What is a Raspberry Pi Computer

The Raspberry Pi is a low cost micro computer developed to help kids gain computer and electronics skills in schools. It is also very popular with amateur electronics enthusiasts building 1000's of projects from flashing LEDs to Robotics.

What is a Raspberry PI?

A Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized micro computer, first released in 2012, designed by RaspberryPi.Org to be a cheap computer of around £25, that schools and educational places can afford. IT classes in schools had just become lessons on how to use Microsoft Office so no real computing skills were being taught. The Raspberry Pi project would allow schools to teach a class to program and build electronics projects without spending £1000's on equipment, giving kids the basic skills that industry required when they leave school.

The Raspberry Pi, also known as RPi or Pi, has also become very popular with hobbyists and professionals who build electronics projects and develop software. In two years over 4 million Raspberry Pi's had been sold with it's popularity growing all the time.

With the Raspberry Pi's popularity and many backers it has started to make a difference in the way IT is taught in schools with many children who wouldn't usually be interested in computing or electronics enjoying the hands on approach the Raspberry Pi offers.

The Raspberry PI Models

There are six main models of the Raspberry Pi available. The Raspberry PI, RPi B+, Rpi 2, RPi 3, RPi Zero for electronics projects and the RPi Compute Module aimed at industry. 

The Raspbery Pi 3 B+

RaspberryPi3Bplus

In March 2018 the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ was released as an update to the Pi3. It has increased processor speed at 1.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.2 and the addition of duel band wifi at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The power management features are optermised and the addition of a PoE header (Power over Ethernet).  This means the  Pi 3 B+ will only need power from an Ethernet port rather than a 5v usb power supply if yuou plan on having a permantly connected ethernet cable.

Features:

 

  • ARMv8 Cortex-A53 64bit 1.4Ghz Quad core CPU
  • Duel Band Wifi 802.11ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • Bluetooth 4.2 & Bluetooth Smart Low Energy
  • 1GB of memory
  • 40 pin GPIO port used to connect to addon boards or connect sensor's, motors, LED's and buttons for electronics projects
  • 4 USB version 2 ports
  • 3 x Faster Ethernet port compared to PI3
  • HDMI display Port to connect to a TV or Monitor
  • Shared 3.5mm audio out and video out port.
  • RPi Camera Connector for use with the PiCamera module
  • RPi Display connector for the touch screen display.
  • MicroSD card port to run the operating system from.
  • Improved power management

 

 

The Raspberry Pi 3

The Raspberry Pi 3 model B

The Raspberry Pi 3, first released in 2016, is generally the same as a Raspberry Pi 2 but has a faster 64 bit processor and built in WiFi and Bluetooth.

Main features:

  • ARMv8 Cortex-A53 64bit 1.2Ghz Quad core CPU
  • Wifi 802.11n
  • Bluetooth 4.1 & Bluetooth Smart Low Energy
  • 1GB of memory
  • 40 pin GPIO port used to connect to addon boards or connect sensor's, motors, LED's and buttons for electronics projects
  • 4 USB version 2 ports
  • Network port
  • HDMI display Port to connect to a TV or Monitor
  • Shared 3.5mm audio out and video out port.
  • RPi Camera Connector for use with the PiCamera module
  • RPi Display connector for the touch screen display.
  • MicroSD card port to run the operating system from.

 

The Raspberry Pi 2

HDMI display Port to connect to a TV or Monitorraspberrypi 2 B 

The Raspberry Pi 2, first released in 2015, is much faster than the previous model and has twice as much memory.
Main features:

ARMv7-Cortex-A7 900MHz Quad core CPU (BCM2836)

1 GB of memory

40 pin GPIO port used to connect to addon boards or connect sensor's, motors, LED's and buttons for electronics projects

4 USB version 2 ports

Network port

HDMI display Port to connect to a TV or Monitor

Shared 3.5mm audio out and video out port.

RPi Camera Connector for use with the PiCamera module

RPi Display connector for the touch screen display.

MicroSD card port to run the operating system from.

 

The Raspberry Pi B+ or B plus

raspberry pi B plus 

The Raspberry Pi B+ is an update to the Raspberry Pi B as it has a much better power circuit allowing for better performance when powered by a battery and run more demanding USB devices such as hard drives. The audio circuits have also been updated to improve sound and noise reduction.
Main features:

  • ARMv6 Single core processor (BCM2835)
  • 512mb memory
  • 40 pin GPIO port
  • 4 USB ports
  • Network Port
  • HDMI port
  • Shared 3.5mm audio out and video out port.
  • RPi Camera Connector for use with the PiCamera module
  • RPi Display connector for the touch screen display.
  • MicroSD card port to run the operating system from.

