The Raspberry Pi is one of the smallest and cheapest mini computers you can buy. It has an HDMI port, USB ports, and runs Ubuntu or other open-source operating systems like a champ. The new Raspberry Pi Pico, on the other hand, is like the CPU of a more complex machine. By itself, it can’t do much, but with a few add-ons, you can control robots, lights, and other DIY hacks.
The best thing? It costs a mere $4.
These things aren’t new. There are plenty of Arduino microcontrollers out there for rapid prototyping, including Adafruit’s Feather platform of boards and accessories. This is a first for RaspPi, however, and it’s an interesting move, not just because it puts it more firmly in competition with Arduino, but because it also features Raspberry Pi’s first foray into making its own chips. The board uses Raspberry Pi’s new RP2040 chip, which consists of an Arm Cortex-M0+ processor with 264KB internal RAM. It also supports Flash memory storage of up to 16MB.
According to Raspberry Pi Chief Operating Officer James Adams, the company started working on its new chip back in 2016. It runs on a 40nm process and has dual cores, which isn’t common in a board this cheap.
You program it in C and MicroPython and connect sensors and displays up to the little leads on the sides. It’s powered via a USB port. You can’t really play Doom on it (yet) but you can use it for electronics experiments and other prototyping activities that the Raspberry Pi is already famous for. And according to Adams, it could be the first in a new line of boards powered by Raspberry Pi’s own silicon.