I first heard about Raspberry Pi a few weeks after I started working at Gliffy. To someone who knew nothing about code, it was yet another mystery. And while I can’t claim to be a coding master today, a great deal has been demystified, including the Raspberry Pi, which despite its dessert-like name is in fact a tiny computer with a huge potential for teaching adults and kids how computers work. This credit card-sized yet powerful device is a great metaphor for the Gliffy team, who like it is small, but strong and full of curiosity and potential.
Despite its small size, a Raspberry Pi can do anything a desktop computer can, including surfing the Web, playing games and making spreadsheets. All you need to do to unlock its potential is connect it to a computer monitor or TV and attach a keyboard. Whether you want to make a remote control robot or set up your own home network, a Raspberry Pi can help while teaching you about coding along the way.
The idea for Raspberry Pi came from a group of Cambridge University researchers in 2006. They noticed that young people who were applying for the university’s Computer Science program had lost touch with how computers actually worked. Although most were capable of using software and doing basic Web design, the students knew very little about the basics of programming.
The researchers thought this was linked to the fact that modern computers didn’t come with a programming environment as standard. Thus, the idea for Raspberry Pi was born. It took two years to come up with a working prototype, but once it entered mass production the Raspberry Pi became wildly popular, selling more than two million units within two years and introducing a whole generation to the basic principles (and great joys) of computer programming.
A better question might be what can’t you do, because really you’re as limited as your imagination. At its most basic, the Pi can function as a Web browser and multi-media player. Just connect it to your TV and install a basic browser to start surfing the Web on a big screen.
Sound too tame? How about building a robot butler, an old-school game console or a power cat-feeder? There are so many cool things that you can do with a Raspberry Pi that they deserve their own blog post, so how about we just give you some links and you can get inspired:
While the Raspberry Pi can and should be used for fun, don’t think that this powerful little device can’t put its serious hat on. For example, at this very moment, researchers at MIT are using it to control a prosthetic knee, which could allow a person who has lost their leg to walk with a normal gait.
Other less dramatic examples include people using their Raspberry Pi to set up virtual private networks (VPNs), allowing them to access their home networks from anywhere in the world.
As you can see, this little device is as versatile as it is small and can be used for serious projects, fun ones and everything in-between.
The potential applications for Raspberry Pi are almost limitless. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don't worry. Even if you currently have no coding skills, playing with the Pi is a great way to develop them. There are many online tutorials and thousands of inspiring projects to help you get started. In addition, you have a choice of coding languages in which to create. Many people start out learning Python, which is a straightforward but powerful language that's ideal for new coders.
The enterprising, full of curiosity spirit of Gliffy is contagious. It’s taught me a new love for coding and made me want to learn how to create things I never would have thought of before. If like me, you want to get more familiar with the super creative world of code (and I think everyone should), the Raspberry Pi is a great place to start.
So what are you waiting for? Get a Raspberry Pi, hook it up to a monitor and a keyboard, and get ready to take over the world.
Have an idea and don't know where to start? Draw it out using a Gliffy diagram!