I'm a complete newbie at this, but the idea is to have a circuit board with, say, 10 LEDs, connected via USB to a computer running Linux. This will periodically (e.g. every second) send data to the board telling it which LEDs to light up. What the lights represent will be flexible, decided by the computer.

I'm considering using an Arduino, but I'm also open to another route if possible.

Any recommendations on where to start? Thanks!

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would suggest taking a look at devices from FTDI e.g. ftdichip.com/Products/ICs/FT120.html they have a number of devices that interface to USB and the nice thing is that they provide drivers to help you with the computer end of the interface. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2016 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Older versions of Arduino use an FTDI chip actually. Newer models use their own bridge, bit it is incredibly simple. You could use pythons Serial module to interface with it \$\endgroup\$
    – Funkyguy
    Jan 26, 2016 at 18:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I did pretty much exactly this using V-USB on a ATmega328 driving some WS2812Bs. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2016 at 18:25

2 Answers 2


An Arduino is surely a great choice if you are new to electronics in general.

You could also use an AVR/PIC micro controller with a USB to UART bridge (FTDI makes such devices, just google FT232 for example) to accomplish your task.

But I think for the first start I'd definitely go for the Arduino because of the following reasons:

  • It is incredible easy to use.
  • There are lots of pre-made libraries.
  • Great community and support.
  • Lots and lots of tutorials.
  • Well tested and established.
  • Easy and fast prototyping (you don't have to design your own PCB for example)
  • and... an Arduino is always handy to have regardless of experience level: it's a quick and easy way to test something out.


To give you a little start help:

You can use the pre-made Serial library to send and receive data from your computer.

Happy testing.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the advice. I ordered an Arduino and some LEDs and stuff. I shall see what I can do with them! :) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2016 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ If this answered your question please accept my answer, thank you very much. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marco
    Jan 26, 2016 at 23:00

An off the shelf thing that is kind of expensive for stuff like this I have used in the past is http://www.phidgets.com/. Now I would probably use an Arduino. Read up on how to use GPIO's and not burn them out. Here are some options: https://www.google.com/search?sclient=psy-ab&btnG=Search&q=usb+to+gpio#q=usb+to+gpio&tbm=shop

Cool thing, if you want a wireless arduino get the esp8266, you can get them for 5$! https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/esp8266-thing-hookup-guide/installing-the-esp8266-arduino-addon


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