Arduino Uno is a microcontroller board based on the ATmega328P (datasheet). It has 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6 analog inputs, a 16 MHz quartz crystal, a USB connection, a power jack, an ICSP header and a reset button. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller; simply connect it to a computer with a USB cable or power it with a AC-to-DC adapter or battery to get started.. You can tinker with your UNO without worring too much about doing something wrong, worst case scenario you can replace the chip for a few dollars and start over again.
“Uno” means one in Italian and was chosen to mark the release of Arduino Software (IDE) 1.0. The Uno board and version 1.0 of Arduino Software (IDE) were the reference versions of Arduino, now evolved to newer releases. The Uno board is the first in a series of USB Arduino boards, and the reference model for the Arduino platform; for an extensive list of current, past or outdated boards see the Arduino index of boards.
This is the new Arduino Uno R3. In addition to all the features of the previous board, the Uno now uses an ATmega16U2 instead of the 8U2 found on the Uno (or the FTDI found on previous generations). This allows for faster transfer rates and more memory. No drivers needed for Linux or Mac (inf file for Windows is needed and included in the Arduino IDE), and the ability to have the Uno show up as a keyboard, mouse, joystick, etc.
These boards are compatible with the Arduino software, but they do not accept standard shields. They have different connectors for power and I/O, such as a series of pins on the underside of the board for use with breadboards for prototyping, or more specific connectors. One of the important choices made by Arduino-compatible board designers is whether or not to include USB circuitry in the board. That circuitry can be placed in the cable between development PC and board, thus making each instance of the board less expensive. For many Arduino tasks, the USB circuitry is redundant once the device has been programmed.
The Uno R3 also adds SDA and SCL pins next to the AREF. In addition, there are two new pins placed near the RESET pin. One is the IOREF that allow the shields to adapt to the voltage provided from the board. The other is a not connected and is reserved for future purposes. The Uno R3 works with all existing shields but can adapt to new shields which use these additional pins.
Arduino is an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple i/o board and a development environment that implements the Processing/Wiring language. Arduino can be used to develop stand-alone interactive objects or can be connected to software on your computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, MaxMSP). The open-source IDE can be downloaded for free (currently for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux).