Most people have at least heard of the Raspberry Pi, even if they haven’t delved into the nitty gritty details about it. The Pi is a minicomputer that is as small as a debit card. It works with output and input hardware, such as keyboards, mice, televisions, monitors, and most other peripheral devices.
As such, this small piece of tech can help you create an entire computer at an insanely low cost. Today, we’ll be looking into what the Raspberry Pi is all about and then share 15 ways you can use it to make various aspects of life a little easier and perhaps more entertaining at the same time.
What Is the Raspberry Pi?
Back when the very first computers came out, they were massive. These computers had huge processing systems and utilized vacuum tube technology. Over time, these computers have become less expensive and much smaller versions of the original computers.
Today, most people walk around with minicomputers in their pockets – we call them smartphones.
While computers are seen across the United States and many other countries, they remain less accessible in areas that are still developing. The lack of access to programming technology and computers led to the creation of the Raspberry Pi.
The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, inexpensive, single-board computer. With all of these features in the palm of their hand, people with different backgrounds and levels of expertise can access it to learn more about computers.
The Pi was initially developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and its designers see it as an evolution in computer technology. The Pi can do many things in tandem with devices like monitors, mice, and keyboards.
How the Raspberry Pi Works
The Raspberry Pi is a device that can be programmed for many uses. It has all the same characteristics as a motherboard in any other computer but without internal storage or peripherals. Instead, setting up the Raspberry Pi requires using an SD card or other storage method inserted into it.
This SD card is where the chosen operating system is installed. It must be present for booting the computer. In general, Raspberry Pi uses Linux OS. This decision reduces the memory it needs and creates a diverse and customizable environment for different users.
Once the operating system has been set up, the Raspberry Pi can connect to output devices like televisions or computer monitors. Users can also connect input items like keyboards and mice to them. The applications and use of the Pi depend entirely on what the buyer wants, as many functions are covered.
Common Raspberry Pi Models
Several models and generations can complicate things if you’re looking into choosing a Raspberry Pi. We can’t share every model here, but we want to cover some of the most interesting Pis you’ll find.
RASPBERRY PI ZERO
The Zero is the most inexpensive Raspberry Pi you will find. It comes in at under $10, which is impressive given its features and functions. It has a compact size compared to the Raspberry Pi 1. It has the same amount of RAM and the same processor as the Pi 1 Model B+. However, it doesn’t include Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The Zero W does add in those types of connectivity.
RASPBERRY PI 1
The Pi 1 came out in 2012 and served as a baseline for size on other releases. At the time of release, it had limited ram, pins, and CPU power. However, the Pi B+ updated this to make the device more robust. In addition, this version has an Ethernet connection and four USB ports.
RASPBERRY PI 2B
The 2B was released in 2015 and had better speed and memory than past devices. It has a gigabyte of RAM and four USB ports. It’s also still one of the more affordable models.
RASPBERRY PI 3
The 3 came out in 2016 and had a broader range of use. It has quick processing, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi. USB and HDMI ports, a gig of ram, and a Bluetooth connection are included. It’s also known for using small amounts of power and not creating much heat.
RASPBERRY PI 4B
In 2019, the Pi 4B made its way onto the market. It has a memory of between 2 and 8GB and a faster processor. It also includes both 2.0 and 3.0 USB ports. This model’s price is slightly higher, but creators can use it for projects of all kinds due to the power system.
RASPBERRY PI 400
This last model is unique as it is sold as a keyboard. It came out in 2020 and had 4GB of RAM. It includes USB ports and can be paired with a mouse and monitor to create an entire computer. It’s excellent for use in classrooms.
The 15 Top Ways to Utilize Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi has been hugely popular since the day it was released. It’s impressive how many people have created innovative projects using the Pi as the brains of the operation. While the Pi was first released as an educational device, it’s now a go-to solution for tech lovers who want to try new things. As such, you can see 15 ways to use the Pi below:
1. Web Server
The first way the Raspberry Pi can be used is as a web server. The Pi doesn’t need much power, so there’s generally no issue with leaving it on for long periods. It isn’t going to elevate your electricity bill or require the use of a cooling fan. On top of that, the Pi is quick enough to pull up webpages on both your local network and over the Internet.
The Raspberry Pi 3B is powerful enough to be a great web server. It can hold multiple web pages for laptops to use continuously. In addition, if the server is located on a dedicated network, there will be no concern about Internet slowdowns or outages that could otherwise cause problems.
2. Child’s Computer
Every kid wants a computer, even if it’s just to mimic their parents. The Raspberry Pi can offer an excellent option when you’re ready to let your child start puttering around on a computer. The Kano Computer Kit provides everything needed for a child of six or older to create a PC powered by Raspberry Pi. The Pi comes with or without an included screen.
It only takes around an hour to put the computer together. Once that’s done, there’s even more fun to be had. There are several coding tutorials made to create a fun and exciting learning experience. Kids even get the chance to learn commands in Linux in an included game called Terminal Quest.
3. Wi-Fi Extender
It can be frustrating to move somewhere new in your home just for the Wi-Fi to disappear. There are all sorts of workarounds to ensure you can stay connected in every nook and cranny of a home, one of which uses the Raspberry Pi. If you have trouble getting a good signal in some areas, consider making an extender from a Raspberry Pi.
The best option is to choose from Pi, which includes wireless capability. The built-in Wi-Fi will help you with the process. After that, you’ll need to add a USB Wi-Fi adapter to make the signal repeat and hit those dead corners that you find troublesome.
