The Raspberry Pi is a series of small single-board computers developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries. The original model became far more popular than anticipated, selling outside its target market for uses such as robotics. It does not include peripherals (such as keyboards and mice) and cases. However, some accessories are packed in several official and unofficial bundles.
I’ve played with the Raspberry Pi for several years now. Each rev keeps getting better, I am now watching the Raspberry Pi 4. I do have a couple concerns about the RPI 4. First is the CPU runs hot, cooling with a fan/heatsink is recommended to avoid the OS from throttling to decrease temp. Keep an eye out for a firmware update to improve heat issues. Second issue is the USB-C power circuitry does not follow specs. Because of this, higher amperage “smart” power supplies cannot be used. Hopefully the next version will resolve these problems.
For use, great inexpensive learning tools. Normally the RPI would run Linux so much friendlier for the beginner than an Arduino (another single board computer). Plug in keyboard, mouse, power, and a hdmi (or have the correct adapter) and ready to go. A case is nice but not needed. The OS fits on a micro-sd card, recommend at least 16 gb to start. Several versions of Linux are available, my favorite is Raspbian. As mentioned, you can buy a kit but honestly, don’t need too. With a card reader, you can download the Linux and Copy to the micro-sd. I use Pi Baker on a MacBook Air. With a wifi, good to go.
What to do, newer versions like RPI 4 make a good stand alone, if basic computer. Can by a PI-Top case, have an inexpensive laptop. Storage all depends on the size of the Micro-sd card. There is also a 40pin CPIO header that is great for add on boards, ie Hats. For robotics, there are servo and stepper controllers, a variety of sensors, small screens etc. Python is a supported on many of these board. I’ve gotten board from AdaFruit and other vendors. Want to build an inexpensive NAS (Network Attached Storage), there are SATA and M.2 boards available. A RPI 4 supports USB-3 ports, watch for the right board to take advantage of this. To Connect, install Samba (Windows) or NFS (Mac/Linux) services via Apt. My latest project is a clusterHat, which is allows you to connect 4 RPI zeros to the RPI to create a small compute cluster. An inexpensive project to learn about parallel clusters, net booting, nfs home for the zero nodes and other uses. All done through Python tools that are included. I wrote a couple shell scripts to manage node startup and validation.
If using for a stand alone project, don’t need keyboard, mouse or monitor once setup. Can remote in using ssh shell or install remote access software like No Machine. which is a cross platform encrypted RDP like client.
Lots of possibilities, so little time.
Here is an excellent blog-post I used to setup my home server, based on the Pi: