Fifteen people voluntarily commented on the cost of the Arduino relating to the importance of DIY without being prompted by a question about cost. The Arduino microcontroller costs about $35 USD, while Arduino's precursor Wiring is $85 USD. The inexpensive option available for the Arduino microcontroller is influential for two reasons given in the interviews conducted. First, when a replacement is financially within reach, the fear of destroying the original diminishes and drives up experimentation and creativity. Destroying something that is cheap is much more forgiving on your pocketbook and your mindset when learning something new. Second, the Arduino is affordable, allowing it to be embedded into projects permanently. David Zicarelli observed:
"I was really struck by the idea of what a radically inexpensive computer could mean to people making art — a design goal of the Arduino project was that you could make installations and not have to tear them apart when you were done because you needed your laptop to read your e-mail."
Artist Rebecca Stern uses the Arduino because they are inexpensive enough for her to leave in her artwork. Stern used a different microcontroller, the PIC in graduate school, previous to working with the Arduino microcontroller. PIC chips themselves are cheap, but the closed-source programmer costs $70-90 USD. She asserts that the proprietary and expensive nature of the PIC would prevent her from leaving it in projects, "The PIC was only accessible to me when I worked in the computer lab at school and the propriety [PIC] programmer was paid for by the lab."
Other microcontrollers available on the market are the Basic Stamp, priced around $80 USD, and the Making Things microcontroller for $85 USD. There are also cheaper Arduino boards made available from within the Arduino community. An example is the Freeduino priced at $26 USD, Fig 4. The Freeduino is designed from the same schematics as the Arduino, but not supported or branded by the Arduino company. The open source initiative allows cost to be driven down to the lowest price.
Photograph provided by solarbotics.com
Photograph provided by moderndevice.com
Another example is the Barebones kit, as seen in Figure 3-4, is sold as loose components to be soldered to the board, thereby removing the manufacturing cost of boards. The Barebones kit costs $20 USD, and the blank PCBs and individual components are also available for purchase. The BoArduino is another option available for $17 USD. Although Arduino does not officially support these boards, they all function on its open source software. The significant implication of an inexpensive microcontroller is that it drives up the total number of artworks designed with the Arduino microcontroller.