4. Robotic Car
Okay, we aren’t talking about a full-fledged car, truck, or SUV that sits in your driveway. However, you can find a variety of kids that let you make a small robot automobile using Raspberry Pi as the brains of the unit. Some kits include all the parts, so you need to put them in the Pi.
Try a kit for a four-wheel vehicle with a motor, light, and distance sensors. You can even pick these kits up for a low price. For example, the GoPiGo3 has only three wheels, a distance sensor, and a reasonable price tag.
5. Storage Drive Attached to a Network
Do you often have to share files with others at home or in the office? We know this can break your concentration and cause frustration at times. However, adding a USB hard drive to a Raspberry Pi can make the process much easier. Use this set of instructions to get started!
If you want the best performance for your new filesharing system, attach the drive to a router using Ethernet.
6. Music Streamer for Multiple Rooms
Wouldn’t it be nice to have audio that you can enjoy in multiple home rooms? The perks of multiroom audio entice most people, but wireless speakers can come at a hefty cost. The good news is that there’s another way to go about it, which will not break the bank.
With multiple Raspberry Pis and software, you can build a great sound system that creates the music you like in whatever room you want to hear.
7. Automated Plant Waterer
Whether you have a green thumb or you’re just getting into gardening for the first time, the main focus is making sure the plants stay alive. In what might be a surprising use case, the Raspberry Pi can help you with that. First, however, remember that you’ll need a few other items to make things work.
With the help of software, a pump, and a soil moisture sensor, your Pi can determine when plants need water and then provide it to them.
8. Robotic Arm
Have you always wanted the future to include robots? You can make a robotic arm with Raspberry Pi, which isn’t just a fantastic decoration in your room. Depending on the parts you use with the Pi, the arm could move, pick up, and manipulate items.
Of course, you’ll need to look at the options in robotic arm kits, but there are several options from which to choose. The MeArm Pi is a common choice since it includes two joysticks and the motors needed to get things running.
9. Weather Station
With the help of a Raspberry Pi and some sensors, you can start monitoring the humidity and temperature in your home. Or do the same with the outdoors, depending on your needs. The sensors and Pi will give you valuable data.
If you want to maximize the use of the weather station, use programming to let you know when you should open a window or turn up the heat. There are lots of options available once you get started.
10. Minecraft Machine
The Raspberry Pi has some pretty modest specs, which might make it seem as if it’s incapable of running games. However, that isn’t the case. If you’re a Minecraft fan, the Pi can be used to play it. You can also turn a Raspberry Pi into a server for the game. Then, install the typical Raspbian operating system and launch the game whenever you like.
Have kids that love Minecraft who are taking over the family computer? Now you can give them a Raspberry Pi with which to play. Go with a Raspberry Pi 3 or higher for the best results. You’ll also need a mouse, keyboard, and monitor.
11. Security Camera
Are you looking to add a new security camera to your home? Home security is yet another place where a Raspberry Pi can help you. The best part is that the solution is inexpensive while giving you total wireless security.
So what do you need to build your security cam? One Raspberry Pi Zero W and your choice of a Raspberry Pi camera (there are two varieties to choose from). The non-IR tends to be best in areas with little light. Then create a live stream that you can see anywhere.
12. Alexa Speaker
Sure, everyone has an Echo Dot or something similar to it. But you may want something more handmade and specific to your needs. That’s doable when you create an Alexa speaker powered by the Raspberry PI.
This is a relatively simple process. All you need is a Pi with a Wi-Fi connection and instructions. Then, installing a microphone and speakers will give you the audio of your dreams.
13. Game Emulator
Can you remember the first video game console you had at home? Maybe you remember playing arcade games with all your hard-earned quarters. If you’re looking for a dose of nostalgia that reminds you of those halcyon days long past, the Raspberry Pi is here to make that happen. Unlike some projects which require a specific version of the Pi, that isn’t the case here. Zero can even be used to add RetroPie OS so you can enjoy playing those amazing old arcade, Atari, SNES, and Game Boy games.
Those who prefer to leave the building to others can also move in that direction. Many kits have cases and controllers that give you everything you need to get your game on. Check out the different varieties and enjoy a trip back to childhood innocence.
14. Home Theater PC
There are many options for streaming television and films on your home theater screen. However, there’s no need to pick up a Fire Stick, Apple TV, or a Roku box when you can connect a Raspberry Pi to the television itself. The Pi 3B is a good choice for this product. In addition, you can choose from several free operating systems that will morph your Pi into a set-top box that streams all your favorites.
If you want to create a Kodi Box with a Raspberry Pi 3D, the OSMC operating system is a good choice. There are also methods to install Plex or other media streaming programs.
It might sound crazy, but the Raspberry Pi can be used as a laptop. There is a specific product built around this functionality. The pi-top is a 14-inch notebook with a 1080p screen and up to eight hours of battery life.
The pi-top can be used with either a Raspberry Pi 3B or Raspberry Pi 3B+ to handle your computer processing needs. In addition, the pi-top includes the pi-topOS. This is a Linux OS that offers a variety of educational software that kids can use to learn more about programming and coding.
The Raspberry Pi has been around for a decade as of 2022. Since the day it hit the market, 46 million of them have been sold, based on information from Eben Upton, the CEO of Raspberry Pi Limited. The device remains popular among people of all kinds, and new versions come out regularly.
As you can see from the projects above, the Raspberry Pi is endlessly versatile, with limits only put in place by your creativity. It is an excellent tool for hobbyists, but professionals can use the device in various ways, such as testing networks and new software. Based on data from 2020, industrial and business users make up about 44% of Raspberry Pi’s annual sales.