Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

It's time to give your children another big slice of Pi ...

Child's play: learn a new programming language or how to build a robot with the Raspberry Pi's B+

The next generation of Raspberry Pi, the hugely popular single-board computer, has just gone on sale, boasting a reformulated recipe and new ingredients, says Katie Wright.

Haven't tasted the Raspberry Pi before? The diminutive device (it's as big as a credit card) was designed in the UK with the aim of making programming cheap and easy for kids to learn.

Three million units have been sold since February, 2012, when kids – and big kids – started using Model A to learn programming languages like C++ and Java, to experiment with electronics, build robots, make music and much more.

Third party companies have jumped on the berry bandwagon too, creating add-ons like cameras and touchscreens, and a host of books, blogs and meet-ups allow Pi makers to trade tips and show off their wares.

What will the millions of makers think of the latest batch? So far they're lapping it up.

Based on the same Broadcom BCM2835 chipset and with the same 512MB of RAM, Model B+ is a real chip off the old block, but with plenty of improvements.

There are now four USB ports instead of two, so you can attach a mouse, keyboard and Wi-Fi dongle without needing an extra USB hub. The number of pins, used to connect things like LEDS and sensors, has also jumped, from 26 to 40, making room for more complex projects. The SD memory card slot has been slimmed down to micro-SD format and sound quality has been boosted.

The layout has been rejigged and the corners rounded, making this a sleek, pimped up Pi, but for the same price – £28 for the board, plus installation software, from raspberrypi.org.

So why the redesign now? According to founder Eben Upton, the changes are designed to "incorporate the numerous small improvements that people have asked for".

There's also speculation the new launch has been timed to coincide with a change that's coming to UK schools; starting next term, all primary pupils will learn coding as part of the rebranded computing (ICT) curriculum, a task the B+ is perfectly positioned to help with.

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