Raspberry Pi

It's the little circuit board that has captured the hearts and minds of the makers, the tinkerers, and the hackers.

But the Raspberry Pi is more than that. It is the gateway to the Internet of things, and the tool to teach the next generation how to create it.

In 2006, some great minds at the University of Cambridge's computer lab started to notice a difference in the applicants for the schools Computer Science program. The hackers, hobbyists and electronics aficionados that made up the bulk of the students applying in the 1990s had been replaced by folks with little to no experience in the darker arts and if anything, had mostly web-programming experience. While there's nothing wrong with web-programming, the world needs nerds, too. They got together and did what they could do to tackle the problem, and the Raspberry Pi was born. Fast forward to the 2010s, and the idea has blossomed into the Raspberry Pi Foundation and a low-cost, highly-capable single board computer — the Raspberry Pi — is available to help teach computer science and electronics to both this generation of makers as well as the next.

It's working. Inexpensive hardware combined with a pool of competent engineers and programmers willing to get dirty and share both the how and the why have made the Raspberry Pi a tool that's unparalleled for students and hobbyists alike. It takes more than just making the hardware available, and the support and interest of academia, businesses, and the community make the Pi a gateway to the next step in the computing revolution. And everyone involved wants you to be a part of it.

The basics

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a small (it's the size of a credit card) single board computer that you can connect to just about any TV or monitor, add a keyboard, and have a complete and functional desktop computer. And it only costs about $35 to get started.

It has an ARM11 700MHz CPU and on-board graphics chip (the Broadcomm BCM2835) and 512MB of RAM at it's heart, as well as it's own LAN controller and all the inputs and outputs that your bigger, more expensive desktop computer has. It's no powerhouse, but it's comparable to any desktop you might have had in the mid-2000s from a company with cow patterns on the box.

With open hardware, there are plenty of Linux options for the software — including an Android port. With a little setup, you can have a working system with a full GUI that can browse the web, help do your homework, or get down and dirty with hacking, prototyping, and programming. I wrote this blog post on a Raspberry Pi. It's really is a real computer.

The best part is that none of this is hard. Follow a few easy steps and you're set up and ready to go. None of the down and dirty is required to enjoy the Raspberry Pi if you don't want to go down or get dirty.

Pi desktop

We are going to get down and dirty in the Connectedly forums with the Pi — this is what I was born to do — but we're also going to cover all the basics to get you started. If you've an interest in the Raspberry Pi, you're going to love it.

Beyond the basics

Raspberry Pi board diagram

For some of us, building a tiny computer is not enough. Thankfully, The Pi comes complete with inputs and outputs that are readily accessible to make it connect — and interact — with the outside world. On the board you'll find JTAG headers, Ziff sockets for video input and output devices, and a powerful GPIO (General Purpose Input Oput) header. Using things like sensors, or motors or optocouplers, we can connect devices to the Pi and control them.

Welcome to the Internet of things.

Before I came to Mobile Nations, I spent most days sitting in an office/lab doing R&D work with automation equipment, machine vision systems, and robotics. I consider myself a pretty good judge of what's good and what's not-so-good when it comes to electronic peripherals. My purchasing agent might have disagreed, but I know what works best and why it works best. This is why I think everyone interested in tinkering needs a Raspberry Pi.

Let's have some fun


There are plenty of other options to use on your workbench, and many do some things better than the Pi — curse the 3.3v inputs, give me 5v DC! But none have the level of support that the Pi does. This goes for the board itself, as well as the hundreds of "accessories" that were built to connect to the Pi, and driver support, sample code, and the general knowledge that comes with something like a camera board or motion sensor for the Pi makes things easy to do and learn. I can pour through man pages, schematics and documentation because I spent years being taught how to do it and what to look for. But I think that's a sure-fire way to turn off an enthused developer who needs a little guidance. You'll not find better support for any other project board.

If you're an accomplished technician or electronics buff, you'll love the availability of "stuff" designed to use the Pi in your projects. If you're just getting started, you'll love the fact that there are plenty of people to tell you where to begin, and where to go next.

That's where we step in. And things are going to be fun. Looks for all manner of Raspberry Pi how-tos and tutorials for both the novice and expert in the Connectedly forums from staff and members just like you.

Let's do some great stuff — or blow shit up while we try.


Reader comments

What is the Raspberry Pi?


Let Me Be The First To Say..
Cute... A Nice Nerd Toy.
Off Topic Jerry:
You never answered my question.. You can send me a private.. What happened to the 2013/14 Nexus-10? you had me pumped to get it and then something terrible happened that seized it's production ( I know you know but the NDA has your lips sealed).. I still would like to know why.. I promise not to tell.

Wow Jerry H..
Thanks for Breaking the NDA.. and the Quick & Public response..
That REALLY answered ALL my questions.

Your the Douche A Hole...
Nobody was commenting to you in the first place..
When it comes to me... stay in your place and mind your business.

Another Fairy....
The joint is full of them...
Go away .. Dipshit... What are you? His Butt Boy...
STOP hanging on my words... Stop commenting on what I say.. I know I'm one of the most popular and intelligent commenters... but you look like a Butt Boy trying to help another Butt Boy out.. Go Away.

