The Raspberry Pi Model A is here! This is the ideal model for anyone on a budget but still wants a piece of the Pi. The credit-card sized computer is capable of many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. It can run several flavors of Linux and is being used to teach kids all over the world how to program... Oh yeah, and it does all that for under $40.
Though the Model A lacks half the RAM of the Model B, a USB2.0, and the 10/100 Ethernet USB adapter, the price should definitely make up for it.
The secret sauce that makes this computer so small and powerful is the Broadcom BCM2835, a System-on-Chip that contains an ARM1176JZFS with floating point, running at 700Mhz, and a Videocore 4 GPU. The GPU provides Open GL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG, and 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode and is capable of 1Gpixel/s, 1.5Gtexel/s or 24 GFLOPs of general purpose compute. What's that all mean? It means that if you plug the Raspberry Pi into your HDTV, you could watch BluRay quality video, using H.264 at 40MBits/s.
The system volume lives on an SD card, so it's easy to prepare, run and debug several different operating systems on the same hardware. Most Linux distributions for the Pi will happily live on a 2GB SD card but larger cards are supported.
The Model A's built-in USB port provide enough connectivity for a Wi-Fi adapter, mouse, or keyboard, but if you want to add more you can use a USB hub. It is recommended that you use a powered hub so as not to overtax the on-board voltage regulator. Powering the Raspberry Pi is easy, just plug any USB power supply into the micro-USB port. There's no power button so the Pi will begin to boot as soon as power is applied, to turn it off simply remove power.
On top of all that, the low-level peripherals on the Pi make it great for hardware hacking. The 0.1" spaced GPIO header on the Pi gives you access to 8 GPIO, UART, I2C, SPI as well as 3.3 and 5V sources. Mating ribbon cables can be found in the related products below.
If a board needs code or communicates somehow, you're going to need to know how to program or interface with it. The programming skill is all about communication and code.
Skill Level: Competent - The toolchain for programming is a bit more complex and will examples may not be explicitly provided for you. You will be required to have a fundamental knowledge of programming and be required to provide your own code. You may need to modify existing libraries or code to work with your specific hardware. Sensor and hardware interfaces will be SPI or I2C.
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If it requires power, you need to know how much, what all the pins do, and how to hook it up. You may need to reference datasheets, schematics, and know the ins and outs of electronics.
Skill Level: Noob - You don't need to reference a datasheet, but you will need to know basic power requirements.
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