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Using the Pin Object

Each analog and digital pin of the I/O board is represented by a Pin object. The Pin object is the foundation for many of the Breakout IO objects and is also very useful on it’s own. This section describes how to use pins as digital inputs, digital outputs, analog inputs and analog outputs.

Digital Input

Let’s assume you have an Arduino board with a button connected to digital pin 2 and that you have created an instance of the IOBoard object and named it “board”.

In order to use pin 2 as an input, you must first set the pin mode to digital input (DIN):

board.setDigitalPinMode(2, Pin.DIN);

Next you need to get a reference to the Pin object associated with digital pin 2:

var btn = board.getDigitalPin(2);

So in order to use a digital pin as an input, you first need to set the pin mode, then get a reference to the pin:

board.setDigitalPinMode(2, Pin.DIN);
var btn = board.getDigitalPin(2);

Now that we have a reference to the pin we can we can read the pin’s value:

var pinValue = btn.value;

The value of a digital input will be 1 or 0. While we can check the pin value at any time, it’s most useful get the value only when it changes. To do this, you can attach an event listener to the Pin object. In this example we’ll listen for a change event:

btn.addEventListener(PinEvent.CHANGE, onPinChange);

This will call the listener function onPinChange each time the value of the pin changes. You can use any name you like for the listener (so onPin2Change, onBtnChange, etc. are also valid names).

Next we define the listener function:

function onPinChange(event) {
  console.log("pin value = " + event.target.value);

Notice the function parameter named event. This is an object that contains data about the event (in this case a PinEvent). You can use any name for this parameter (‘evt’ and ‘e’ are other common names). All event objects have a property named target that provides a reference to the object that fired the event. So in this case, event.target refers to the Pin object representing the button and therefore event.target.value refers to the value of the button (either 1 or 0). The code simply prints the pin value to the console each time the button is pressed.

If you need to refer to the target more than once, it is best to create a variable first such as:

var pin = event.target;
console.log("pin value = " + pin.value);

This is more clear and also makes lookups to properties of pin faster if you need to get or set the value of multiple properties.

We can also get the number of the pin. This is useful if you have more than one digital input and want to use a single listener to handle all of the inputs. For example, assume you have also connected buttons to pins 3 and 4 of the I/O board and added a listener for the CHANGE event to each Pin object. You can handle all of the changes in a single listener function to save memory:

function onPinChange(event) {
  var pin = event.target;
  switch(pin.number) {
    case 2:
    case 3:
    case 4:

There are two additional events available for the Pin object. They are PinEvent.FALLING_EDGE and PinEvent.RISING_EDGE. The falling edge event is dispatched / fired when the pin changed value from 1 to 0. The rising edge event is fired when the pin changed value from 0 to 1. If you are only interested in being notified when the value changes from 0 to 1, then simply listen for the rising edge event:

btn.addEventListener(PinEvent.RISING_EDGE, onHigh);

function onHigh(event) {
  // assume the button is wired with a pull-down resistor so a value
  // of 1 indicates that the button was pressed
  console.log("button pressed");

Now that you have a better understanding of how to use a pin as a digital input, you may be wondering what the difference is between using a Pin object as a digital input and using the Breakout Button object. The Button object is a wrapper around a digital input pin, but it provides a number of useful features such as switch , sustained press events (fires at the interval specified while the button is held continuously) and setting the pin mode automatically. In most cases, if you are using an actual button (in that it’s a digital input that is physically pressed by a human) as a digital input it is best to use the Button object, but if you have another type of digital input  that is not controlled by a physical press (such as a motion sensor that outputs a high or low value when presence is detected), then it may make more sense to use the Pin directly as described in this section.

Now lets look at digital output.

Digital Output

A common digital output that is easy to understand is an LED. Let’s assume an LED is connected to digital pin 9 of an Arduino board.

Like in the digital input example, the first step is to set the pin mode. In this case we want to set pin 9 to digital output (DOUT):

board.setDigitalPinMode(9, Pin.DOUT);

The next step is to get a reference to the pin object:

board.setDigitalPinMode(9, Pin.DOUT);
var led = board.getDigitalPin(9);

Now since we are using a digital output, there is no need to listen for events. We can simply set the value at any time, causing the Led to turn on or off:

// turn the led on
led.value = Pin.HIGH;

// turn the led off
led.value = Pin.LOW;

