The $5 Computer: Raspberry PI Zero


My, my me oh my, we all love Pie, right now my favorite is Raspberry.pi logo

The song refers to the editable and tastier types of Pie but I am also a fan and would not mind singing the praises of the new Raspberry Pi Zero or any of the Raspberry models in general.

Raspberry Pi Foundation

The Raspberry PI Foundation is a charity whose purpose is to provide the world with low cost single board computers with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries.

Their latest release, the PI ZERO has just reached a new low prices of just $5.oo US.  They are actually giving a free copy of the computer on the front of each copy of the December issue of the MagPI, their official magazine.

This new model joins their other current models. Each model provides several variations that include USB ports, Internet access and other modifications unique to each board. It is not my intention to list each variation of the Raspberry PI, that information can be obtained on the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s website.

PI Zero

At the time of this writing the Zero has been sold out but fear not, new supplies are being made as we speak.  For just $5.oo, the zero includes


  • A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
  • 1GHz ARM11 core which is 40 percent faster the the Raspberry Pi1
  • 512MB of LPDDR2 SDRAM
  • A micro SD Card Slot
  • A Mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
  • Micro-USB sockets for data and power
  • An unpopulated 40 Pin GPIO header (Identical pinout to the model A+, B+, 2B
  • An unpopulated composite video header
  • Their smallest ever size coming in at 65mm x 30mm x5mm remember the official size of a credit card is 85.60mmx53.98mm

PI zero

This small computer runs “Raspbian” OS and is capable of running Scratch, Minecraft and Sonic Pi. Note: Raspbian is not affiliated with the Raspberry PI Foundation. It is a open source OS based on Debian and optimized for the Pi. You may download images (these are files not pics), which you may use to get you started. They have thousands of images.

What would you do with a Raspberry?

The Raspberry computer is intended to help individuals learn how computers work.  When you first switch it on, it provides a text prompt but you can easily hook it up to a monitor for a graphical desktop. Pi uses Linux .

ImaginationIt is perfect for creating electronic projects. You may create  games, digital projects like clocks, timers, it is a computer that can actually accomplish just about anything you could with a desktop computer. All you need is imagination, I am constantly amazed at some of the projects completed by individuals from 8 to 80 years old. The creativity and imagination is pretty amazing. I know these are the people that will move us to the next generation of gadgets.

If you wish to write your own code, it comes with Python which is a fully functioning professional programming language. Because it is Linux based you can easily hook it up to any computer running Linux.  You are encouraged to modify the existing source code or just inspect it to see how it works.

Summary

Raspberry PI Zero might not be for everyone. I would consider it a “first thought” present for mom but would happily give one to a nephew or niece. It is a single board computer with many components absent for “out of the box” experience you might expect from your new Dell or HP. It is however an excellent way to be introduced to computer science. If you don’t know a lot about computers you can still check it over see how it works and learn. If you do, you might be the first on your block to make your own video game or even invent a new gadget.


Jim

 

About the Author

Jim Canfield

My interest in computers was a natural transition from all things electronics. I was hooked after building my first Heathkit computer around 1976, which evolved into a TSR80 and a long list of Windows computers. My first full blown program was a graphics program which started my career path in graphic design and IT work for 40 years. I now run a small computer repair and service company focused on helping veterans and retirees in our area with computer and software training classes.

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