What You Need to Know about the Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized computer that plugs into a TV and a keyboard and is a capable little PC that can be used for many of the things that a normal desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing, and games.

It also plays high-definition video. It can also be used to learn to program as it stimulates basic computer science learning in schools. It is priced at $25 and $35 for its two variants, Model A and Model B.

raspberry pi model a symbol

What is the Raspberry Pi?

It is a small-sized processor which includes long-term storage, high-definition video capabilities on a System on Chip (SoC). It, however, does not include a hard disk but instead uses an SD card to boot and store.

raspberry pi model b symbol

It comes with 256 MB RAM that can be upgraded to 512MB. It has a 700 MHz CPU with a dynamic clock speed that can go up to 1 GHz. It’s a low-powered board with 2.5W and 3.5W for its Model A and B, respectively.

The History of Raspberry Pi

In 2006, early concepts of the Raspberry Pi were based on the Atmel ATmega644 microcontroller. The first ARM prototype version of the computer was mounted in a package the same size as a USB memory stick. It had a USB port on one end and an HDMI port on the other.

In August 2011, fifty Alpha boards were manufactured. These boards were functionally identical to the planned model B, but were physically larger to accommodate debug headers.
In October 2011, a version of RISC OS 5 was demonstrated in public, and following a year of development, the port was released for general consumption in November 2012.
In December 2011, twenty-five model B Beta boards were assembled and tested.

The first batch of 10,000 boards was manufactured in Taiwan and China.

Initial sales commenced 29 February 2012[47] at 06:00 UTC;. At the same time, it was announced that the Model A, originally to have had 128 MB of RAM, was to be upgraded to 256 MB before release.

On 16 April 2012 reports started to appear from the first buyers who had received their Raspberry Pi. As of 22 May 2012 over 20,000 units have been shipped. On 16 July 2012, it was announced that 4000 units were being manufactured per day, allowing Raspberry Pis to be bought in bulk. On 5 September the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a second revision of the Model B Raspberry Pi. On 6 September 2012, it was announced that going forward the bulk of Raspberry Pi units would be manufactured in the UK, at Sony’s manufacturing facility in Pencoed, Wales. The foundation estimates the plant will produce 30,000 units per month and will create about 30 new jobs. On 20 April 2012 the schematics for the Model-A and Model-B were released by the Raspberry Pi foundation.

Who Produces the Raspberry Pi?

UK-based, Raspberry PI.

Where Can I Buy a Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi can be bought from Amazon or through Premier Farnell/Element 14 and RS Components. Both distributors sell all over the world.

How Much do They Cost?

It has an introductory price of $25 and $35 for Model A and B, respectively plus local taxes and shipping/handling fees.

The Hardware Specifications of the Raspberry Pi Models

It measures 85.60mm x 56mm x 21mm, with a little overlap for the SD card and connectors which project over the edges. It weighs 45g. The SoC is a Broadcom BCM2835. This contains an ARM1176JZFS, with floating point, running at 700Mhz, and a Videocore 4 GPU. The GPU is capable of BluRay quality playback, using H.264 at 40MBits/s. It has a fast 3D core accessed using the supplied OpenGL ES2.0 and OpenVG libraries. The GPU provides Open GL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG, and 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode.

raspberry pi symbol

The GPU is capable of 1Gpixel/s, 1.5Gtexel/s or 24 GFLOPs of general-purpose compute and features a bunch of texture filtering and DMA infrastructure. That is, graphics capabilities are roughly equivalent to Xbox 1 level of performance. Overall real-world performance is something like a 300MHz Pentium 2, only with much, much swankier graphics.

There is composite and HDMI out on the board, to hook it up to an old analog TV, to a digital TV, or to a DVI monitor (using a cheap adapter for the DVI). There is no VGA support, but adaptors are available, although these are relatively expensive.

