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What is a Raspberry Pi?

Over the past 3 years there has been a lot of buzz and chatter on the internet about the Raspberry Pi. However, for the uninitiated the Raspberry Pi, may still mean something that your mother knocks up in the kitchen to eat after your Sunday roast. In this post we'll provide a brief overview of that the Raspberry Pi is and why all the cool kids are talking about it.

The Raspberry Pi is a pocket-sized, bare-bones computer which has amassed a home grown base of fans who love to tweet about their latest Pi-based projects, post tutorials on YouTube and plan “Raspberry Jam” sessions where novices can learn to up their programming game.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation developed the Raspberry Pi to encourage children to learn to tinker with computing, both in software (there's plenty of free material available for the Pi to help you learn more about programming, whether you're a total beginner or already pretty experienced), and in hardware.

Bring out your inner programmer

The new version of the Model B, the Model B+ , has been enhanced for the programmer, the Video out socket has been removed and replaced with extra USB ports and the SD slot has been made smaller to take Micro SD cards and the overall component layout has been changed.

These subtle changes mean 40 GPIO pins are now available instead of the original 26 pins giving scope to have more complicated projects connected directly to you Pi board. Its still got the same RAM and CPU which means software you've written on the Model B will still work on the Model B+ and the original operating systems are compatible. Its just been enhanced for the programmer!

There are various programming languages to choose from if you want to try the Pi; but the main ones you'll hear about are Python and Scratch. If you use the Official Foundation OS software then these programming languages are included. Scratch is brilliant for children, and is most likely the very same 'language' that your children will learn first at school.

Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in America, Scratch is a graphical based language that allows children to build programs using graphical blocks of instructions, which at first sight may look very different to your perception of a programming language. However, underneath the cartoon-ish feel and the obligatory cat (that's Scratch himself) is a very powerful drag and drop language that can be used to build games, utilities, movies and lots more.

What the Raspberry Pi B+ Offer

  • 4 USB ports - the previous version of the model B only had 2 USB ports. This means you'll now be able to connect keyboard, mouse, wifi dongle in without needing a powered hub. A further improvement is the hot-plugging capabilities, enabling you to plug devices in without shutting down your Pi first.
  • Better design - The USB and ethernet ports now line up and the rest of the sockets are all on one side, enabling improved cable management. The Pi now also sports rounded corners!
  • Composite video port and audio output have been combined
  • 14 more GPIO (General Purpose In and Out) pins available 40 pins in total - the previous model only had 26
  • Metal micro SD card slot
  • Clearer circuit board labeling
  • Improved power efficiency
  • Improved audio quality


According to it's creators, the new Raspberry Pi Model B+ may be the "Final evolution of the original Raspberry Pi", with a whole host of new improvements in the two years since the launch of the original Model B, including twice the built in memory and more USB ports.

Although the Raspberry Pi is not the fastest computer in town, it's definitely a capable device for its size and price, making it difficult to beat on value for money. For hobbyists, the expanded I/O ports available will open up more opportunities, making the Model B+ even more attractive as the centerpiece of a project.

Gary Woodfine
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