The Push To Bring Microcontrollers To The Web Yields A New Arduino IDE

For beginners learning to program Arduinos, a web-based, fully networked developer environment called Codebender could drastically reduce the learning curve.

There’s one big problem with the Arduino development environment, also known as an IDE: There’s no network hookup to directly share and browse code you’re writing for these little microcontrollers. It’s not surprising, then, that an answer has come in the form of a web-based IDE. Codebender is an in-browser dev environment that can store your code, copy from other users, and upload it to most Arduino boards.

Obviously, operating from within your browser means Codebender has zero installation, unlike normal IDEs such as Arduino IDE, Apple’s Xcode, or the IntelliJ IDEA IDE that Android Studio is based on. Codebender was founded by Vasilis Georgitzikis and Alexandros Baltas out of the European seed fund LAUNCHub where Georgitzikis, a computer engineer, experienced his own frustration learning the Arduino code language.

Codebender allows you to flash sketches to your device, clone other pieces of code and modify it, share your sketches, and embed code into your own website, blog, and tutorials. There is also a “Cloud Flash” feature to program networked-enabled devices like the Arduino Ethernet or Arduino & Ethernet Shield.

Evidence of a larger push for simple, instant flashing to microcontrollers without an installed IDE can also be found in the Tessel, a Wi-Fi-enabled board that has made twice its crowdfunding goal with 22 days left. It runs JavaScript on the device, no server necessary, and you can even control all the outputs via a smartphone app. Instead of solder points, the Tessel uses Node.js nodes, available online and reasonably priced, allowing you to pull it out of the box and start pushing JavaScript commands in minutes.

Both efforts indicate tiny revolts in the non-networked IDE programming norm for microcontrollers of today. Opening the microcontroller world to browser-based code flashing and sharing along with Wi-Fi-enabled microcontrollers? Sounds like we’re moving closer to an open-programmable world.

[Image: Flickr user Kevin Dooley]