Who Stepped Up When the Chips Were Down?

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Who Stepped Up When the Chips Were Down?
Make Magazine, Volume 83

It’s been another tumultuous year in the world of embedded electronics. Supply chain snags have scarcely relented, while new chips jostle for position as the maker’s go-to. Meanwhile, lots of exciting new boards, software, and other technologies let us continue to innovate. Let’s survey the maker landscape and see who stepped up when the chips were down!


Arduino Week in March was a brilliant virtual event, showcasing amazing new products — but frustrated makers couldn’t get their hands on many items being showcased because supply issues prevented them from being manufactured.

But even when there’s no hardware to hack on, software development can continue, which led to the release of the new Arduino IDE 2.0 in September. The complete ground-up rewrite ditches 1.x’s Java-based Processing origins for the Eclipse Theia framework, familiar from Microsoft’s wildly popular and extensible Visual Studio Code IDE. Read more about it on our blog — and flip to page 47 in this section to sneak an exclusive peek at Arduino’s exciting new Make Your Uno kit!


The Raspberry Pi Foundation is finding great success in the microcontroller market, as its Pico and new Pico W (wireless) microcontroller dev boards find their way into a plethora of projects, not to mention the RP2040 chip that powers them. Meanwhile the trend of porting Python projects to microcontrollers using Adafruit’s CircuitPython platform — instead of relying on the grunt of single-board computers — continues to prove popular, benefiting the whole RP2040 ecosystem.

But not everything is so sweet in Pi world, with SBCs practically unobtainable for as long as we can remember. If you check rpilocator.com every day, you may be lucky enough to get your hands on a CM4 compute module, which you can pair with a carrier board like Timonsku’s Piunora, but the stalwart Pi 4 is often only available via secondary markets, typically for several times list price.


Some experts predict we’ll see things back to “normal” or at least stabilizing by 2023. In the meantime, we revel in the novel solutions and workarounds we see in the community, and we hope this special section, and our annual Make: Guide to Boards, help make your making a little easier this year!

The above is article is the opening statement of our “Boards Guide 2022”. Our yearly look at what the biggest news, advancements, and achievements are in the world of development boards. Below, you’ll find a teaser of what was included in this issue. Be sure to subscribe to get the whole story!

• WHEN CHIPS ARE SCARCE page 36 – also now online!

Scarcity continues to pinch makers and manufacturers alike. We interviewed a range of stakeholders from the supply chain spectrum, from distributors and big-name board makers down to individual maker pros, to ask how they’re affected and when — or if — supplies of components will return to normal.

• RISC-V REVOLUTION page 42 – also now online!

If you can’t get the chips you want, why not make your own? Open silicon is evolving at an incredible pace, with RISC-V chip architecture expanding from experimental FPGAs into mainstream boards like Espressif’s ESP32-C3. PINE64 is using RISC-V MCUs in its Pinecils and working on a 64-bit RISC-V single-board computer.Even laptops and cyberdecks are going RISC-V, with ClockworkPi offering an R-01 spec of its popular DevTerm deck using Allwinner’s D1 64-bit single-core RISC-V chip.

• THE REPLACEMENTS page 46 – also now online!

Makers are gonna make, whether there’s a shortage or not. We’ve lined up some recommendations for when your favorite board turns unobtainium — use our infographic to see what substitutes might work for your next project!


Included in the bag with this mag, you’ll find our 12-page Guide to Boards, new and updated for 2022! We touch on top trends and dive into details of 79 of the hottest microcontrollers, single-board computers, and FPGAs — with an emphasis on boards you can get right now.

We also went hands-on with a dozen of our favorite new and notable boards, which you’ll find described in the guide as well as in our exclusive video review. Don’t forget to grab the Digi-Key AR app so you can watch the video and see the featured boards come alive before your eyes! 

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

David bought his first Arduino in 2007 as part of a Roomba hacking project. Since then, he has been obsessed with writing code that you can touch. David fell in love with the original Pebble smartwatch, and even more so with its successor, which allowed him to combine the beloved wearable with his passion for hardware hacking via its smartstrap functionality. Unable to part with his smartwatch sweetheart, David wrote a love letter to the Pebble community, which blossomed into Rebble, the service that keeps Pebbles ticking today, despite the company's demise in 2016. When he's not hacking on wearables, David can probably be found building a companion bot, experimenting with machine learning, growing his ever-increasing collection of dev boards, or hacking on DOS-based palmtops from the 90s.

Find David on Mastodon at @ishotjr@chaos.social and to a far lesser extent on Twitter at @IShJR.

View more articles by David Groom


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