The Arduino is a development board with a ATMEGA microcontroller. With it, you can control lights, motors, sensors, etc. This is a very fast tutorial to put your board to work.
Putting your Arduino to work:
Step 1: Download the Arduino IDE 1.0.5 (or later) for your OS: (i.e. Windows, OS X or Linux): http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Software then extract it. If you are using windows, you can also install it directly by clicking on the windows installer link;
Step 2: Plug the Arduino board to your computer via a usb cable, which comes together with the board;
Step 3: Open the IDE (click on the Arduino icon inside your installation folder). It will open Arduino's IDE:
Step 4: At the IDE, click on Tools > Board and select your board version. In this example, we are using Arduino Uno. Then, go to Tools > Serial port and select your board's serial port;
Step 5: Uploading your program to the board:
Example 1: Go to File > Examples > Basics > Blink, to open the code for this example. Click in the upload button (the play button in the toolbar). After the upload, the on-board LED will start blink.
Example 2: Now connect a button and a 10K resistor to your board like this picture:
Go to File > Examples > 2.Digital > Button, to open the code.
Upload your program like the previous step. On this example, the LED will be on when the button is pressed.
Example 3: Get a potentiometer and connect it like the picture::
Go to File > Examples > 1. Basic > AnalogReadSerial to open the following code:
Then, go to Tools > Serial Monitor, it will appear a window like that below:
Turn the potentiometer and see the changes in the analog value read:
Well done! Now you can start exploring your board. Try running these examples and changing some values in the codes. Enjoy!