Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reverse engineering? The new Wiring S board

In the fall of 2008 I started researching Arduino for an introductory article for Elektor. In that article I wrote that Arduino can be seen as a simplification of Wiring. The Arduino environment is very much like Wiring but slightly simplified and the Arduino Diecimila, the board of choice in 2008, was much simpler than the Wiring microcontroller board that had more I/O ports available. It is difficult to prove that the huge success of Arduino is due to this simplification, but the fact is that the current estimate is that more than 300,000 Arduino boards have been sold world-wide, which is pretty impressive.

The people behind Wiring must have been a bit jealous of this success achieved by others with their work so they started simplifying too. The result is the brand new Wiring S board that is almost the same size as an Arduino Uno. The Wiring S team apparently decided that they wanted to do things slightly different than the Arduino team, so the board looks a lot like an Arduino, but it is not compatible. Where Arduino uses mostly ATmegaXX8 controllers, the Wiring S board is based on an ATmegaXX4 controller (ATmega644 on my 1.0 board). The connectors look very similar, and are positioned in a similar way, but there are 5 instead of 4 and the pin-out is different. Also the project is open hardware, but the design files are in KiCAD instead of Eagle.

Seeeduino (left) and Wiring S (right)

It is rather interesting to see how Arduino is becoming more and more complex with programmable USB interface chips, all kinds of different processors and more connectors whereas the Wiring S board is almost like an old Arduino Diecimila but with a bigger processor. The board even offers the possibility to replace the FTDI USB/serial converter chip by an FTDI cable which brings it very close to the even older Arduino Serial. The two teams seem to be working in opposite directions.

For the people who would like to have the best of both worlds, they should use Wiring because the Wiring environment is capable of handling Arduino boards, whereas the Arduino environment does not handle Wiring boards and a Wring Play Shield is available that allows you to stick Arduino shields on the Wiring S board.

The Wiring S board is simply rectangular with its extension connectors on a 0,1” grid and 4 mounting holes placed in a logical manner. I do not like the position or the shape of the reset button; it is too hard & difficult to press. The solder side of my board was not cleansed properly and this seemed to be true for the whole batch received by my distributor. Maybe this is a pre-series problem?

Retro yellow LEDs!

Will the Wiring S meet with the same success as Arduino? Hard to say, I guess not, it is probably too late now.


  1. Typical. "Those other guys are doing better than us, so let's clone them but make our own implementation subtly incompatible (just re-arrange the expansion connector a little). Everyone will suddenly flock to us, right? Right?"

    A clue for them - sticking the Open Hardware tag on something doesn't mean that people will want to use it.

    There are Arduino-compatible development boards for a variety of different controllers available now (I'm getting hold of a PIC one myself sometime). That means you can take advantage of the shields but use the controller of your choice. I don't see what this board has to offer.

  2. Wow that was cranky and vaguely bill-o ish!

    I find that the wiring -S connectors are a refreshing break from the arduino shield system which is poorly laid out at best. It is also a hell of a lot better than the Sanguino which precedes its use of the mega644. Please not that there are actually 2 full 8 bit ports that dont have pins dedicated to loading software (something that always annoyed me about using the arduino)

    The reason they use kicad instead of eagle is because of the designers belief in open source. They are also (like the arduino team) committed to not offshoring their fabrication. I think its ironic that you use a Chineese made clone as your example Arduino.

    Over all I think there is lots to like about the new wiring S and that maybe you should work with it a while before being so quick to dismiss it.

  3. I am not sure who you are addressing, but if you are addressing me (as in author), note that I don't dismiss Wiring S, it just amazed me a lot. As I said, Arduino & Wiring seem to evolve in opposite directions which is pretty interesting.

    P.S. What do you mean with "bill-o ish"?

  4. So I think that Wiring S is an interesting board.