Intel Galileo review

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A handful of years ago, very few people had heard of single-board computers or development boards. Those that had were involved in product development, and had to order them at great expense from specialist distributors. Read on for our Intel Galileo review.

Then came the Arduino, an open-hardware microcontroller, which cost less than £30 and introduced a whole generation of enthusiasts to the joys of modern electronic development. This was followed by the Raspberry Pi, and overnight development boards were big news. The low-cost Pi is now a common sight in classrooms throughout the world, and can be found on the shelves of high-street retailers, something that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

Intel Galileo

For Intel, this is a clear threat to its near-monopoly of the mainstream computing market. Rather than the x86 instruction set Intel has spent decades promoting, the Pi uses a rival instruction set developed by Cambridge-based ARM. If tomorrow’s programmers grow up learning ARM, that could spell disaster for the x86-exclusive Intel; this is the issue the Galileo is designed to address.

Built to appeal to the maker and hacker communities, the Galileo is a partnership between Intel and microcontroller specialist Arduino, and the first outing for the company’s low-power Quark processor.

Intel Galileo review: Arduino compatibility

Launched in 2005 as a low-cost development board for college use, Arduino is the darling of the maker community. Arduino devices can be found powering numerous creations ranging from motion-tracking turrets to secret-knock door sensors. Millions of Arduinos have been sold worldwide, and there’s a large market of add-on boards, known as Shields, to extend the board’s capabilities.

For Intel, that provided an opportunity for a partnership. Thus, the Galileo doesn’t enter the market as a completely green product with no support network, but one that boasts full certification from Arduino itself.

From a set of general-purpose input-output pins (GPIOs), which mimic the esoteric layout of the Arduino (ensuring full electrical compatibility with existing Shields) to the use of a modified version of the Arduino integrated development environment (IDE), the Galileo is designed to be as familiar as possible to those already versed in Arduino development.

Intel Galileo: Arduino IDE

The secret to Arduino’s success is a programming library dubbed Wiring, which is designed to make it as simple as possible to develop software to drive your own electronics projects.

The various pins of an Arduino board – and, therefore, those of the Galileo – can be used as analogue inputs, sensing different voltages from components such as moisture and gas sensors; potentiometers connected to knobs; or as digital outputs to turn components such as buzzers, LEDs and motors on and off. Some also support pulse-width modulation (PWM), which switches the signal on and off hundreds of times per second, to control servos or alter the brightness of an LED.

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