It is a wonderful time to be playing with physical computing!
In the early 2000s, there were few options for any given physical computing technol‐
ogy. If you wanted to measure humidity you had one option—with the annoying sub‐
tleties of that particular manufacturer. Thanks to the pressure of free market forces
and open source hardware, by the mid-2010s there were dozens of manufacturers all
creating similar humidity sensors. The pinouts were identical, the protocols were
identical (and finally standardized to I2C), and the prices were falling. Today I don’t
have to wonder if the sensor came from silicon foundry X or Y, I just have to decide
“do I want to measure the humidity inside my lunchbox?” I plug in whatever humid‐
ity sensor is most readily available and let the library handle the necessary low-level
interactions to get the data. I am no longer worrying about the underlying hardware;
I can instead concentrate on the user experience.
The user experience is central to the popularity of Arduino. Its simplified interface
enabled the crashing of two worlds: designers and engineers. Similarly, the JavaScript
and the Node.js ecosystem are easy to learn for designers and non-professional pro‐
grammers. In the future the mindset of designers and users of hardware will matter
more than who holds the keys to building electronics. Thanks to the Web, baseline
tools (gcc, serial bootloaders, skillet reflow, etc.) are universal and now easy to master.
Anyone with a hot plate and a pair of tweezers can begin making small batches of
products that connect to the Internet. And thanks to the Web we can market and sell
all manner of devices across the globe.