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I've searched the web but could not find a straightforward answer to my query.

I am building a control board for one of my models and this time have decided to also include a computer interface, so I have incorporated an Arduino Uno into my project instead of just analog circuits. I'm not an electronics expert of any sort but I manage by applying basic logic and a lot of trial and error.

Anyway, I have a single Arduino. It is operating the following:

An LCD display, a 4 button operation panel I made using an LS148 ic, an L293 operating 2 small motors, a servo, a dark sensor, a temperature sensor, and it also does serial communication.

Everything is working great, but slow (or so it appears to me).

If i push a button it takes the board about a second to pick up on the signal while an external LED indicator shows the circuit using the LS148 is working as it should. (I basically chained the 1-4 inputs and checking the truth table on the board to determine which button was pressed). Or pick up on a signal sent from the dark sensor for example. It appears as if the whole code in the Arduino runs at a cycle of once per second. Also sending instructions from the computer.

When I disable the LCD code everything works fast(er) and so goes when I remove other parts. So my question is, have I overloaded it?

I am on the verge of ordering another board (which I am going to do anyway), but in this case it is purely due to my belief that if I connect the LCD with the whole display code onto one board and the rest of the sensors and chips to another it will solve my problem.

I haven't figured out yet if it's possible to link the two boards or how to do that, but once I'll get to that bridge I'll cross it as well.

Thanks for your advice.

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A lot of Arduino code is written either generally inefficiently, or written in completely the wrong way.

For instance, take the LCD code. Commands have to be sent at the right speed with the proper delays in there for things to happen. LCDs are actually quite slow devices to communicate with, and as a result the LCD code has a large number of delays in it.

Nothing else can happen while there's a delay() running.

Many other things will introduce their own delays. Put them all together and you have a slow system.

No, you're not overloading it, you're slowing it down on purpose, and all those small slow-downs add up to one big grind.

There are other ways of doing these things, of course, which are far more friendly to the chip - things that don't require delays of any form.

For a start there is the millis() function which tells you the time. Using that to know when to do things, instead of sitting waiting for them to happen, allows you to do so much more at once.

It's like boiling an egg. Do you put the egg in boiling water and sit there staring at it for 3 minutes (or however long you like your egg cooking), or do you set the timer on your oven to alert you in 3 minutes time so you can go and do the ironing while the egg is boiling?

It's the same with Arduino programming. Note the time, then check that time against the current time to see if the required time has passed.

Of course, with things like the LCD library, changing it to work that way would be quite a lot of effort.

There are also hardware timers. These allow you to run small snippets of code at regular periods. Great for managing things like servos or other motors where you only want to be changing the state or speed of them say 10 times per second. Instead of updating them all the time, just set a desired speed / position variable and let the timer interrupt update the actual motor at a lower rate.

There are two key phrases to take away here:

  • Non-blocking. That is basically writing routines that never wait for something to complete, but can check to see if it's time for something to happen.
  • Asynchronous programming. This is using things like timers to make things happen "outside" your main loop.
  • So you are saying that the list of components and circuits have no effect and my problem most likely is in the code? – user10946 Jul 1 '15 at 17:42
  • More than likely, yes. External components don't affect the speed of the chip, only how you program it can do that. – Majenko Jul 1 '15 at 17:44
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    The problem with most of the Arduino libraries is that they are sort of ok at doing one task, but they do it inefficiently and monopolize the whole device. So when one tries to do a real system, problems like this one are quite common. One solution is to use more units, each with a specific purpose. After all they are fairly cheap. Alternatively, get rid of the Arduino code base and just treat it as normal AVR, using for example FreeRTOS. – Igor Stoppa Jul 1 '15 at 19:25
  • Another good choice would be to work with Cosa as the core instead of Arduino. If you switch to UECIDE instead of the Arduino IDE you can switch between Arduino and Cosa as the core at will. – Majenko Jul 1 '15 at 22:24

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