The has arrived!
To help those who might be new to Pi, or even to expand the knowledge of those who have experience with this wildly popular SBC, I had a chat with Hari Kalyanaraman, Global Head of Single Board Computers for Premier Farnell, which has been involved with Pi nearly from the beginning.
Q: So what is the origin of the name “Raspberry Pi?”
Hari: There are a number of theories on this – you can check out some funny and interesting ones by participating in the element14 quiz.
Back in the day (and some are still around) there were a lot of microcomputer companies with fruit themed names like Apple, Acorn, Apricot Computers, Tangerine Systems, etc. And the original Pi was at first intended to only run Python, so “Raspberry Pi” was actually a play on a fruit themed name with Pi for Python.
Q: Has Premier Farnell always been involved with Raspberry Pi?
Hari: Yes, Farnell has been involved with Raspberry Pi from the beginning! Our partnership with Raspberry Pi has been very successful and mutually beneficial – we are the largest manufacturer and distributor of Raspberry Pi, and we are also the exclusive customization partner for the Pi.
Q: What was the intention behind creating the Pi?
Hari: This has been covered in many venues, but it’s still always interesting and inspiring to talk about.
In the 2000s, there was a fast-growing skills gap in the technology job market in the UK. This was evidenced by the number of jobs needing to be filled, compared to the number of skilled employees available. Electronics and computers were critical technologies that were becoming increasingly pervasive, but the number of qualified job applicants was declining. One of the big reasons for that was the dwindling number of applications to computer science and engineering programs in universities.
A team of six (the founding team) out of Cambridge started collaborating and devising a programmable hardware platform that was easy, fun, inexpensive, and interesting for children and adults to program. What they created has since expanded significantly beyond education to other applications and markets, becoming the most successful single board computer.
Q: I’ve seen Pi models called B, B+, A, something called a compute module, and so on. What are the differences between these? Are there common applications for the different versions?
Hari: That’s a great question. The first Raspberry Pi launched was the Raspberry Pi 1 Model B.
The Model B is the full-featured flagship Raspberry Pi, while the Model A is a stripped-down version. The Model A typically has less memory, fewer USB ports, and no Ethernet port. It is a lower cost Pi aimed at embedded applications. The number in the name (1/2/3/4) refers to the generation. The latest generation Raspberry Pi is the Pi 4. A + is used to denote an upgrade of the existing model, so a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is an upgraded Pi 3 Model B.
The Compute Modules are targeted at engineering and industrial applications, where the customer needs just the brains of the Raspberry Pi without the need for the standard peripherals. The Compute Modules are generally plugged into a host or carrier board via a SODIMM interface, thereby making it easy to design in and integrate into the system. They have onboard (eMMC) memory.
Q: What does the new Raspberry Pi 4 Model B computer bring to the table that its predecessor the Pi 3 Model B+ didn’t have? And what does it mean for any new applications?
Hari: The Raspberry Pi 4 Computer Model B is ground-breaking in its features and the most powerful model to date. Some key benefits it has over the predecessor are:
-Processor: Faster 1.5GHz BCM 2711 processor, the first 28nm processor on a Pi.
-Memory: This is the first time that a Raspberry Pi has increased memory options. Users can select from 1 GB, 2 GB, and 4 GB options. Those running memory intensive applications can opt for the 4GB version.
-Video: Dual micro-HDMI ports supporting up to 4K resolution. This is useful for digital signage, monitoring / visualization in industrial settings, and even in general desktop computer usage.
-True Gigabit Ethernet: The Pi 3 Model B+ had a Gigabit Ethernet port, but was bandwidth constrained by the USB 2.0 ports. The Pi 4 Computer Model B has true Gigabit Ethernet, supporting data rates up to 1 Gbps. Farnell is the exclusive customization partner for Raspberry Pi, and gigabit Ethernet has been one of the most requested features from our engineering customers, who will be glad to see that it is offered as a standard feature.
-Superspeed USB 3.0: This is a new feature, with the USB 3.0 being capable of delivering faster data rates up to 5 Gbps.
-You can now attach Solid State Drives to your Pi to either expand capacity or use them as a Network Attached Storage.
For more info on all things Raspberry Pi, you can of course check out Raspberry Pi .
Q: It seems like there are a lot of options out there for developing and prototyping electronics; do you think there’s a reason the Pi has been so popular for that purpose?
Hari: You are right – there are a lot of options. I think there are several things that make the Raspberry Pi so popular. For starters, it has a strong set of features powered by a quad-core processor, all at a low cost. The Raspberry Pi 4 Computer now offers significant enhancements in processor speed, connectivity, multimedia, and memory.
There have been more than 25 Million Pis sold to date. This huge install base has led to a vibrant community of developers, engineers, and makers, as well as a treasure trove of pre-defined software libraries for a wide range of functions and applications. And the success of the Pi has also created a healthy ecosystem of accessories and HATs that enable numerous functions, from connectivity to sensing to PoE, to name a few.
For most common applications and projects, the combination of HATs / accessories and readily available code snippets helps accelerate development. More than a third of our customers are using the Pi for embedded, engineering, and IoT applications, and that number is only going to get higher.
Q: Have you seen this?
Hari: Yes I have, and it is awesome. First off, kudos to Wesley on a job well done! This goes to show the creativity, passion, and dedication of the members of the element14 community. I hear there are more exciting events and activities surrounding Raspberry Pi in the hopper – so I am keen to see what comes out in the next few months.