A cool thing you can do with digital output is attach a Generator. A generator is a type of object that can automatically change (or drive) an output value by applying various waveforms or other equations. Currently the only type of generator in breakout is the Oscillator object. The oscillator uses a waveform to generate an output signal. The possibilities are much more exciting for an analog output (PWM) pin, but you can also use a generator on a digial output to oscillate between 1 and 0 on a set frequency. Here’s an example:

var freq = 1.0; // the frequency in seconds
var times = 0; // the number of times to repeat (zero = forever)
// create an instance of an Oscillator object that will apply a square wave
var blink = new Oscillator(Oscillator.SQUARE, freq, 1, 0, 0, times);

// add the Oscillator object to the digital output

// start the oscillator

This code attaches a square wave oscillator, setting the frequency to 1 second, amplitude to 1, offset and phase each to zero, and a repeat count of zero which will cause the oscillator to run ‘forever’. Finally the oscillator is started and the Led will blink on for 1 second then off for 1 second repeatedly until the program execution ends. You can also call blink.stop() to stop the oscillator.

You can learn more about Oscillators in the Analog Output section of this guide as well as the examples in Breakout/examples/generators/.

Also see the LED object in the Breakout/io/ package. It provides a number of helpful methods that make it easier to use an LED. However note that some of the methods such as fadeIn, fadeOut and fadeTo can only be used if the LED is connected to a PWM pin on the I/O board. You’ll learn more about using PWM pins in the Analog Output section.

Analog Input

Setting a pin as an analog input enables you to read data from hundreds (if not thousands) of different sensors. For this section let’s assume a potentiometer is attached to pin A0 of your I/O board and that you have created an instance of the IOBoard object named “board”.

Unlike the digital input and output examples, we do not have to set the pin mode to use a pin as an analog input, instead we need to enable the analog input pin:


By default all analog pins are disabled. This is so the I/O board does not have to send analog data continuously when it’s not even needed by the user. Therefore it is necessary to enable analog input for the specific pins you are connecting sensors to. It’s also worth noting that analog data is sent at a maximum rate of 19 milliseconds (53 times/second). You can lower the interval (sending data less frequently) using the board.setInterval property. So board.setInterval = 33; would cause the board to send analog data at a rate of 33 milliseconds (or 30 times/second), but you should not set the sampling interval to a rate faster than 19 milliseconds or you could end up with incomplete data.

The next step is to get a reference to the analog pin:

var sensor = board.getAnalogPin(0);

So to read an analog input we enable the pin then get a reference to the pin object:

var sensor = board.getAnalogPin(0);

Now that we have enabled analog input and have a reference to the pin we can read the sensor value:

var sensorValue = sensor.value;

Analog input values are in the range of 0.0 to 1.0. The value is only updated when it changes. While we can read it at any time, it’s best to add a listener to be notified when the value changes:

sensor.addEventListener(PinEvent.CHANGE, onSensorUpdate);

The listener function onSensorUpdate will be called automatically each time a new analog input value from pin A0 is received. You can use any name you like for the listener function so onPinChange, onSensorPinChange, etc are also valid names.

Next you need to implement the listener:

function onSensorUpdate(event) {
  console.log("sensor value = " + event.target.value);

This will print the sensor value to the console each time it changes. Note the event parameter. This is a reference to the event object (PinEvent). You can call the paramater anything (evt and e are other common names). Every event object has a property called target that provides a reference to the object that dispatched (fired) the event. So in this case target refers to the analog input pin. Therefore event.target.value refers to the value of the analog input pin that fired the event.

There are a number of useful properties that the pin object provides for analog input. First we will use a variable to store the target so we don’t have to keep referring to it as event.target:

function onSensorUpdate(event) {
  var sensorPin = event.target;
  console.log("sensor value = " + sensorPin.value);

Now we can explore some of the pin properties:

function onSensorUpdate(event) {
  var sensorPin = event.target;
  console.log("sensor value = " + sensorPin.value);

  // the minimum value sent by the sensor since the application started
  console.log("min value = " + sensorPin.minimum);

  // the maximum value sent by the sensor since the application started
  console.log("max value = " + sensorPin.maximum);

  // the average of the sensor values since the application started
  console.log("average value = " + sensorPin.average);

  // the last (previous) value read
  console.log("previous value = " + sensorPin.lastValue);

You may notice if you turn the potentiometer all the way clockwise and then all the way counterclockwise you will be quickly left with minimim and maximum values of 0.0 and 1.0 respectively. If at any point you want to reset the minimum, maximum and average values you can call the clear() method as follows:


An analog input pin also has a number property, but it may not give you the result you expect. For example if you have an Arduino Uno board and you have connected a sensor to pin A0 and you read the number property the result will be 14, not 0. This is because the number property is based on a count of the total number of analog and digital pins on the I/O board, therefore Analog pin 0 is actually pin number 14 on an Arduino Uno. There is another property, analogNumber that returns the analog number of the pin so for the Arduino Uno, the analog number of pin A0 will be 0. Here’s an example:

console.log("pin number = " + sensorPin.number); // prints 14 for an Arduino Uno

console.log("analog number = " + sensorPin.analogNumber); // prints 0 for an Uno

Breakout also includes a number of filters that you can apply to the analog input data. These include a Convolution filter to smooth data, a Scaler filter to scale from one range of data to another using a variety of equations, and a TriggerPoint filter that can be used to set a trigger when specific input values are met. To learn more about using filters, see the Using Filters guide and the examples in Breakout/examples/filters/.

