You may have heard of the Raspberry Pi, a series of mini computers the size of a credit card. They are built on a single circuit board, and provide the same basic functionality of a normal sized computer at a fraction of the size and cost! Speaking of cost, this is one of the defining features of the Raspberry Pi – the latest model (the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B) only costs $35 US. Computer parts have become cheap nowadays but you would be hard pressed to build a working computer with the functionality of the Raspberry Pi for $35 US! The staggeringly low cost comes out of the philosophy behind the Raspberry Pi’s inception, which was to advance the cause of education (for both adults and children) in particular relating to computing. And the fact that the Raspberry Pi is made by a charity foundation!
The Raspberry Pi can do pretty much everything a computer can do. It can browse the web, output high definition video and audio, word processing and spreadsheet creation, programming, and even playing games. It features many of the standard outputs such as USB, HDMI, ethernet, 3.5mm audio and composite video jack, Micro SD, CSI (camera interface), and DSI (display interface). These mean you can theoretically interact with any device which can connect through these inputs, including TVs and monitors, audio devices, cameras, video players… the list goes on.
The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, which was released in February 2015 to replace the previous Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+, features all of its predecessor’s specifications and improves on processing power and RAM. The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is equipped with a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU. With this CPU, the latest Raspberry Pi can run the entire range of ARM GNU/Linux distributions as well as Microsoft Windows 10. Microsoft has worked closely with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to bring Windows 10 to the Raspberry Pi, and the latest Microsoft operating system will be free of charge to makers.
Perhaps the most exciting feature of the Raspberry Pi is its versatility. It has been used in countless applications by amateurs and professionals alike, from music to robotics, programming and art. Because the Pi is open-source, it is free for everyone from kids to artists to develop and modify for their own needs. Musicians for example have developed synthesizers on the Raspberry Pi, which they use to create and play electronic music. Going back to the Pi’s educational roots, there is a school project (currently in the trial phase) which challenges students to create a weather station using the Raspberry Pi which is able to record, interpret and analyse weather.