As the popularity of Arduino boards increased, the demand for boards which comes embedded with some of the add-ons used with the Arduino increased. One of the most popular add-ons were the WiFi modules which are used to connect Arduino boards to the internet. Several boards were released by different manufacturers which used the Arduino form factor and had onboard WiFi module, but none of these boards became as popular as the NodeMCU. Today, we will be exploring how to use the NodeMCU board in projects and especially how to easily program the board using the Arduino IDE.
The NodeMCU is an ESP8266 WiFi based microcontroller board that helped overcome some of the difficulties associated with several versions of boards based on the ESP8266 WiFi module/chips from Espressif.
The Arduino came at a time when the IoT revolution was starting out and it gave makers the opportunity to be part of that revolution by building simple connected devices, combining the Arduino and several different kinds of WiFi and Ethernet modules/shields. All those modules were either too expensive or quite complex to use. So when the first version of the ESP8266 module (ESP-01) came to market, it was an absolute delight as the low price and quality drove the popularity of the chip. Users, however, quickly discovered several constraints from the power requirements to the breadboard unfriendliness of the chip. The chips had little (written in Chinese) or no documentation and this made them even more difficult to use. Several other versions of the modules were made but they all had similar constraints.
To resolve some of the issues associated with these modules, several breakout and development boards based on these modules were made such as the Wemos D1 (which worked like the Arduino Uno) and Wemos Mini boards, but none of them quite achieved the same level of popularity as the NodeMCU.
The NodeMCU board is essentially a breakout/development board for the ESP12E module by AI-thinker.