Though I think you're a smart guy (I have been in the comment section for a while now), you're a complete dick that thinks he's better than everyone else. You not above anyone, you're just one of us and that's it. Enjoy your $30 T-Mobile plan and shut your face you douche....

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Are You Gay? Searching for love??
Go Away.. You're following me like a little BITCH...
I was not commenting to you in my original comment... and I'm sick of commenting to you now BOY..
You're like woman... just shut the F*CK up... and go away... you're STILL dragging this shit out when you should not have said a damn word to me back in comment #2 it's was and STILL is Non of you're F*cking business. I was not commenting to you Dumb A$$.... What a Pu$$y you are.

The funny thing is if you read back in the comments, you're the one dragging on sounding like a woman and sounding like the gay boy talking about gay button lol

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Why don't you show us you outstanding blog commenting skill master! Tell us how fantastic your $30 plan is and how smart you are, all while jerking it to visions of Jerry licking Phil's Note 3.

Raider equals the Queen of the comment section!

Biggest douche in AC land!

Posted via Android Central App

What The Hell?
Dude.. your sick man.
Really.. Let it ( And Me Go )
Move On... Now.. you're starting to sound like some fanatic wacko that can't stop.
The End Dude.. Damn.

Good write up. My Rpi conked out on me a few months ago. Need to get a new one. Looking forward to more articles in this.

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I think its neat especially if you want a keyboard and mouse. Small desktop just for internet browsing

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If you just want it for web browsing you'd be better off with something else. You can use it for that, but it is horribly underpowered for that task, unless you are just using it to remote desktop into a more powerful computer. Why not one of those cheap Android sticks instead?

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This. The Raspberry Pi is great for hands-off embedded systems (making digital signage for example) but even suggesting that you use it as a desktop replacement is beyond dumb. Like you said, Tronsmart (among others) makes amazingly fast Android sticks if you really want an Android desktop (but trust me, you do not, keep your windows/mac).
The Raspberry Pi starts to get interesting when you actually do GPIO and other "integration" to make it do things an ordinary computer do not. Sure, if you just bought a Pi, put android on it to play for a little bit, but don't you ******* dare buy a RPi just to use it as a desktop.

Many Many things can be done and have been done with the pi, some very interesting things indeed, I must say for what it is and what it can do is quite incredible..

The Ardeno is the same but more a controller than anything else.

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I've had one for about a year. I built it a case using all red Legos, added an $8 USB Wi-Fi adapter, hooked it up to my TV, installed xmbc on it and now I use it as my htpc.

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My Pi works very well as an XBMC front end. Link it to the hard drive hanging off the wireless router, and I can stream all my music, movies, and TV shows. Love it.

My chromecast streams video like a champ from my home NAS, it was cheaper/smaller than a RPi, guests can stream their own content really easily (after i give them my wifi password), plus it hides inside the HDMI socket and runs off less power...

I have a Chromecast too, and I love it. But I haven't found a good app for streaming from my NAS yet. What platform and app do you use, joebob2000?

Jerry, I'm curious on your thoughts on the Arduino. I was thinking about either when I bought an Arduino. It's a bit simpler to be sure, but I feel like it meets my needs more than a Rpi. I'm not quite ready to tinker with single board computing, and none of my project ideas need that sort of hardware.

Arduino's are freaking awesome. We'll be visiting them as well.

I just started with the Pi, because it's running a full OS and people that would rather tinker with Linux instead of connecting wires to things can get involved.

If you like the PI, give BeagleBone Black a try. It's a little more expensive, $45, but has a lot more I/O, memory, etc. It has enough memory to hold applications and OS without using a SD card, but has an SD card for extra storage. Also there are a lot of plugin daughterboard accessories called "capes" to add displays, device controllers, etc.

I've almost gotten a Pi (or other micro PC) so many times over the past few years. And reading this, I again want to. But when it comes down to it, I can't figure out what exactly I would do with it.

Somebody please convince this cheap skate that I should cough up the 40 bucks. Please! What is this "stuff" that Jerry says is available for use with the pi. I don't see myself playing old nintendo games or automating Xmas lights. I can't get over the hump that once I get over the novelty of its size, I won't have any use for it. I google projects for the Pi, and mostly people are using it to do things I already do.

I've got this under-powered (by today's standards) 10 year old Dell sitting here with 8 USB ports, ethernet, parallel, serial, hdmi, DVI, vga, audio I/O, 2 internal HDs (1 TB, and the original 80 GB), RAM, printer, scanner, 2 monitors, back-up external HD, DVD R/W... It's been running Linux for years. I play/tinker/learn software and networking. I constantly run a game server, web server, ssh/ftp server, and DLNA server on it (and VoIP in the past, but my Nexus 5 does that now instead). Oh, and I also do my "work" from it (database reporting by remote accessing my boss's and his customer's MS servers (boo) via freeRDP ).

And then I've got my real (modern) computer (Linux Mint) in the living room for the more fun/heavy-duty stuff.

Give me a cool reason, please!

Build a robot. Seriously, you are right that anyone with a desktop "tinker station" computer can already do just about anything the Pi offers, just in a larger package (which only matters if it is needed for permanent use) but, who doesn't want a robot?