I've designed a fair number of PC boards with an Arduino-compatible heart, but I want more power, which sent me to the Edison.
The Arduino began life as a simple and inexpensive 8-bit microcontroller teaching tool. In the intervening decade plus, it’s grown into a diverse platform that has revolutionized the microcontroller education and hobby worlds. Recent, more powerful additions to the Arduino family have added 16 and 32 bit processors and have brought the Arduino into commercial development as a rapid prototyping platform.
One of the latest entrants to the world of high-performance Arduino compatibility is the Edison, from Intel. The Edison has a dual-core 500 MHZ Intel Atom processor, with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It comes with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of eMMC internal storage, and a USB 2.0 OTG controller (but not the connector).
I’ve designed a fair number of PC boards with an Arduino-compatible heart. The 8-bitters, Atmega32u4 and Atmega328P, are really easy to use, but limited in power. I’ve started using the 32-bit ChipKIT design, with a Microchip PIC32MX340-512E, which is much more capable, and not a whole lot more difficult to design in. Still, I want more power, which sent me toward the Edison.
The Edison is set up to be Arduino software compatible. It also runs a pre-loaded Linux distribution. You can load Arduino code into it through the Arduino IDE, or you can load code through the Linux side, just like you would with any other embedded Linux distribution. When combined with the right add-on cards, this flexibility makes for a real quick initial bring-up, as well as the capability to do some real work.
The basic module can’t be used stand-alone. It’s designed to be plugged onto a motherboard, or as one board in a stack. All of the I/O and power connectors come out to a high-density 70-pin board to board connector, so the device needs at least one add-on board for power and any wired I/O. Multiple boards can be stacked to add just about whatever peripherals might be wanted.
I recently purchased an Edison module with the intent of designing something around it. I also purchased a Sparkfun “Base block” daughter board, with USB connectors for the console and USB OTG. The whole stack can be powered through the USB ports, so this minimum configuration will allow me to get to know the software end of things while my board is in design and being built.
I use I2C a fair amount, so my first design is an add-on board that will have 3.3 volt I2C, 5 volt I2C, and a micro SD card receptacle. The Edison runs natively at 1.8 volts, so it requires line level converters for just about everything. My board will have three; one for each of the I2C interfaces, and one for the uSD card.
Unfortunately, one of the first things I did with the Edison was break the board to board connector on the base block.
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