The Raspberry Pi is a cost efficient, miniaturized device with the capabilities of a standard desktop computer or laptop. Though it is compatible with a number of different operating systems (Kali Linux, FreeBSD, and Windows 10 IoT core to name a few) the official OS of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is Raspbian which is a version of Debian Linux. It comes in an array of different models, stemming from the Raspberry Pi B — their legacy model — to the Raspberry Pi 3 A+ which is a more modern version, as well as even smaller chipsets like the Raspberry Pi Zero W. The differences among each Raspberry Pi lie in the size of their input components, which is how you connect all external peripherals (keyboards, mousepads, monitors, etc...) and its functionality with the Pi Zero W offering a wireless experience.
Cool story bro…but what does that mean!?
It means that the possibilities are endless! People of all ages and skillsets can utilize this mini motherboard in a plethora of contrasting ways. Programmers use languages such as Scratch and Python to interact with the device in their projects. You can use a Raspberry Pi in all kinds of scenarios like music production, cyber security, and gaming to DIY projects like building your very own vending machines or mini tablets with infra-red cameras made from scratch. Even if you aren’t the most tech savvy, the Raspberry Pi in its simplest form offers the luxury of never having to lug a heavy computer bag around ever again.
Go on, I’m listening…
Now that you are a little more familiar with what a Raspberry Pi is and what it does, I would like to introduce you to a few projects that are sure to keep your attention. The purpose of these examples are to display the wide range of capabilities that are at your disposal when working with these devices.
The Retro Pie is software that allows you to turn your Raspberry Pi into a gaming console. You can choose from a long list of systems from Atari to PS2 and everything in between (or perhaps even before) to setup your own personal environment. The RetroPie uses emulators which are software that make your Pi behave like another computer, in this instance the console of your choice. From there, it uses ROMs which you load into the software in order to play your game. You can think of these ROMs as digital cartridges or cd’s.
You could even build a portable gaming console by attaching a 7.5" LCD screen to your Pi and game on the go. There is a very big community out there for RetroPie users and all of the documentation that you can handle online, including the link in the title. That should be your first step in getting started.
Before attending my cohort at the Flatiron School‘s Access Labs, I attended a webinar that was given by one of the instructors on a really cool piece of software that allows users to turn code into music. Sonic Pi can be used by game developers who are musically inclined to create theme songs for their applications. The software comes with its own API that can be used in various ways from using synths and FX to working with samples and randomization.
Sonic Pi allows for you to turn your Raspberry Pi into a portable beat machine which is not only convenient for developers but DJ’s and aspiring musicians alike. Their website has step by step tutorials to get you started and will take you anywhere you want to go in the realm of music production beginning with the link in the title.
My final example is geared more towards fans of networking in order to show you how powerful the Raspberry Pi can be by connecting multiple devices together. An OctaPi is a cluster computer, which is a form of cloud computing, that takes form by attaching a number of Pi’s together for the functionality of a server. By combining each machine together, you could hypothetically take programs from a client PC and run them on the OctaPi.
Not the most ideal situation for a sever but it is a very interesting hack and displays the kind of computing power you can get out of these machines with a little bit of Open Source and imagination. There are several different approaches that one could take when diving into a project like this but for the sake of OctaPi, I have attached a good place to start in the title.
Are you hungry yet?
In conclusion, the Raspberry Pi is a very intuitive piece of technology that can be easily utilized by skillsets of all levels, especially as a child’s first computer. You can purchase them separately with all of their accessories or in a variety of full kits which can be found on Amazon or any other online shopping platform. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the different models so that the one you choose will be most suitable for your project at hand.
Thank you for taking the time and reading this. I hope you have a better understanding of the Raspberry Pi and all of the possibilities that come with it. I wish you all happy hacking and look forward to seeing what’s next in the world of programming!