I’ve been messing around with the 123D Circuits Arduino emulator today. For the most part I like it, probably because it’s saved me from the cost of buying an Arduino Starter Kit. The code editor seems to faithfully reproduce the Arduino environment. Given that my main motivation was to find a way to sharpen up my Arduino coding skills (more like rust removal) it does the job. I also wanted to give it a good try before I recommended it to any students.
It’s not perfect, with my main annoyance being the fixed distance between the legs of components like LEDs and resistors. As you can see from my electronic dice circuit the breadboard ended up in a bit of a mess and a couple of components don’t connect with a hole. Drawing wires was also a little tricky, especially when it came to joining components, and having to change the value of multiple resistors was tedious. Maybe I haven’t found copy and paste yet. But, having said this, it works well enough.
More than anything I find this obviously virtual experience quite disconcerting. This has more to do with my preference for getting to know gadgets by tinkering with them rather than any deficit in the emulator. My inner Kinesthete wants to plug the wires and components in, wants to twist and turn the breadboard to trace the paths taken by wires and check for problems. But of course you can’t. Even if you could (Unity/Oculus Rift 3D breadboard, anyone?) it still wouldn’t be the real thing.
On balance it’s more than good enough and it’s saved me 70 quid so the price is most definitely right.