DIY makers around the world are building customized computerized gizmos thanks to the Raspberry Pi, and similar computers. These diminuitive computers pack a lot of computing power, at low energy requirements, and by running Linux they are more approachable than microcontrollers like the Arduino. The Raspberry Pi is the best known of this class of computer. Because of the very large user community, there is a ton of accessories, books, tutorials, and more focusing on the Raspberry Pi.
The possibilities for this amazing little computer are huge. In a small space, you have a full fledged Linux computer with significant memory, processing power and device connectivity. In this case "Significant" means 1 GB of memory, a quad core ARM CPU running at over 1Ghz clock speed, USB ports, ethernet port, Bluetooth/WiFi, camera interface, display interface, HDMI, and the famous GPIO pins.
Those GPIO pins are what makes the Raspberry Pi attractive for hardware projects. The computer can be directly interfaced with electrical circuits, allowing you to directly control switches, lights, relays, electric motors, and more. The camera interface can serve as the beginning of a computer vision project.
The default operating system is Raspbian, which is a Debian variant created by the Raspberry Pi team. Debian is a popular Linux distro, and therefore Raspbian has access to a huge base of software coming from the Debian repositories. There's a long list of other distros for Raspberry Pi, some are general-purpose Linux distros while others are very special purpose. For example RetroPie is meant for old-school video game emulation.
Some folks see the Raspberry Pi as a replacement for a desktop computer. Connected to an HDMI display, with keyboard and mouse, you can run Libre Office or a whole bunch of other applications quite easily. However it is pretty limited for this purpose, since 1GB of memory and having the OS running off an SD card does not make for a terribly fast computing experience.
Another big usage area is home audio, home video streaming, file storage systems, and that ilk. There are specialized Linux distros for some of these purposes, like the OpenELEC distro that fits Kodi onto a Raspberry Pi. Plex can be run on a Raspberry Pi, but don't expect to transcode video and therefore your videos must be stored in the playback format.
One could setup a Docker/Kubernetes infrastructure on the cheap with a Raspberry Pi cluster. That would let you experiment, on a very modest budget, with these powerful cloud infrastructure tools, and get a jump start on a DevOps career. The approach is to first mount a Raspberry Pi cluster - there is specialized mounting systems for this available - wiring each to a port on an Ethernet Switch. Then you have a task of producing N distinct SD cards for each computer in the cluster. Then finally to setup Docker/Kubernetes on each. Once setup you can deploy containers and experiment with the tools at a fraction of the cost and electricity consumption of a rack full of servers.
The basic Raspberry Pi hardware is an open-source board containing a lot of computing power in a small product. It is an ARM-based system with (as of the model 3) 1GB of memory, a 1.2 GHz or 1.4GHz CPU, USB ports, Ethernet port, Bluetooth, WiFi, HDMI, and more. The most compelling feature is the GPIO interface making it easy to connect this computer to a hardware project. With the Raspberry Pi, hardware controller projects are now feasible for the masses.
Because it runs a regular Linux operating system, the programming model is familiar to regular programmers. You're not using some crazy real time operating system understandable only by rocket scientists. It's Linux, several Linux flavors available, and all the familiarty this engenders.
This simple little board is awakening zillions of programmers to embedded computing. Unlike embedded microcontrollers, the Raspberry Pi series is a Linux-based system, meaning you are using regular progrmming tools for a familiar programming experience. This 4th generation product has built-in WiFi, 1GB of memory, a 1.24GHz CPU, USB ports, an Ethernet port, a display interface, a camera interface, it uses an micro-SD card for storage, etc. While small, they are suprisingly powerful little computers. The GPIO pins mean the Raspberry Pi is meant for embedded hardware projects, but that hasn't stopped folks from using Raspberry Pi's as desktop computers or embedded media PC's.
This simple little board is awakening zillions of programmers to embedded computing. Unlike embedded microcontrollers, the Raspberry Pi series is a Linux-based system, meaning you are using regular progrmming tools for a familiar programming experience. This 3rd generation product has built-in WiFi, 1GB of memory, a 1.2 GHz CPU, USB ports, an Ethernet port, a display interface, a camera interface, it uses an micro-SD card for storage, etc. While small, they are suprisingly powerful little computers. The GPIO pins mean the Raspberry Pi is meant for embedded hardware projects, but that hasn't stopped folks from using Raspberry Pi's as desktop computers or embedded media PC's.
This complete kit includes everything required to get started using the updated Raspberry Pi 3 B+. The updated model became available on "Pi Day" 2018. It has a more powerful CPU and interfaces than the previous Raspberyy Pi 3. The kit starts with the Raspberry Pi 3, Model B+, and includes a Samsung 32GB microSD card, a USB microSD card reader, a 2.5 amp power supply, a plastic case, a pair of heat sinks, an HDMI cable, and a manual. The card reader is required in case your laptop does not have an SD card slot. The heat sinks are required since some claim the CPU can run hot. The HDMI cable lets you connect the computer to a computer monitor. All you need do is supply a keyboard and mouse, and you are ready to go.
