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Hardware spotlight: The Raspberry Pi

Originally Published:
Sep 2016

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, ultra-cheap computer—and it has taken the world by storm. This ebook offers an overview of what this little board can do and how it’s being put to use.

From the ebook:

The Raspberry Pi was created as an affordable machine that would help kids learn how computers work but has become far more than that. You can use the Pi as a desktop PC replacement, albeit with limitations when it comes to web browsing, and there are myriad possible uses for the board.

Media center, weather station, virtual assistant, smart home hub, high-performance clusters, virtual desktop thin client, robot brain, Lego-powered book scanner, retro games console, eye in the sky, drone guidance--you name it, someone's done it.

The Pi is a great machine for learning about how to get to grips with computers and is available at a price that makes it hugely accessible.

The machine's official Raspbian OS is loaded with tools for learning how to program, from the drag-and-drop coding offered by Scratch to various aids for writing and debugging the programming language Python. But as the abundance of Pi-powered electronics suggests, the board will let you dabble in more than just software.

If you want to break out the soldering iron and start learning about breadboards that have nothing to do with a fresh loaves, the Pi's also got you covered.

For hardware hacking, the Pi is equipped with 26 general purpose input/output pins, electrical channels that allow the board to communicate with other computers or electronics and are the key to the Pi's use in some of the more ambitious hardware projects involving robots and drones. Getting started with hardware is relatively easy, thanks to the abundance of starter kits that bundle the boards and other electronics you need.

Today, the Pi is much more than just a cheap, tiny board running Linux, thanks to an ecosystem of products — some official, some unofficial--that extend what the board can do, from cameras to add-on boards that combine the Pi with the Arduino prototyping platform.

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