It’s one of those pieces of tech that you’ve heard about for years: the Raspberry Pi. From time to time, you’ll see a headline on your favourite tech news site pop up about how it’s widening educational opportunities, fostering innovation, or enabling global development, but what is the Raspberry Pi, who uses it, and what is it about it that’s made it so popular?
What is the Raspberry Pi?
The Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized computer that is designed to teach programming. It’s comes with all the things a user might need when creating a computer programme: a Lixus-based operating system, a processor, 2-8GB of RAM, USB ports (2, 3 and C), gigabit ethernet port, and micro-HDMI ports. The Pi also comes with a component called a General Purpose Input Output header (GPIO) which allows users to connect the PC to LEDs, switches, sensors and so forth.
Why does the Pi matter?
Typically used by schools to teach children an introduction into programming and software development, Raspberry Pi kits are very inexpensive compared to most computing hardware. This has allowed it to be used very widely.
Despite its cost though, the Pi is relatively powerful, so while its components might not be much use playing Cyberpunk 2077, they pack enough punch to be used to create mobile apps and low-load computer programmes. And with low power requirements, they can be used anywhere, which has meant they’ve reach schools in rural areas of the developing world.
Who uses the Raspberry Pi?
By 2019, over 30 million Raspberry Pis had been sold. There are three main groups that make up these users: schools, hobbyists, and businesses.
For schools, the Pi is the perfect, lightweight way of introducing more students to programming en masse. With a simple interface and wide range of resources out there, it was primed from the get-go to help demystify the often-confusing world of programming – a must for educational settings.
After it gained a little fame, hobbyists got hold of the Pi and realised that it had an enormous potential. Transporting them back to the golden era of DIY computing back in the 80s, they found it could easily run websites, electronics (like robots), media centres, and so much more. The Pi really has a million uses, and thanks to a very engaged user community, there are plenty of guides anyone can use to get their foot in the door.
And naturally, it has spawned plenty of business uses too. Given its size, the Pi can be used for bespoke computing tasks, such as in-store displays or security camera systems, or as a cheap web server. Plus, given their cost (and acclaim), they are rarely targeted by thieves – who wants to buy a stolen computer that costs in the low double figures as new?
The Raspberry Pi is an amazing piece of technology. Pick up a kit and get exploring to take your first steps into the exciting and boundless world of computer programming.