Once again I am impressed by British ingenuity to produce a basic computer for $5, less than the price of an upmarket cup of coffee!
A previous version released last year cost $20 and was still affordable. The company started out in 2012 and has since made an enormous global contribution to education. I look forward to reading about ingenious implementation.
It’s a fascinating topic, and that site you linked to seems pretty good. Still, I have to confess that I’m basically clueless about how to use a device like this. I’m yet to form a concept of how software/code (like Python) connects with a Pi to do anything useful. And if you have to plug it in to a computer of some kind, what’s the actual point of the Pi? Is it that it’s a physical device that can have all sorts of things connected to it?
As usual, the most basic conceptual framework is missing for dummies like me that want to know where this fits in to the scheme of things!
You don’t have to plug it into a computer. It is a computer that runs Linux and is capable of pushing 1080p with a built in HDMI plug. It’s too slow to use as a desktop computer, but it can do a lot.
I bought the original Pi in 2012 and for a while I used it as a media center and my TV ran off it. Then the Chromecast came out and I upgraded to that, then to a Roku 3. My Pi is just collecting dust. I was able to install the latest Node.js on it though, but I haven’t found any use for it because I have a homeserver that does pretty much anything I need.
It also has a bunch of connectors to plug in other stuff for hobbyist projects. The original was only 5v, so it could easily run off battery power.
This new $5 version looks to be more powerful than the version I bought in 2012 for $35. Except being as big as a wallet, it’s about as big as a USB drive.
Pi Zero is a tiny device and contains the first generation Raspberry Pi’s BCM2835 chip, safely overclocked to 1GHz. Pi Zero packs the same great GPU as the regular Raspberry Pi, and comes with 512MB RAM. It runs Linux, and runs all the programs and applications any other Pi will—including Python, Sonic Pi, Java, a web browser, and much more. You can run a media center, teach programming with it, learn to make music, or embed it in a project—and it fits on your keyring!
This is probably one of the coolest Pi projects I’ve seen:
I guess that’s where my confusion is. How do you get those things “on there”. Perhaps I’m too stuck in the keyboard-mouse-screen mentality, but I don’t understand how it’s used for such things. The site John linked to talks about Python programming for the Pi, for example, but how, where? It’s still a bit of a mystery to me how you interact with that little thing.
I became friends with a member of the local Tandy Computer Club. We visited another Tandy meeting where he plugged a table lamp into one end of a school hall and used his Tandy at the other end of the hall to control the table lamp! The signal was super-imposed over the 250 ac mains. Bearing in mind this was way back about 1978 and to me was quite revolutionary. (I believe street lamps are now activated using a similar system.) The same guy visited an auction and bought an industrial printer that was the size of a normal office desk. Because it was so big and very noisy he installed it in a shed at the bottom of his garden. Once again it was controlled with a two core cable running from his bedroom window. At the time his day job was selling mainframe ICL computers to governments and corporations. Later he setup his own company printing barcode stickers, his main customer was one of the largest car manufacturers.
Same guy met another club member, who he later employed mostly due to the computer voice system written in Assembler and installed via a cassette recorder.
Times have certainly changed, the Raspberry Pi now has 512 megs of memory whereas the good old Tandy only had 8K and 4K was taken up with the operating system!
It cost US$399 ($1558 today), or US$599 ($2339 today) with a 12" monitor and a Radio Shack tape recorder as data cassette storage…
The point I’m trying to make (in my own simple way) is that you’ve got this little thing sitting on your desk, the size of a wafer. How do you connect with it? What are you doing this through? Presumably another computer?
There are some missing links in there. Sorry to be so simplistic about it, but everything I’ve read on the Pi jumps straight in to talking about the command line etc, without thinking to mention how you access this little thing. Sorry if I’m being thick.
Yeah. It connects to your network and you use SSH to remote into it via the command line terminal (PuTTy or Mac Terminal). It has a built in Ethernet port or you can buy Wifi Dongles.
Here is mine. It’s in a simple $10 black case I bought. It just sits there plugged into my router. It takes very little power so I don’t even worry about it. The red cable is Ethernet, the black cable is MicroUSB Power like you’d have connected to your cell phone.
Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for posting a photo! I presume you can’t connect wirelessly to it?
Heh, those things presumably cost more than the Pi itself. Still, I’m getting the idea now.
So is the main advantage of a device like this (over just coding on your normal computer) is that it connects to other external things? Otherwise, if you need another computer anyway, it’s not really a computer in its own right, by the sounds of it.
At work we sometimes use them with an Arduino; the Pi tells the Arduino what to do ( for instance turn a stepper motor ) and the Arduino sends the pulses out to the stepper motor.
Another use is to connect it up to sensors and the Ethernet and the Pi sends the information from a sensor to another computer in a different location. A lot cheaper than a full size computer.
A guy at work has one connected up to a microscope and uses a Pi camera to send the information to a monitor.
I saw all the various comments on Twitter and elsewhere about this yesterday and was intrigued. Especially with the promotion they are doing with a free one attached to their magazine - though I gather there are only 10,000 copies available that way. They seem to get used an awful lot in educational establishments as a really low cost way of introducing kids to what can be done with computers. They also seem popular with the IoT crowd for prototyping.
I’d quite happily pick one up myself, but right now, I’m really not sure what I’d end up doing with it. I seem inundated with computer hardware as it is. That said, that’s never really stopped me before.