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What is a Raspberry Pi - Learn More

The Raspberry Pi is a low-cost, pocket-size Linux computer, combining all the components needed for a fully-functional computer on a single small circuit board.
The Raspberry Pi can do anything a desktop can do, and is a great way to learn programming and computing.

Since its launch in 2012, Raspberry Pi has become the third most widely used computer brand in the world.

Its small size, along with its use of open source Linux software, makes the Raspberry Pi and incredibly flexible tool and it can be used to power a huge range of projects and systems, from simple media centres to security systems or homemade gaming console. Raspberry Pis are even used in industrial applications as a cheap and flexible alternative to industrial control units.

What can I do with it?

Raspberry Pi’s low cost and portability makes it great for learning to code and program. For users who already have these skills, there are a huge number of potential applications for such a compact computer.

Access to a huge open source community means even without programming skills the Raspberry Pi can be put to use in a wide range of DIY electronics, home automation and business tasks.

Here are a few examples of what the Raspberry Pi can do:

What components does a Raspberry Pi have?

The exact specifications depend on the model.

All Raspberry Pis have built-in RAM and consist of a combined CPU/GPU with RCA, 3.5mm audio and HDMI outputs, along with USB and SD card ports, and are powered using a micro-USB connection. Ethernet connectors are also available on Model B variants.

All models feature a General Purpose Input/Output, or GPIO, which allows it to connect to and control external devices, components and modules using a number of programming languages.

All models released from 2016 onwards also include integrated WiFi.

The Raspberry Pi is distributed with Raspbian pre-loaded onto an SD card, an open source Linux-based OS specifically designed for the Raspberry Pi. Any Linux operating system can be booted from SD card, including many open source projects purpose-built to get the most out of Raspberry Pi’s hardware.

Common Accessories

Exactly what hardware you need to go with your Raspberry Pi depends entirely on what you plan to use it for, but there are a few peripherals and accessories that will come in handy for almost any purpose:

  • Input device.
    • You are going to need some way of controlling the Raspberry Pi. A USB keyboard and mouse is a cheap and readily option, but a touchscreen could be more useful if you are building a portable device.
  • Display.
    • The Raspberry Pi can output to any monitor or screen with RCA, HDMI or 3.5mm input, however a dedicated touchscreen lets you create a device that can be used an configured on the go, and provides a compact input solution at the same time.
  • Case.
    • If you are taking your Raspberry Pi out and about it is a good idea to protect it with a case. Plenty of stylish designs are available, many of which are built to accommodate an attached touch screen.
  • Spare SD cards.
    • Raspberry Pi boots from an operating system stored on an SD card. Spare SD cards mean you can switch between systems as simply as swapping out the card. In effect you can carry dozens of purpose-built computers in your pocket, each stored on its own SD.
  • USB Hard Drive.
    • If you want to use your Raspberry Pi to store a large amount of files such as in a media centre or server implementation, you’ll want something bigger and faster than SD memory. A compact USB hard drive with low power consumption will allow you to maintain portability and a small form factor.
  • Micro-USB Battery.
    • A wide variety of compact batteries are available designed specifically for the Raspberry Pi so you can use it anywhere.

What models are available?

Raspberry Pis come in a variety of specifications and prices. The cheapest available is the Raspberry Pi Zero at £9.30, while the most powerful is the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ at £34.

Model A variants of each generation are cheaper, have reduced specifications and lack an Ethernet port, but have significantly lower power consumption than Model Bs.

The Raspberry Pi Zero is a smaller, more powerful version of the Raspberry Pi 1, the W variant has built-in WiFi capability.

Model

Release Date

Raspberry Pi 1 Model B

2012

Raspberry Pi 1 Model A

2013

Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+

2014

Raspberry Pi 1 Model A+

2014

Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

2015

Raspberry Pi Zero

2015

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

2016

Raspberry Pi Zero W

2017

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

2018

Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+

2019

Is the Raspberry Pi open source?

The Raspberry Pi runs Linux and its default operating system, Raspbian, is open source and uses a suite of open source software. The majority of official and unofficial software available for the Raspberry Pi are open source projects.

While the Raspberry Pi’s schematics are freely available, the board itself is not open hardware, and is only made by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

What is the Raspberry Pi Foundation?

The Raspberry Pi is developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK-based charity dedicated to the global accessibility of computing and digital creation.
The Foundation achieves this goal by providing cheap but capable computers viable for building and learning, as well as training educators and providing free resources educating people about computing and digital content creation.