The Raspberry Pi is built from commercial chips which are qualified to different temperature ranges; the LAN9512 is specified by the manufacturers being qualified from 0°C to 70°C, while the AP is qualified from -40°C to 85°C. It has a sound over HDMI support. There’s a standard 3.5mm jack for audio out. Can add any supported USB microphone for audio in.

The device is powered by 5v micro USB. The device should run off 4 x AA rechargeable cells, but there may be stability issues as the batteries lose their charge.  Using 4 x AA Alkaline cells will result in 6v and it is therefore recommended to use a voltage regulator.

The Model B version of the device includes 10/100 wired Ethernet. There is no Ethernet on the Model A version (which we expect to be taken up mostly by the education market), but Wi-Fi will be available via a standard USB dongle.

Model A

Model A has one USB port and no Ethernet controller and will cost less than the Model B with two USB ports and a 10/100 Ethernet controller.
Though the Model A doesn’t have an RJ45 Ethernet port, it can connect to a network by using a user-supplied USB Ethernet or Wi-Fi adapter. There is in reality no difference between a model A with an external Ethernet adapter and a model B with one built-in, because the Ethernet port of the model B is actually a built-in USB Ethernet adapter. As is typical of modern computers, generic USB keyboards and mice are compatible with the Raspberry Pi.

Model B

The Raspberry Pi model B board is supplied as the board only and comes without an operating system, SD card, power supply, keyboard, case, or cables. Its features are:

  • Broadcom BCM2835 700MHz ARM1176JZFS processor with FPU and Videocore 4 GPU
  • GPU provides Open GL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG, and 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode
  • GPU is capable of 1Gpixel/s, 1.5Gtexel/s or 24GFLOPs with texture filtering and DMA infrastructure
  • 512MB RAM
  • Boots from SD card, running a version of Linux
  • 10/100 BaseT Ethernet socket
  • Price: £21.60 (exc VAT & delivery)

What Operating System Does the Raspberry Pi Use?

The Raspberry Pi uses Linux kernel-based operating systems. Raspbian, a Debian-based free operating system optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware, is the current recommended system, released in July 2012. Operating Systems running, ported or in the process of being ported to Raspberry Pi are

  • Full OS:
    • AROS
    • Linux
      • Android
        • Android 4.0
      • Arch Linux ARM
      • Debian Squeeze
      • Firefox OS
      • Gentoo Linux
      • Google Chrome OS
      • Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix
      • Raspbian
      • Slackware ARM
      • QtonPi
      • WebOS
        • Open webOS
    • Plan 9 from Bell Labs
    • RISC OS
    • Unix
      • FreeBSD
      • NetBSD

Debian is recommended for default distribution as it’s straightforward to replace the root partition on the SD card with another ARM Linux distro if one wants to use something else. The OS is stored on the SD card. By default, it’ll be supporting Python as the educational language.

What Kind of Programming Languages are Supported on the Raspberry Pi?

BBC Basic, C, and Perl.

What Kind of Applications Exist for Raspberry Pi?

Crowdsourced Scheme of Work

Potential BBC Micro 2.0

What Kinds of Accessories Exist for Raspberry Pi?

Prototype camera module and uses a 14-megapixel module. A number of Raspberry Pi-specific peripheral devices and cases are available from third-party suppliers. These include the Raspberry Pi Foundation sanctioned Gertboard, which is designed for educational purposes and expands the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins to allow interface with and control of LEDs, switches, analog signals, sensors, and other devices. It also includes an optional Arduino compatible controller to interface with the Pi.

What are the 5 Most Popular Uses of the Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi is working with partners to get software materials developed, as well as with the open-source community. Some of the uses are:

  • Computing at School to write a user guide and programming manual, tutorials including video to use it as a teaching platform for other subjects, including languages, maths and so on to put together teaching material such as lesson plans and resources and push this into schools.
  • Documentation and teaching
  • A one-button audio book player for the visually impaired
  • Raspberry Pi driving a huge LED panel and
  • Pi Cars: Raspberry Pi controlled RC cars.






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