Arduino: The VW of Tiny Computers
The Arduino board was developed in Italy in 2005 as an open source hardware and software educational platform but succeeded wildly and way beyond its original goals. As of May 2011 more than 300,000 units had been shipped. The original design consists of an 8-bit Atmel AVR microcontroller. In fact the Arduino has become a family of products that range from minimalistic "Lilypad" running at 8MHz through to the forthcoming "Due," which will use the 32-bit Atmel SAM3U processor running at 96MHz. A large number of expansion boards are available that support Ethernet, serial I/O, and sensors of all kinds. With a starting price of around $26, the Arduino is also insanely cheap.