Single-board computers.The term is self-explanatory. These are computers (objects that compute – rapidly most of the times) which have a single-board circuitry. Some other popular examples are the BeagleBoard, the PandaBoard etc. Today, BeagleBoard is a very well-known SBC but it has its own downsides in terms of cost. $100 is too much for a beginner. I am not willing to shell out this kind of money to get promoted to a particular genre of embedded systems.

And this is where, Raspberry Pi comes in. Priced at mere $25 and $35, built with a charitable intention by a relentless set of individuals, Raspberry Pi may do to microcomputers and programming what Arduino did to microcontrollers and robotics.

Who is doing it?

The ‘Raspberry Pi Foundation’ is in-charge of the development of this device. It is a charitable organization founded in UK. The foundation is supported by the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory and Broadcom. It was founded with the aim to make learning computers FUN and to promote its study by even school children.

The board and the logo

This is the board as of now - revisions are expected.

Some Technical Details

The Raspberry Pi is based on a Broadcom SOC – BCM2835. The CPU is a member of the ARM11 Family. Initially, the $25 model A was supposed to have 128 MB RAM. But, later its RAM was increased to the same as model B’s 256 MB.

Model B has 2 USB ports whereas Model A has just the 1 USB port. Also, Model B has the RJ45 ethernet connector on-board which is absent on Model A. Both models have a traditional 3.5 mm jack for audio output and also support HDMI along with composite RCA video output. Both models have an SD/MMC slot on-board which is used for booting.

As of the OS, Raspberry Pi will be shipped with a modified version of Fedora installed with support for Debian and ArchLinux also available. Also, it comes bundled with Python as the main programming language. This makes a strong case for the board’s educational purpose.

What can you do?

So what can you possibly do with this board? Well, the initial demos showed this board handling the hi-def graphics for Quake-3 (a high-end computer game – as of now). Also, to the not-so-geeky-person, this board has more power than your Pentium series. Android does not support 256 MB RAM, but someday, when someone will port Android to this platform, I don’t think the hand-helds will be restricted to tablets and mobiles only.

You can have a customized gadget of your own – I like to read books, play songs and play games on my computer but I am not a big fan of touch screen. Maybe, someone will do me a favor. My friend is a truck driver, he wants a portable TV that can show him his favorite Doordarshan serial, along with his current position on NH17. I am guessing he also likes his bhangra songs. Maybe someone will do him a favor. My girlfriend is a movie-savvy person. At the same time, she works a lot on Python and is on the move a lot. Maybe a cost-effective gadget for her will be my gift to her while proposing!

Raspberry Pi has Python installed on it. And you can do LOTS with Python. So, that opens up a large window of applications to you! Also, it has 9 GPIO pins – this is not the best part. Only nine pins might not be enough, but it is a start – you can make your screen behave the way you want with a simple button – turn off the Red color, decrease brightness — the point is not the complexity of the application, it is about learning and doing more.

Please visit this link and watch the video — that shall throw more light on what capability this device has.

For those who have had a good experience with microcontrollers and want to get their hands dirty with some meaningful embedded knowledge – this is your prototyping machine!

PS: Can someone please gift me a Raspberry Pi board? I swear I will use it well.