Author(s): Raghu Gopal
The UK-based Raspberry Pi Foundation launched the Raspberry Pi 3 on the fourth anniversary of its original $35 product. It released the first 256MB Raspberry Pi Model B on Feb 29, 2012 and has since issued updates with more memory and improved features, as well as a cut-down version. The Raspberry Pi has shipped more than 8 million units, making it the UK's all-time best-selling computer.
The credit-card sized board was envisioned as an educational tool to encourage children's interest in computing. But its low cost and expandability meant it quickly grew beyond its original audience to become a favourite with hobbyists. It's gained a cult following and has been instrumental in the development of products such as robots, games consoles and gadgets for the connected home.
The latest model offers a big leap in performance. It features a 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU running at 1.2 GHz. Its makers claim it's 60 percent faster than its predecessor, which makes it even more suitable as a replacement for a general-purpose PC. It features integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi for the first time as well as Bluetooth 4.1; previous models relied on USB dongles for wireless connections. The Raspberry Pi 3 is compatible with several flavours of Linux and Windows 10 IoT Core. It's the same size and has the same board layout as its predecessors and is still an absolute bargain at $35.
Last year we wrote about how single-board computers were making it big (see Enabling a Hacking Culture). The integrated wireless capabilities of the Raspberry Pi 3 are a major upgrade that will make it easier for people to develop devices for the smart home and the Internet of Things. We expect single-board PCs to be a major element in the development of new products for the Internet of Things. At the recent Embedded World event, we noted that Janz Tec was just one example of a company selling an embedded computing unit based on the Raspberry Pi.
It's encouraging to see the PC grow beyond the standard box on a desk, both as an affordable support mechanism for learning, and also as a base component for prototyping, lowering the barriers to entry for creative tinkerers. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has taken another small step forward in democratizing computing.