At first I wasn’t exactly sure why I went for this impulse buy, but it all seems to be becoming clear now. At work a colleague told me in vague terms that he was going to buy a Raspberry Pi. I had no idea what he was talking about but I was hungry and he my full attention. A Raspberry Pi, it turns out, is a small circuit board that you can plug a monitor, mouse and keyboard into and it will act as a tiny computer and was originally built for the purpose of teaching young school children how to code. As I recovered from the disappointment that there was to be no pie, I picked up again at the thought that this small inexpensive thing could teach me how to code. I mean, if it can teach a 10 year old there was some hope that I could in time pick up some basic programming skills beyond HTML and CSS. Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve heard that coders of any level are in short supply and the way things are going, learn a programming language and you’ll be unstoppable in years to come.
No, not quite…try again
So that was it, next day delivery sorted. The jiffy bag arrives at work which I was straight into and there it was. An exposed circuit board and an internet brimming with great reviews and an ever growing community of supportive enthusiasts. My first reaction was that I loved the fact that I was to engage in the electrical components on show. It made me feel like I was doing something more worthwhile that plugging a USB into a physically featureless, molded device. I could actually analyse what and where everything was. When my monitor came to life and I was able to go through a number of prompts. I was then confronted with a black screen scrolling endlessly with code until I came to the last step and I typed into a command line the letters ‘startx’ and hit enter. Moments later there it was, the Raspberry Pi logo on something that looked like a desktop. Speaking as a person who has been known to struggle setting up a TV set top box, this had gone without a hitch, I had already interacted with lines of code and now I was ready and confident to learn.
That’s more like it…
The Python language is great for beginners and is also quite powerful in the right hands, it is used across many large organisations and industries. With the original purpose of the Raspberry Pi being to teach children then its not surprising to find it’s handy for designing games also. But so far I’m still figuring out things like, though Raspbian is an OS for the Raspberry Pi, Raspbian is based on Debian, which is a Linux distribution. So whether Linux or Raspbian is the OS I’m not entirely sure. This line of thought shows a fresh willingness to ask myself these questions which is at the core of the whole experience. I’m engaging with technical problems which before this came along I’d found at best dull and at worst fearfully intimidating.
My advice to anyone starting out on this voyage of discovery is to enjoy the journey not the destination. The temptation for me was to copy loads of code and make things dance about as an end result. After a short while I found the interest was in the full meaning of one line of code. Something I will muse over during my lunch break the following day. However the destination for me has astonishing implications. It’s physically small and portable features opening up all kinds of possibilities. To learn how to take over the world with your Raspberry Pi please refer to my leading article, The Internet of Things (IoT).