If you are using a potentiometer or other linear analog input, it is often easier to use the Potentiometer object from the Breakout/io/ package rather than using the analog input Pin object directly. The Potentiometer object is a wrapper object for the analog input pin providing similar functionality but is a bit easier to use (you don’t have to worry about enabling the analog pin for example, it’s handled automatically and setting filters is also integrated). You will also find this object used in many of the examples. Also, for a complex example of using analog inputs as well as creating new IO objects for specific sensors, see the implementations of the AnalogAccelerometer  and SoftPot objects in Breakout/io/.

Analog Output

Certain pins on an I/O board can be set as analog output to simulate an analog output signal. I say simulate because an actual analog signal is not output, but rather the pin is pulsed on and off rapidly to simulate a specific output voltage. This technique is called (PWM). Most I/O boards will have a few PWM pins. The Arduino Uno has 6 PWM pins: digital pins 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11. On many Arduino boards PWM pins are marked with a tilde (~) character. For other I/O boards you may need to refer to the datasheet for the board in order to determine which pins are PWM pins, or you can print the pin capabilities for your I/O board using the following method:


Make sure your browser’s console window (search ‘how to view console’ for the browser you are using if you are not sure how to show the console) is visible before calling the reportCapabilities() method. This will print the modes associated with each pin. If you see a pin number with ‘mode: pwm’ next to it, then it is PWM capable.

Now that you have identified the PWM pins on your I/O board, you can use them to control the speed of a motor or the intensity of an LED, the color of an RGB Led, generate tones if a speaker is attached, etc. For the remainder of this section let’s assume an LED is connected to a PWM pin on your I/O board and that you have created an instance of the IOBoard object and named it “board”.

To use a Pin object as an analog output we first need to set the pin mode to PWM:

board.setDigitalPinMode(11, Pin.PWM);

Next get a reference to the PWM pin:

var led = board.getDigitalPin(11);

Now we can set the intensity (brightness) of the led:

// set the LED to 1/4 intensity (where 1.0 is full intensity)
led.value = 0.25;

Obviously this is more interesting if you can change the value over time. Try creating an on-screen slider to change the value between 0.0 and 1.0, or you can use a potentiometer (or other analog input) to change the value. Here’s an example of controlling the LED intensity using a potentiometer connected to analog pin 0:

board.setDigitalPinMode(11, Pin.PWM);
var led = board.getDigitalPin(11);

var pot = board.getAnalogPin(0);
pot.addEventListener(PinEvent.CHANGE, onPotChange);

function onPotChange(event) {
  var pin = event.target;
  // set the LED value equal to the potentiometer value
  led.value = pin.value;

You can also attach an Oscillator to an analog output to drive the output value with a waveform. We looked at the Oscillator (which is a type of Generator) briefly in the Digital Output section where we used it to turn an LED on and off. When an LED is connected to a PWM pin, however you can apply a variety of waveforms to the output value. Here’s an example of fading an LED on and off using a sine wave:

var freq = 2.0; // time in seconds
var amplitude = 1.0;
var offset = 0;
var phase = 0;
var repeat = 0; // where zero = forever, and 10 = repeat 10 times
// create a new sine wave oscillator
// this will fade the LED on over a 2 second period and then off over a 2 second
// period and repeat this cycle until the oscillator is stopped or the program
// execution ends
var sinewave = new Oscillator(Oscillator.SIN, freq, amplitude, offset, phase, repeat);

// add the oscillator to the PWM pin

// start the oscillator

Some additional types of waveforms you can apply are: SAW, SQUARE, TRIANGLE, LINEAR, and IMPULSE. To learn more about using Generators, see the examples in Breakout/examples/generators/.

The Breakout/io/ package  includes a number of useful objects (‘classes’) such as LED, RGBLED, Servo, and DCMotor that are based on the analog output pin. It’s often easier to use these hardware abstractions rather than the analog Pin object directly. See Breakout/examples/actuators/ for examples. Also take a look at the code for these objects for an example of how to create new IO objects from Pin objects.