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how do i know which input/output hardware/software are compatible with the arduino platform? is there documentation (i know technology changes rapidly)? are there rules/guidelines that i can use when i'm looking for hardware/software? for example, if i buy a physical part i need (let's say some sort of sensor), how do i know if there are supporting software libraries that i can use?
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a good place to start is the playground

http://www.arduino.cc/playground/Main/InterfacingWithHardware
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Are these the only components that work with the Arduino platform? or are these the ones that have been tested? i'm just asking.

thanks for this list. it's a long list, and i don't think i need anything outside of this list at the moment.
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No Arduino works with a lot of parts, it's just a matter of choosing the right part for the job at hand.

The standard Arduinos run a 5V and can interface with almost any IC that runs a 5V or less.

If you have a specific part you are in doubt about, just ask, and if possible post a link to a datasheet.
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Quote
or are these the ones that have been tested?

Those are the ones that have been tested and found to work by someone who was willing to take the time to write descriptive information and (usually) sample code that was considered "good enough" to make the cut among the folks editing that part of the site.

You'll find hundreds of different chips and sensors that people have tried out and only documented on a blog,  in a youtube video,  or in a quick posting to one of the forums.  Or not documented at all.

As MikMo said,  if in doubt about part "xxxx",  try doing a google search for "arduino xxxx" and/or a forum search for "xxxx":  you'll often find info that hasn't made it onto the "official" interfacing page.  And,  if all else fails,  ask here.

Ran
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the arduino can be compatible with darn near everything... weather there is a convenient "plug n play" libarary is available is a totally different story

most hardware devices fall into a small amount of different categories, and once you learn most of the basics it will become easier and easier to interface different systems to the arduino

realistically, once you understand the limitations of the hardware you can do anything you want within those limitations, and beyond with careful hardware and software design (which just falls to experience)
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thanks guys.
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