The Raspberry Pi is a small, inexpensive system consisting of a circuit board of approx. 9 × 6 cm on which all the necessary components are located to be able to use it as a computer. Use an SD card and connect a power pack for the power supply and you are ready to go. Depending on the intended use, this can already be the minimum configuration of this single board computer if the system has previously been programmed accordingly for a specific task, which is commonly understood as an embedded system.
A monitor can also be connected to the board. A USB keyboard and USB mouse can be connected as input devices. A network and an audio connection complete the Raspberry Pi hardware to a normal and usable computer. A special Linux distribution is used as the operating system for this. In contrast to other systems, this OS is quite frugal to be able to deal with relatively limited hardware resources. This limitation is mainly because of the processor performance, memory size, and the board’s graphics system. The OS “Twister”, can also be used as the main OS for the Raspberry Pi.
The origin of the single board computer dates back to 2006 at the University of Cambridge. The intention was to be able to provide the students and anyone interested with a cost-effective system in order to bring them closer to programming computers.
Almost everyone knows how to work with personal computers and primarily with the Windows operating system. Over the years, however, it has become more and more difficult and confusing to understand and program a PC, which applies in particular to the hardware and the programming of the same for your own applications. Even considering that PCs have become cheaper and cheaper for what they offer in terms of performance and functionality, they still cost a lot of money in relative terms.
In earlier times, many PC users actually took it for granted that their own programs and hardware extensions were also implemented for the computer, which is why the PC was still regarded as a device for specialists such as computer scientists or electronics engineers. It hasn’t had this status for a long time. The fact that it can basically be used intuitively by anyone for all sorts of tasks is ultimately due to the software, which is becoming ever easier for the user.
For a programmer, this user-friendliness leads to more and more complex processes, which require the appropriate know-how and a large number of special tools, development environments, and programming languages. It is not uncommon for the Windows operating system and the corresponding programs to give the impression that an enormous amount of superfluous program code is »carried along« that is seldom or never called, which is partly due to the universal compatibility of the personal computer with Windows so that even Decades-old programs still work with the latest Windows version, which leads to quite high performance and memory requirements. For these reasons, a standard PC seems unsuitable as learning, experimenting, and programming system for beginners.
A home computer with a 6502 CPU (2 MHz) was developed at Cambridge University in the early 1980s, which served as a teaching model in British schools and was supported in a series of broadcasts by the BBC. This home computer, known as the BBC Micro, was manufactured by the English company Acorn, which later made a name for itself as ARM (see Chapter 3.2). One of the developers was Jack Lang, who was also involved in the Raspberry Pi development, which makes it clear that the idea for creating a “teaching system” was also the inspiration here.
In contrast to the BBC Micro, however, the Raspberry Pi was supposed to be much cheaper. This was certainly achieved with a price of around €25 (model A). In addition, the Raspberry Pi is designed from the outset to also be able to run office applications and games. Features such as the internet access and video playback in HD quality show that this is a “real” computer in small format.
The development was largely based on the ideas of David Braben. David had already developed the well-known space game “Elite” as a student in Cambridge in 1984. He also founded the development studio Frontier Developments. Together with two other computer scientists from Cambridge (Alan Mycroft, Rob Mullins) and Eben Upton, a Cambridge graduate who was now Technical Director at Broadcom, and entrepreneur Pete Lomas (Norcott Technologies, Electronic Design). also a Cambridge graduate, developed the Raspberry Pi Foundation established as a non-profit foundation to fund the project and attract open source software developers.
When naming this single-board computer, the Foundation wanted to continue the tradition of naming computers after fruits. A perfect example will be Acorn (acorn) or Apricot (apricot). Both of which have a Cambridge/ARM tradition. With the most well-known Apple, whose products Interestingly enough, such as iPad or iPhone also work with ARM processors. After long discussions, it was then agreed on Raspberry (raspberry). The Addition Pi identifies the main programming language of the system, Python.
Contrary to the original idea, the distribution of the Raspberry Pi boards was not taken over by the Foundation itself. It was transferred to the two global distributors RS-Components and Farnell. After the start of sales on February 29, 2012, the distributors were able to sell +10,000 boards within an hour. The demand was so great that the sale had to be suspended. Interested parties had to register for a single copy per buyer before it was available again weeks to months later. Within a year (2012), the two companies then sold over 800,000 of them.
The Raspberry Pi allows connection to various peripherals, which allows for a wide range of possible uses.
The Raspberry Pi has triggered a “hype” worldwide. Not only due to the low price, but rather to the overall concept. A concept in which the aim is not maximum profit, but the fact that maximum performance at minimum price with the open Source ideas are combined. Every interested (young) person – with a tight budget – can afford to program and experiment on current hardware and engage in lively exchange with other developers in the open source community. It is actually remarkable how many uses and applications for the Raspberry Pi have been created in a very short time. Thanks to open source, these do not cost any money and are constantly being further developed.