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Things To Know When Buying A Raspberry Pi

If you’re into gadgets and technology then you’ll know that the Raspberry Pi is actually a tiny little $25 computer – and not a tasty dessert.

But if you’ve never heard of the small motherboard that has got all of the tech world talking, then you’ve come to the right place to find out more.

What is the Raspberry Pi?

Heralded as a major advance in computing, the $25 device is simply a credit card-sized motherboard packed with all the technology you’d need in a home computer.

Hook it up to a monitor and you can pretty much do anything a desktop PC or laptop can, without the cost or the bulk.

OK, so what’s the catch?

Well, obviously for the money you’re paying some things are left out. There’s no CD or DVD drive built-in, after all, the Raspberry Pi is smaller than those discs.

You also only get one USB connection, no hard drive and the graphics capabilities are limited compared to a full-on independent graphics card. The makers liken the graphics to the experience on the original Xbox, which to be fair, is still pretty good. On the whole, it’s meant to be similar power-wise to the old Pentium II computers of the late 1990s.

But that really isn’t the point.

So what is the point?

The Raspberry Pi Foundation – the charity behind the gadget – want it to help children across the world learn more about the inner workings of computers and crucially how to code and program new software and technology for them.

It doesn’t have a case so you can see exactly how it’s all made up, a move that will hopefully spark excitement and curiosity in the young people whose imaginations it aims to harness.

That’s why it costs so little but still manages to pack in plenty of power and features. For example, despite the size, there’s a slot for an SD card to give up to 32GB of storage and even an HDMI port to attach it to a high-definition TV.

Everything else you need to turn it into a fully-fledged computer can be plugged in externally.

Does it run on Windows 7 or Mac OS X?

Seeing as it isn’t made by Microsoft or Apple, then the Raspberry Pi uses neither of these operating systems.

It instead uses a version of Linux, an OS that is much more open to fiddling with under the hood – which is the whole reason for the Raspberry Pi’s existence in the first place.

What else is exciting about it? 

The possibilities with Raspberry Pi are pretty endless and that’s what makes it so exciting. Many people are currently trying to find a way to add Google’s Android mobile operating system onto it.

Many schools and colleges are also getting into the idea and the more children and teenagers who learn to code and program from an early age, the more exciting and important developments there will be in computing and technology in the future.

Anything else interesting?

You can run a Raspberry Pi on a set of four AA batteries and there’s also a traditional 3.5mm jack for plugging in headphones.

Two types are also available with the slightly more expensive $35 one featuring an extra USB and an Ethernet port. Neither device though as Wi-Fi but is said to work with a USB wireless dongle.

How did it come about?

The idea came from colleagues at Cambridge University back in 2006, who were worried about a decline in the number of students looking to study Computer Science.

They wanted a device that would take the world back to the days of computers such as the BBC Micro, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64. These were computers earlier generations had used to learn programming on.

The Raspberry Pi also opens up a wealth of opportunities for young people in poorer third world countries by bringing cheaper computing to their shores.

Where can I find out more? 

There are now loads of websites dedicated to the Raspberry Pi with tips and tricks for making the most of what it does – just do a search on the internet.

The official site will tell you all you need to know about buying one and for beginners, this Wiki page is very useful to understand how to get started.

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