Introduction to the Raspberry Pi
A Raspberry Pi can talk! No, really!
What is this magic we speak of? Well, the Raspberry Pi is not in fact, a tasty, fruity, delicious pastry, but a fully functioning computer the size of a credit card. Tastier still, some models can cost as little as £4.80! Sound too good to be true? It gets EVEN better – the Raspberry Pi is for all ages and experience, all you need is a mild interest in computer programming and, with one of these tasty morsels, the world could be your pie.
Programming? Isn’t that something on the telly?
No! Programming is actually a very cool skillset to have – also known as coding. Through programming, you can make a computer, such as the Raspberry Pi, talk to you, play games, switch lights on or off, record temperatures, make music, process and record data, control motors. . . the list of possibilities is endless. Essentially, programming is the way you can communicate with a computer – think of it as computer "speak". The computer interprets our coding instructions and subsequently knows how it should react to certain events, for example: every time you hit a key on your keyboard, the only way the computer knows what letter should appear in your word processing software is because someone has programmed your computer to know what all those buttons on your keyboard mean.
Why do we need the Raspberry Pi?
Before computers first started to become mainstream in late 1970’s and early 1980’s, they were mainly restricted to use in businesses, scientific research centres, engineering companies, banks and military networks. Computer programming was a language that only a handful of specialists were able to decipher and write. However, once computers started appearing in people’s homes in more affordable and useable formats, programming started to become a much more common language, as early home computers had coding as a core for basic use.
However, whilst the use of computers was becoming more popular in homes all around the world, the users of those computers were becoming less interested in writing their own programs, and more interested in using more accessible off the shelf software solutions. Why write a program to record lines of data, when a software solution like today’s Excel, could achieve the same goal with only a small amount of effort?
Through the 90’s and early 00’s, the spotlight moved away from programming. Where users would have once made their own programs, all encompassing, professionally made software with attractive graphics, and easily accessible interfaces filled the gap. The development of software once again became a niche and specialist area, restricted to those directly interested in the subject or using it in their day to day working life.
Learning the language of computers at school was replaced with learning how to use ready-made software and how to operate the hardware. The result? We now live in an age where nearly everyone uses computers everyday but most people have no idea how the computer works, how to speak its language or how to re-program it’s brain….
All is not lost! - Introducing the Raspberry Pi!
The Raspberry Pi has rapidly become the go-to single board computer for those looking for a fully programmable yet fully functioning computer system. The potential for this low cost, programmable computer is staggering.
In 2008 the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity dedicated to “placing the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world” was born. Regardless of age, background and experience, the mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to recapture the pioneering spirit of the 80’s, and usher in the next generation of computer programmers by having affordability and accessibility at the core of its ethos. With the Raspberry Pi, it’s now possible to equip an entire classroom of students with digital making resources for the price of a single laptop!
Basically, the Pi is bringing programming back to the masses with a bang!
So, what can it do?
The Raspberry Pi is a relatively high performance, incredibly low-cost desktop computer, that has easy interfacing for physical electronics. It can be used as a standalone desktop computer or a full programming environment. It can be used at home or in industry for: automation, monitoring, media, gaming, robotics, modelling, sensing, audio systems and countless others. It can be powered by a battery pack, has a huge range of pre-built accessories including screens and cameras, and is designed for beginners and experts alike.
So, when people ask “what can the Raspberry Pi do”. We usually say, anything!
Don’t believe us? Just ask some Pi users: