A quick demo of how to change 8 pins at a time with an Arduino, using some AVR C code:

void setup() {
  DDRD = 0xFF;

void loop() {
  static uint8_t lights;

  lights >>= 1;
  lights ^= (~lights) << 7;
  PORTD = lights;

This makes lights connected to pins 0-7 flash (I have a video). I used LEDs connected to 220Ω resistors.

I needed to use port D since that’s the only port the Arduino exposes all pins on. The problem is you need to disconnect pins 0 and 1 to upload a new sketch, because they’re also the serial lines to the FTDI chip.

A bit about how it works:

DDRD is the Data Direction Register (DDR) for port D. Bits set to 1 are outputs, and 0 are inputs. This line sets them all to outputs. Calling pinMode() on pins 0-7 manipulates this register.

In loop(), static means this value doesn’t reset for each function call. uint8_t means “unsigned 8-bit integer”. By using this instead of an int, the AVR only needs one instruction to manipulate it instead of the two it needs for the 16-bit int.

Setting PORTD changes the pins on port D. Calling digitalWrite() with pins 0-7 changes this register, but writing to PORTD directly changes all of the pins at once.