We can run the Arduino framework on an Espressif ESP8266 chip, but that was not its original purpose. It was originally designed as a WiFi bridge for small devices, handling wireless networking duties on behalf of another microcontroller. But as it turned out, the chip was more than capable to drive the whole show by itself for certain scenarios. Versions 1 and 2 of Pixelblaze, for example, ran on an ESP8266 even though my experience has been with the ESP32-based version 3. I haven’t had a project of my own where the ESP8266 made sense until the current InfluxDB logging project. It is time.
My electronics skill isn’t up to the level of directly using a bare ESP8266 chip. Using a module integrating ESP8266 chip with support circuitry (including a circuit board antenna) is close, but just beyond my comfort level. I went online looking for development boards for such modules and it appears many of them are clones of something called “Wemos D1 Mini“. A brief look at related web pages seem to indicate this rose to prominence alongside a development platform called NodeMCU. I don’t know which came first, the NodeMCU platform or the Wemos D1 Mini module, but they seem to be mentioned side by side in a majority of my search hits. Since I came into this project looking to use the Arduino core on an ESP8266 board, I’ll set aside the NodeMCU angle for now. I clicked “Buy” on a batch of Wemos D1 Mini clones from the lowest bidder of the day. (*)
When they arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had multiple options on connectors. The package came with three sets: I could have pins appropriate for a breadboard, or sockets appropriate for jumper wires, or passthrough connectors with both pins and sockets. And since none of them were pre-soldered on the board, I actually have a fourth option to “dead-bug” wire a circuit directly without any of those connectors. I think this will prove very useful to fit projects in tight spaces. Some people may gripe about having to heat up a soldering iron before this board is usable, and to them I shall point to this fishing line trick.
For my first ESP8266 project, I’ll stick with traditional pins, followed by mounting it in a perforated prototype board.
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