Makey Awards 2012 Nominee 12, Atmel, Most Hackable Gadget

Makey Awards 2012 Nominee 12, Atmel, Most Hackable Gadget

Founded in 1984 and headquartered in San Jose, semiconductor manufacturer Atmel Corporation is best known, at least in our little corner of the web, for making single-chip microcontrollers, specifically the AVR series used in all official models of the popular Arduino open-source microcontroller platform.

Besides AVRs, Atmel’s microcontroller segment manufactures an extensive ARM-based microprocessor line, the Intel 8051-compatible AT89 series, and a selection of capacitive touch-sensing components for use in screens and other controls. Besides microcontrollers, Atmel does business in nonvolatile memory chips, radio-frequency and automotive components, and “bespoke” ICs designed to meet particular customers’ needs.

In May 2011, Massimo Banzi estimated 300,000 Arduinos “in the wild.” If Atmel realized $5 for each Arduino sold (an optimistic figure, to be sure), their revenue from official Arduino sales, to that date, comes to $1.5 million, or less than 0.08% of the $1.8 billion in total revenue they posted last year. Figures like these shed some light on why Atmel, historically, has been slow to respond to the Arduino phenomenon, and to the steadily-growing maker and open source movements that champion it: In an industry built around annual per-customer orders in the millions of units, the Arduino phenomenon is barely a blip on the radar.

Recently, however, Atmel has responded. Last year, when Phil wrote his widely-read Why Arduino Won column, searching “arduino” on the Atmel website didn’t return a single hit. Since that time, Atmel has started taking notice, linking out to Arduino resources from their “Education” pages, issuing their own press releases to support important Arduino-related events, sponsoring Arduino-themed contests, and more. They joined us at Maker Faire Bay Area 2012 and we are looking forward to seeing them, again, at World Maker Faire NY at the end of this month.

So thanks, Atmel, for all you’ve done to help make Arduino what it is today, and for the commitment you’ve already demonstrated to helping it grow into the future. Welcome to the running for the 2012 Makeys!


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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan