The Raspberry Pi is a great way to learn how to code, particularly with Python and C++. This is due to the cost of the device; the built in GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) which allows you to program with electronics; it is relatively safe and also is very portable making it great for custom projects with a great community behind it! There are truly endless possibilities when it comes to the Raspberry Pi and what can be built with it! Let’s break down each reason why I think the Raspberry Pi is good for coding.
The Raspberry Pi 4 retails for around $35 USD. For this price, you get a small computer that has USB ports, an Ethernet port, 3.5mm audio jack, HDMI output, the GPIO (which I talk more about in the next section), WIFI, Bluetooth and a microSD card slot. If you wanted to use the Raspberry Pi as your main computer you probably could – although it would not be the fastest device in the world. But at $35, you can’t complain!
There are even cheaper versions of the Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi Zero offers similar features to Raspberry Pi 4 minus the Ethernet port and 3.5mm audio jack. It has a smaller form factor and is less powerful. However, Raspberry Pi Zero W 2 retails for $15 which still makes it very attractive. For projects that require less processing power and smaller size factor, the Raspberry Pi Zero is perfect.
GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output)
One of the main benefits of the Raspberry Pi over a traditional computer is the GPIO. GPIO consists of 40 pins. Using Python or C++ these pins can be programmed to go HIGH (on) or LOW (off) depending on the use case. It also has built in protocols such as I2C, SPI and UART. With the power of Python or C++ you could make a LED flash every time you receive a new email! The GPIO allows you to bring electronics and software together. The Raspberry Pi is a great way to improve your electronic skills and put them to the test to build interesting and unique projects such as the one below:
This is a custom made 3D printed Gameboy that I created using a Raspberry Pi Zero which utilizes the GPIO to accept user input. In this case I attached a push button to each pin. When pressed, this would be picked up and processed, translating it to input in the particular game that was running.
This is just a small example of the power and potential of the GPIO. Getting started with the Raspberry 4 GPIO (Raspberry Pi B+, 2, 3, Zero/W) offers a more comprehensive overview of the GPIO and how to actually use it.
When you look at the Raspberry Pi, safety isn’t the first thing that probably comes to mind. It is a truly bare bones computer which ships without a case! This can seem intimidating and maybe even throw you off. It is actually safe to run a Raspberry Pi without any kind of case due to its low voltage. You’re not going to get shocked if you touch the device when it is on, so don’t worry! The second reason it is safe is due to the fact that accidently shorting the GPIO will not damage the Raspberry Pi and plugging electronics in such as sensors, switches etc. is relatively safe. Just don’t connect the 3V and 5V pin together!
As shown above. the Raspberry Pi shines when it comes to portability. Attach a battery and you suddenly have an IoT device with a decent amount of processing power and able to communicate with other devices over WIFI or Bluetooth.
Looking to install a battery on your Raspberry Pi? Checkout this post on Power options for the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi can be soldered directly to PCB’s making it great for electronics projects. Some of my personal favorite use cases of a portable Raspberry Pi are:
Another reason why Raspberry Pi is good for coding is because it has a great community around it. If you have encountered an issue or error using the Raspberry Pi, chances are it has already been discussed on Raspberry Pi forums and been resolved. The Raspberry Pi community is also a great way to see what others are building and to become inspired! One of my favorite communities for the Raspberry Pi is r/raspberry_pi. With 2.6 million members it is one of the most active communities in the space.
So that’s my 5 Reasons why I think the Raspberry Pi is good for coding. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned coder, the Raspberry Pi has something to offer to everyone.