earth am I supposed to program these pieces of electronic squares and rectangles and chips into a device, robot or machine”. Today, it is easier than you may expect. The world of Microcontroller electronics and programming is an amazing place provided you have the passion to build stuff and program them into being. Probably you’ve taken some inspiration from some science-fiction characters like Tony Stark from Marvel’s Avengers or locally from Safo Kantanka, it’s all good but then you need to be ready yourself to start this journey of microcontroller electronics and programming even if it is for a life’s dream or just your school project.
It is very simple to start learning microcontroller electronics and programming because of the likes of some open source hardwares and software platforms like Arduino, Raspberry pi, Redboard Artemis, Wonder gecko and so so many more out there, but the one I would recommend for you to start with is the Arduino. Its the most popular and very beginner friendly platform to start microcontroller electronics and programming. What these platforms do is to make it simple for you to connect and control accessories with the particular microcontrollers embedded in them. For example, an Arduino UNO board uses a microcontroller called ATMega328p, and hahaa I wont get you bored already with any further terminologies and technicalities but I just want you to know what practical steps you should take after here if you want to see yourself building and programming awesome stuff in a few weeks to come.
And if you are reading this piece anywhere on the Aaenics website, you are already in the right place to get access to all the required resources you need to start this amazing journey. The first thing you’ll need to get yourself is an Arduino Starter kit, and yes the Arduino Starter kits from the Aaenics Store currently comes in 4 custom variations, all because of customer preference sake and the fact that “pockets shouldn’t limit passion”. Once you get hold of the kit your journey has already started since the AaenoTutor in the Aaenics community has a free, organized, culturally friendly and brief introductory course that will take you from scratch.
So hei geniuses and geniuses to be, if you’ve been passionate about walking this road but didnt know where to start or what to read I just hope this piece has given you a head’s up. If you have any comments or contributions to this piece too please leave it right in the comment section and I know it will be of help to the rest of the community too. Do well to connect with me in the Aaenics community if you need to reach me directly.
Stay blessed and go be you!