Learn About Raspberry Pi

Introduction

In this article, we will be talking all about Raspberry Pi. It's not a fruit – it’s a $35 computer.

Getting Started

The first question that comes to our mind is what exactly is Raspberry Pi? - It is not a fruit. Read through the article below to know more and I am sure, you will be as hooked on it, as I was.

Hello!!! Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer (size of a credit card) designed and developed in the UK. This tiny computer enables everyone (big or small) to learn physical computing, explore the basic electronics and learn how to program. The main reason behind developing Raspberry Pi was to teach children about physical computing, make them understand how the computers work and make them interested in the programming.

It’s a computer - you can do almost anything with a Raspberry Pi, that you would with a normal computer. You can play music, browse the Internet, run applications, write the programs, using languages like Scratch, Python or C# etc. Raspberry Pi is capable of running a full operating system. There are different OS (Windows, MAC, Linux version), which can be installed and run on a Raspberry Pi, the recommended OS is a Linux flavor OS called Raspbian (by Raspberry foundation maker of Raspberry).

As mentioned above, the size of Raspberry Pi is that of a credit card. It is a single board, which has a Broadcom processor (SOC – system on chip) made by ARM. It’s similar to the processors, which are found on the mobile phone. ARM processor is fast and light weight. Raspberry Pi does not have its own hard disk, keyboard, mouse or monitor.

Hard Disk - Raspberry Pi does not have its own hard disk. You will need to use micro SD cards in place of the hard disk and the OS will be installed on these micro SD cards. (Minimum 2 GB micro SD cards is recommended for installing OS and running the normal functionality on Raspberry Pi). The benefit of using micro SD card is you can easily swap this computer (Raspberry Pi) with different OS's on different SD cards. There is a micro SD card slot at the underside / bottom of the Pi board.

For monitor, keyboard and mouse, you can connect Raspberry Pi via HDMI port to a monitor (you may need an HDMI to VGA connector to connect to the monitor), connect the keyboard and the mouse, using USB ports on it. Raspberry is powered up, using a micro USB connection and a power adapter of 5 volt output (adapter used in the mobile phones and the tablets). It also has built in Ethernet connection to connect to the Internet.

Note
 
It is recommended to use a powered USB hub to power all the USB devices like keyboard and mouse etc. because powering (connecting) these devices directly to Raspberry Pi would leave Pi underpowered, leading to a shorter component life and even nonfunctioning Pi.

Raspberry Pi also has a bunch of GPIO (General Purpose Input Output) pins, which are open/ exposed, so that we can use it to build circuits, using sensors. GPIO pins are easy to configure, control and you can write the program to read the sensor data coming from the GPIO pins and send back the data to GPIOs pins after processing.

Currently, there are six different boards of Raspberry Pi, available in the market of which 4 are available for the purchase in the open market.

You can purchase these boards as an individual or as a part of Startup kits (recommended for beginners). Startup Kits contains Raspberry Pi board, 8 GB SD card with the pre- installed OS, Raspberry Pi Case, power cables, Breadboard, Wi-Fi dongle and other most essential items like the sensors (Temperature, Color, light etc.), jumper cables, capacitor, resistors, LEDs (red, blue and Green), push buttons etc. These startup kits are the best way to start doing some popular IOT projects.

Note

I would recommend a starter kit from Adafruit the Microsoft IoT kit.

Below are the four Raspberry boards for reference.
  1. Raspberry Pi Zero

    Raspberry Pi Zero

    • Dimensions : 65mm x 30mm x 5mm
    • Weight : 9g
    • Price: less than $10

      Pi Zero has a Broadcom BCM2835, 1GHz ARM11 core CPU and 512 MB RAM, makes it powerful enough to handle small tech projects. It has all the functionality, which most Pis have to offer. Pi Zero board is much smaller compared to the new version boards (Model A and Model B devices). Pi Zero board is featured with a micro SD card slot, a mini HDMI socket for video, a micro USB socket for the data, power and an unpopulated 40 pins GPIO header ( similar to Model A+/B+/2B).

  2. Raspberry Pi 1 Model A+

    Raspberry pi 1 Model A+

    • Dimension: 65mm x 56mm
    • Weight: 23g
    • Prices: $20

      Raspberry Pi Model A+ was released by Raspberry foundation in the Year 2014. It has a Broadcom BCM2835, 700MHz Core CPU and 256 MB RAM. Pi A+ board is featured with a micro SD card slot, a 4 pole Stereo output and a composite video port, full size HDMI socket, CSI camera port (Raspberry Pi camera module), DSI display port (Raspberry Pi touch screen display), Micro USB power connector for power, 4 mounting holes and 40 pins extended GPIO header.

  3. Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

    Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

    • Dimension 85.60mm × 56.5mm
    • Weight: 45g (1.6 oz)
    • Prices: $35

      Raspberry Pi 2 Model B was released by Raspberry Pi foundation in 2015. It was a replacement for Model B+, released in Feb 2014. The major changes were the processor and the RAM. It has the Broadcom BCM2836 SOC - System on Chip (CPU, GPU, DSP, and SD RAM), 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU and 1 GB RAM. Pi 2 Model B board is featured with a MicroSD card slot, Video / audio HDMI 1.3 and 1.4, HD 1080p video output, Composite video output (PAL / NTSC), Stereo audio output, Ethernet port 10/100 Base T RJ45, 4 USB 2.0 ports, 15-pin MPI CSI-2 connector for Raspberry Pi HD Video Camera, 15-pin serial display interface connector, Power supply: +5 V @ 2 A via micro USB jack, 40-pin connector for GPIO and serial buses.

  4. Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

    Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
    • Dimension 85.60mm × 56.5mm
    • Weight: 45g (1.6 oz)
    • Prices: $35 ( This price hasn't changed)

      Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is the latest of Raspberry Pi boards and was released by Raspberry Pi foundation in March 2016. I have the improved performance, connectivity and power management with a 64- bit CPU and onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It has a size similar to the B+ and Pi 2. Pi 3 Model B board is featured with a MicroSD card slot. It has the Quad Core 1.2GHz Broadcom BCM2837 CPU (64-bit ARM Cortex A53) and 1 GB RAM, It has the BCM43143 Wi-Fi (802.11n), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), 40-pin connector for GPIO, 4 USB 2.0 ports, CSI camera port, DSI display port, MicroSD card slot, HDMI, 4 pole stereo and composite video port, Upgraded Switched power source up to 2.4A. The performance of the Pi 3 is roughly 50-60% faster than the Pi 2, which means it is ten times faster than the original Pi.

I hope this article gave you a good idea about Raspberry Pi, its capabilities and its various boards. In the next article, we will go up close to a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B board and learn all its components.