 

The Raspberry Pi B

Raspberry Pi model B

The Raspberry Pi B is the original model which is the same as the B+ but with only 2 USB ports and a slightly different layout. Though most have 512mb memory the Raspberry Pi's released in 2012 only had 256 mb of memory but otherwise were the same.
Main features:

  • ARMv6 Single core processor (BCM2835)
  • 512mb memory
  • 26 pin GPIO port
  • 2 USB ports
  • Network Port
  • HDMI port
  • Audio out 3.5 jack port
  • Phono analogue video out port.
  • RPi Camera Connector for use with the PiCamera module
  • RPI Display connector
  • Full size SD card port to run the operating system from.

 

Model A Raspberry Pi's

For both the model B and B+ versions there is a model A which has the same specifications but does not have a network port, has a single USB ports and 256mb of memory. These are a cheaper alternatives for classrooms at about £17 each. At the moment there is no model A of the RPi 2.

 Raspberry Pi Zero

PiZero

The Raspberry Pi Zero is a cut down version of the Raspberry main boards designed to be used in electronics projects costing only £4 ($5).

Main features:

  • ARMv6 1Ghz Single core CPU (BCM2835)
  • 512MB of memory
  • mini-HDMI slot for 1080P video output
  • unpopulated 40 pin GPIO header
  • unpopulated composite video header
  • mini CSI Camera Port (an adapter is required to use a Pi Camera)
  • size 65mm x 30mm x 5mm

 

Raspberry Pi Zero W

RaspberryPiZeroW

The Raspberry Pi Zero W is the same as the Raspberry Pi zero but also has Wifi and Bluetooth bult in and costs around £9.50

Main features:

  • ARMv6 1Ghz Single core CPU (BCM2835)
  • 512MB of memory
  • mini-HDMI slot for 1080P video output
  • unpopulated 40 pin GPIO header
  • unpopulated composite video header
  • mini CSI Camera Port (an adapter is required to use a Pi Camera)
  • Wifi 802.11n
  • Bluetooth 4.1 & Bluetooth Smart Low Energy
  • size 65mm x 30mm x 5mm

 

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module

The Raspberry Pi compute module. This is the Raspberry pi aimed at developers of industrial applications, who want to use the Raspberry Pi technology to make other devices so don't need USB ports, network ports, display and audio ports. The module contains the CPU and 512mb of ram and is layed out on a small 6.5cm x 3cm board with 200 pin SODIMM edge connector. There is 4gb of flash memory onboard to run software instead of using an SD memory card.

Available seperatly is a Development kit for the compute module that adds a USB port, 2x 60 pin GPIO ports, 2x Camera Ports, 1 Display pport

 

 

 What you need to use a Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry PI is just the main circuit board and needs additional items to make it usable. Though it can be used with just a SD memory card and a power supply, to use it as a desktop computer you will need:

An SD memory card for the B & B+ or a micro SD card for the RPi2 RPi3

A 5 volt phone charger with a micro USB connector rates at 1 amp for the B & B+, 1.8 amps for the RPi2, 2.2 amps for the RPi3 and 2.5 amps for the RPi3 B+

A HDMI cable to connect to a TV

A Keyboard and Mouse, best option is a wireless set where both mouse and keyboard share 1 USB wireless dongle.


It's recommended that you also get a case to protect the Raspberry Pi circuit board and for ease use a WiFi dongle instead of a wire connected to the network port for internet access. The Raspberry Pi 3 has built in WiFi and Bluetooth.

Software

For software there are various free operating systems that can be used but the main one supported is a Linux operating system called Raspbian. For ease of use download and install Noobs, then follow the instructions to install Raspbian.

Noobs from RaspberryPi.org

List of other some other Operating Systems available Operating Systems

The version of Raspbian available from the Raspberry Pi foundation contains several tools and programs for learning including

  • Scratch - a easy and fun way for children to learn to program
  • Sonic Pi - create sound and music through programing teaching both music composing and codeing
  • Python - A programming language that is simple to understand and powerful
  • Minecraft Pi Edition - a version of Minecraft where buildings can be done through programming in the Python language
  • Wolfram & Mathematica is a Mathamatics programming tool used in science, engineering, computing and maths.

In addition to these programs you can download 1000's of other programs from within Raspbian for free to do most things you can do on a desktop computer from browsing the internet, playing games, playing music and watching videos, web servers, science, electronics, communications, HAM Radio and educational tools..

View the Raspbian software package in the software section to see what is available raspbian-packages-list

 

 

 

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