The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity founded in 2009 to promote the study of basic computer science in schools.
By March 2017 12.5 million units were sold making the Raspberry Pi the third best-selling “general purpose computer”. That figure now stands at over 19 million computers sold.
Back in 2009, this was not the plan of the charity, but instead, a small team at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory realised there was declining interest in Computer Science. They conceived that providing easy, low-cost access to a computer could be the solution to the problem.
Raspberry Pi 1 Model B – April 2012
The Raspberry Pi, 1 Model B, was the first model to launch back in 2012 and used a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC which includes a 700 MHz ARM1176JZF-S processor, VideoCore IV graphics processing unit (GPU) and had 512mb. This was then complemented with the launch of a lower cost Model A which had less memory and USB ports.
The key to its immediate success was the extremely low price point of below £35. Even though this PC was so cheap, it could run basic operating systems such as Linux. It had USB and HDMI for graphical output then there was also multiple general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins allowing users to add sensors and other accessories to expand the functionality.
It quickly gained popularity with consumers as a low-cost PC replacement, but it also invigorated the enthusiasm within the hobbyist scene where users could build devices with the RPi as the core computer.
It wasn’t long before businesses took an interest, they were able to build prototypes and do testing using these low-cost devices, potentially saving hundreds of thousands over getting application-specific integrated circuits designed and manufactured. They have often been used in our DIN Rail mounting enclosures which allow businesses to safely mount the computers while still having access to the various inputs and outputs. We have seen these computers used for a wide variety of uses including monitoring and automation systems.
Its initial release was so popular it was often difficult to get hold of them.
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B – February 2015
The RPi2 increased computing power significantly with the use of a Broadcom BCM2836 SoC which utilises a quad-core Cortex-A7 900 MHz processor it also doubled the memory to 1 GB (shared with GPU). The CPU in this computer was described as 4–6 times more powerful than its predecessor.
Raspberry Pi Zero -November 2015
The Pi Zero was launched in 2015, this set a new benchmark in low-cost computing with a price point of just $5/£5 it came in a much smaller form factor of 65mm x 30mm x 5mm expanding the possibilities of embedding the computer in robotics and other applications. Even though it was just a fraction of the cost of the RPi2, its CPU was 40% faster than RPi 1.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B February 2016
The last generation to be released is the RPi3 which used a 64-bit compatible SoC and bumped up the processing power again, this time to 4× Cortex-A53 1.2 GHz while also offering 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth 4.1 giving it even greater appeal to consumer users. The wireless capabilities are also appealing for many businesses too, allowing them to mount the computers in remote locations and still be able to access the data that they record. They are quite often used in IP rated enclosures allowing you to mount them outside in a watertight environment.
Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ launched on 14th March 2018
This model has then been upgraded to the B+ on 14th March 2018 where they have increased the ethernet speed up to 300 Mbit/s, introduced 802.11ac dual-band 2.4/5 GHz wireless and Bluetooth 4.2 LS BLE as well as a small bump in the CPU speed to 1.4 GHz.
With the huge popularity of the RPi computers many newcomers have tried to come in and steal some of the market share, but very few make an impact as they rarely offer the same price to performance ratio as the RPi computers.