Buy CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B+ (B Plus) Starter Kit (32 GB EVO+ Edition, Premium Black Case)
This complete kit includes everything required to get started with the Raspberry Pi 3. The kit starts with the Raspberry Pi 3, Model B, and includes a Samsung 32GB microSD card, a USB microSD card reader, a 2.5 amp power supply, a plastic case, a pair of heat sinks, an HDMI cable, and a manual. The card reader is required in case your laptop does not have an SD card slot. The heat sinks are required since some claim the CPU can run hot. The HDMI cable lets you connect the computer to a computer monitor. All you need do is supply a keyboard and mouse, and you're ready to go.
Buy CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit - Includes 32 GB Samsung EVO+
This Raspberry Pi kit includes the basic getting-started required equipment. The kit starts with the Raspberry Pi 3, Model B, and includes a 2.5 amp power supply, a plastic case, a pair of heat sinks, and a manual. While this is less stuff than the CanaKit, it is also less expensive.
Buy Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Kit with Clear Case and 2.5A Power Supply
This Raspberry Pi kit is geared to the gamer seeking a retro-gaming experience with vintage video games from the 1980's. It is a complete kit including a Raspberry Pi 3, a case looking amazingly like a certain vintage video game product, a pair of game controllers, heat sinks, a 32 GB micro SD card, a 2.5 amp power supply, a USB microSD card reader, and a manual. The SD card is preloaded with NOOBS and RetroPie. The latter is a custom operating system for Raspberry Pi containing a vintage game machine emulator, letting you load up vintage games that can be found in certain corners of the Internet.
Buy Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Retro Arcade Gaming Kit with 2 Classic USB Gamepads
This cool kit includes everything required to build a small robotic car that can roam around and take movies. Everything about this car is open source, including the source code. You have a choice between Python software, or or by using Dragit, a Snap-based graphical interface, by just simple dragging and dropping the code blocks for complex functions. The USB camera supports real-time image transmission so you can make point-of-view movies as your car zooms around. It uses a PWM motor controller, dual electric motors, a 2x 18650 Li-ION battery pack, and all parts required to build the car. The Raspberry Pi seems to not be included.
Buy SunFounder Raspberry Pi Smart Video Car Kit V2.0 Block Based Graphical Visual Programming Language Remote Control by UI on Windows Mac and Web Browser Electronic Toy with Detail Manual
The Raspberry Pi includes a CSI port letting you connect a camera module, such as this one, using a ribbon cable. This makes it easy to add a camera to projects such as a security camera system. This unit is the upgraded 8 megapixel model. It has a fixed focus lens, and a 3280 (H) x 2464 (V) Active Pixel Count.
Buy Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2 - 8 Megapixel,1080p
This Raspberry Pi case doubles as a starter-kit, but without the Raspberry Pi. The case is sleek looking, protecting the Raspberry Pi while giving full access to the pins and interfaces. Included with the case is a power supply, heat sinks, and a fan.
Buy Smraza Case for Raspberry Pi 3 with Fan Cooling and Heatsinks, 5V/2.5A Power Supply, Micro USB with On/Off Switch Case for Pi 3B 2 Model B (Not include Raspberry pi board)
This is an excellent choice when building a Raspberry Pi cluster system. All the ports are easily accessed because the sides are completely open. That also allows good air-flow for cooling. The design is sturdy and widely used. These can be stacked higher if desired, and the maker offers a 7-layer version.
Buy GeauxRobot Raspberry Pi 3 Model B 4-layer Dog Bone Stack Clear Case Box Enclosure also for Pi 2B B+ A+ B A
This is the official 7" touch-screen display panel for the Raspberry Pi. it comes with a board that bolts to the back of the display, and the Raspberry Pi mounts to that board, and a ribbon cable connects to the DSI interface. Most of the GPIO pins remain available, a few are taken for power and other connections between the display and the Raspberry Pi. It supports 800 x 480 resolution with 10 finger capacitive touch.
The official 7" touch-screen display panel for the Raspberry Pi is just that, a panel. You need a case, and this one gives full access to all sides of the Raspberry Pi making it easy to do things like pop the SD card in and out.
Buy Eleduino Raspberry Pi Official 7" Touchscreen Display Bamboo Case
This display panel can be paired with a Raspberry Pi adding touch or pen input on a high resolution color screen. Because it is an HDMI display, it can be used with any HDMI video source such as a PC. This is a kit, and you will need to build a case. It is recommended to use 480 * 320, 800 * 480, or 800 * 600 resolution display.
Buy For Raspberry PI 3 Generation TFT Touch Screen, Kuman 3.5 Inch TFT LCD Display Monitor Support all Raspberry PI System, Video Movie Play, Arcade Game, HDMI Audio Input SC6A (3.5" HDMI Screen)
This is a very sleek light-weight low-power HDMI display panel that is an excellent choice for a Raspberry Pi computer. It is a simple display panel that can be used just as a panel. It comes with a small stand like you'd have for a picture frame, that can stand it up on a table. It has very low power consumption, using a small power brick, and connects using HDMI cable. It supports 2560x1600 resolution. The small size and light weight means you can easily take it anywhere you like. Power is supplied through a USB cable, so you could in theory power both it and a Raspberry Pi off a two-port USB charger.
Buy Elecrow 10.1 Inch IPS HDMI Monitor 2560x1600 Resolution 2k Portable LED Display for PS4 XBOX PS3 Raspberry Pi Windows 7 8 10 System FPV Video TV CCTV Security with Dual HDMI Port
David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.